Running: How to Get Started

runningRecent research shows that running for as little as five minutes a day can lengthen a human lifespan by as much as three years. For runners with little or no running experience, it can feel like an impossible task to start logging the miles. However, by following a few guidelines and suggestions from long-term runners and experts, this healthy habit can be mastered by following a few simple rules of thumb.

A study published in the Journal of the American College Cardiology entitled Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk has people buzzing over researcher’s bold findings. According to this study, research proves that running effectively prolongs the life of the runner. The study, funded by Coca-Cola Co. and The National Institutes of Health, was published with an editorial rider that urges readers strongly to avoid the pitfalls of inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle. The editorial writers added that this study was truly great news for those who cannot really see investing much time to workouts or physical fitness. This study demonstrates that significantly raising a person’s heart rate for as little as five minutes every day is enough to stave off disease, illness, and the effects of aging. In other words, running does not need to take place for an uncomfortably long period of time to improve upon a person’s quality of life.

For those who are trying to get started, this study proves how long a person spends running is not as important as simply finding the time to run. Five to ten minutes of running time will offer joggers immediate health benefits. Experts and lifelong runners recommend starting with a modest distance or time goal, and say that both accomplished and new runners should never push themselves beyond the comfortable limits of the body. Just as yoga places a focus on a natural progression and improvement brought about by practice, runners should never continue an exercise if he or she feels discomfort or distress. A few warning signs to indicate that a runner has gone overboard include trouble breathing or shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, extreme pain or soreness in the upper body, cramps, nausea, dizziness, and pain in the joints.

If runners are not sure where to begin, the best advice on how to get started running centers around warming up the body. Long-time runners explain, while not always the first thing new comers to the sport think to do, stretching and a warm-up/cool-down will speed up the rate at which runners improve their stamina and performance, as well as how quickly their bodies become used to the routine. Cold muscles are one of the leading causes of running injuries; for this reason, stretching is most effective after the blood is already pumping into muscles.

For best results, runners should stretch after a warm-up, as well as following their run or during a cool-down. Warm-ups and cool-downs should take about five to ten minutes, and should utilize the entire body if possible. A light, slow jog, jumping rope or riding a bike to the track are all good examples of a warm-up.

One of the most important factors involved when a person gets started running is how well the shoes he or she is wearing fit. If running is an activity that a person intends to commit to long-term, a pair of dedicated running shoes is a must-have. Stores that specialize in footwear for runners can help determine which shoe will provide the utmost support for each individual instep, stride, weight and intended terrain for the runner in question. Runners should not run in sneakers or tennis shoes, although it may be tempting to skip out on investing in a pricey pair. Running shoes are so valuable to a runner because they are designed to absorb the shock and withstand wear-and-tear that running can place on feet. Running without the proper shoes can be as painful for the new runner as it might be to run exclusively on bare feet.

Another important factor to consider with learning to get started running is proper nutrition. Running is a natural appetite suppressant, and burns an average of 800 calories an hour. This is great news for runners who are looking to lose weight. If this is the case, meals should be taken following a jog to guard against overeating or eating junk. Some newbies can overdo it, though, intentionally eating too little in an effort to lose more weight more quickly. To avoid injury and ensure good health (not just weight loss), new runners should stick to the recommended portions and meals prescribed by their doctor. Charts and guidelines also be found online to help guide adults and children to the right nutrition requirements for their age, height, weight and body type. Whether weight loss or simply finding a new workout is the motivation to beat feet, running pros recommend eating 90 minutes or more before a run. It is also crucial that runners keep hydrated, as well as make every effort to drink half a gallon or more of water ever day.

Technology can also lend a hand when new runners are investigating their options. Apps like RunKeeper or Nike Run can track a user’s pace, time spent, calories burned, best times, elevation gains, and so much more. Google Glass is introducing a technology that will allow runners to pit themselves against holographic versions of themselves in an effort to improve their pace and stamina. There are even games to make the sometimes boring prospect of running a little more fun; Zombies Run is an example of one such game, which uses zombie chasing to help with interval training, and which lets runners track their fitness goals as points and credits earned playing the running game. Apps can also make it easy for new and experienced runners to include friends, which is the case with the popular social running app Endomondo.

Another great tip about how to get started running takes a page out the social networking handbook: run with friends. Having a fitness buddy offers a number of health benefits which can include safety, encouragement, accountability, and a sense of belonging. Runners who run in pairs often subconsciously push each other to improve, and can appreciate and share in the victories and frustrations of tackling a hobby such as running.

The benefits to cultivating a running or jogging habit include improved pulmonary and respiratory function, improvements in mood, decreases in stress, healthier looking skin, and so much more. New runners who are curious as to how to get started running need only, ultimately, to look to their neighborhood sidewalks. Like any new habit, the practice will take time and, well, practice. Listening to the body, setting and achieving small goals is essential as newcomers learn how to get started in running. Also, for those who just are not ready to start running just yet, do not be discouraged; experts say that walking offers many of the same health benefits that running can, if only in smaller doses. The most important thing to remember when trying to start a running routine is to stick with it, stay positive, and make the experience something to look forward to.

By Mariah Beckman


LA Times
Runners World (Stop)
Runners World (Start)
Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Women’s Health

One Response to "Running: How to Get Started"

  1. Tabitha Farrar   July 30, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    I ran twenty minutes today, I tend to bike every day in the summer and run more in the winter as I prefer to stay indoors in the wintertime. With all the attention running has been getting recently I figured I should do some!


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