Keen to start running but not sure how to get started? Here’s everything you need to know about adding running to your weekly training schedule.
Why should you start running?
Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to do. You can do it anywhere, any time, and it’s totally free. Sure, you need a decent pair of running shoes, but that’s a pretty low barrier to entry in our books.
Should you start running? There’s no rule saying you have to run (there are plenty of other forms of cardio), but if you’re reading this then you’re obviously thinking about it. Running can be used as your main form of fitness, or as a way to complement weight training, CrossFit, or team sports.
Will running fit in with your other workouts?
If you already do other workouts during the week, make sure you’re not overwhelming yourself by adding running into the mix. Remember you always need at least one complete rest day from working out. If you currently train 2-3 times per week, you could add 1-2 running sessions. If you already training 4-5 times per week, only add 1 running session.
Do you have to be fit to start running?
No, you definitely don’t need to be fit to start running. Running will get you fit, fast! But just like with any form of exercise, you should start at an appropriate level and build up slowly. You wouldn’t jump on a road bike and cycle 50 miles, or walk into the gym and try to squat 100kgs. Take the same sensible approach with running.
How to start running when out of shape
Plenty of people can’t run for a steady amount of time when they start. That’s what training is for! Start with a run/walk programme of 1 minute running, 1 minute walking (for 15-20 minutes). Once you can do that, increase to 90 seconds running/1 minute walking, then 2 minutes/1 minute. Build up like this until you can drop the walking breaks altogether.
What distance to start running
If you’ve never run before, start by aiming for time instead of distance. Do the run/walk approach until you can run for 10 minutes non-stop, then add in some of the different running sessions we talk about later in this article.
If you can already run for 10 minutes without stopping, you can aim to cover set distances in your training runs. 5km (3.1 miles) is a good goal for most fit people, as this should take you 20-35 minutes. Not a bad little cardio blast!
What you need to start running
All you really need to start running is a decent pair of running shoes. These aren’t the same as gym trainers or normal trainers you’d wear during the day. Go to a specialist running shop and ask them to assess your posture and gait. They will advise you on the best type of running shoe to suit your feet, the way you run, and your goals.
If you haven’t got a specialist running store nearby, buy your running shoes from a dedicated running shop online rather than a generic sports retailer.
There are a few other things that will make your running journey easier. Reflective clothing for running in low light or poor weather. A head torch or cross-body torch if you need to run in the dark. A sports watch or app to track your routes and grab useful data like distance, pace, and speed. And some comfortable, weather-proof outer layers for the lovely British weather!
5 great benefits of running
Boost your base fitness levels
Running works your heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system which helps build true fitness. This kind of fitness is applicable to any other sport or simply for living longer and healthier. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28365296/
[h3] Take time out for yourself
By definition, running gets you outside and on the move. It’s a good way to carve out some much needed me-time, or to run with a friend. You can use running as a way to explore new landscapes, or to listen to music or a podcast. Whatever you like.
Protect your heart health
Everyone knows running is good for your heart, but did you know that studies have shown even short periods of quite slow running can significantly reduce your chances of life-limiting heart disease? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4131752/
Look after your mental health
Life is stressful, and running is a brilliant way of boosting your mood. Studies have shown running to be a useful tool for depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32970641/
Stay in good shape
Running burns a lot of calories, so it can be a good way of keeping body fat in check and staying on the right side of the BMI measurements. Sure, any cardio will help with that. But if you enjoy running, use it!
What are the best running sessions to start with?
Thought running was just about heading out for a long slow jog? Think again. Whilst long slow runs definitely have a place in your new running programme, there are lots of different sessions you should do.
Once you can run for 1 mile or about 10 minutes non-stop, sketch out a running schedule that includes some quality sessions.
These are short runs where you aim to hold a set pace the whole way round. Tempo runs could be 2 miles at your 5km pace, or 4 miles at your 10km pace. The idea is to push yourself but still be able to maintain the pace.
Long runs can be used as endurance training or for enjoyment, since the pace is usually as slow as you like. The only time you need to crunch the numbers of a long run is if you’re half marathon training.
Intervals are short and intense, with rest periods in between. They could be repeats on a running track, or timed periods of running out on the road. Aim for 75%-85% max intensity.
Hill reps involve powering up a steep hill for 20-30 seconds and then jogging back down. This kind of running session builds power, speed, and leg turnover (and stands you in good stead for hilly running routes).
Can I start running at 40?
Age is no barrier to running, and you can definitely start running in your 40s or 50s. Whatever age you are, be sure to assess your fitness levels and injury history before you start. If you’re unable to run for 10 minutes, start with a run/walk programme to build your fitness. If you have unstable ankles, buy running shoes labelled “stability” (and do extra mobility and strength work). Age itself is no barrier to running. In fact you’ll find dozens of 50+ runners leading the pack at any local running club!
Do you have to enter races to start running?
Races can be a fantastic way to focus on a goal, but there is no rule that says you ever have to run a race. You can be an amazing runner and only ever run for leisure and pleasure. If you think entering a local race will help motivate you to stick to a training plan, go for it. But if you want to enjoy running as a solo pursuit to buffer the stresses of life, you do you.
When to start running after Covid
A quick word about running if you’ve had Covid. Covid-19 affects the respiratory system, so don’t be surprised if your lungs feel tight for a few months. This sensation can be more pronounced when you are running outdoors, especially in cold or damp air.
Running can actually be a useful part of your breathing rehab, as it forces you to take bigger breaths and expand your lungs fully. If you’ve had Covid and want to start running, take it very slowly. Start with run/walk, and stop to walk as often as you need to. Build up the pace and distance of your runs slowly. And if you feel any tightness or pain whilst running, seek medical advice.
Make sure to let us know how you get on with your training program and tag us in your workouts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter – @phdnutrition. We love seeing your workouts, recipes, and having you as part of our community. If you want to make sure to check out more of our amazing blogs here or grab yourself some of our other Smart Whey Protein plant to fuel your workouts even further.”