This article was written to answer some of the most common questions asked by new runners, and by people returning to running after a layoff of at least a few years.
1. How long should my first runs be?
Answer: During the first week, 15 minutes per day is plenty. After that, your goal should be to increase the time very gradually. It is recommended that you increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week.
2. What should I do if I can’t run non-stop for 15 minutes?
Answer: In the beginning, most people have trouble running for even a few minutes. In other words, you’re normal! Beginning with a run/walk method can be very beneficial and quickly get you to a point where you can run the full 15 minutes. The walk/run is probably most well known in Jeff Galloway’s program.
3. How often should I run?
Answer: For beginners, I recommend three or four days a week. I also recommend alternating between running and rest days. This will give your body time to recover and adapt to the stresses you’re giving it.
4. How far should my runs be?
Answer: When just starting to run, you shouldn’t focus on the distance as much as the time. If you start focusing on the distance you may start focusing on speed which can lead to injuries. Let the duration of a run be your measure.
5. How fast should I be running?
Answer: You should be able to comfortably carry on a conversation and you should not be out of breath. This can be a hard guideline to follow because some people feel as though they are running too slow. If that’s you, please remember that in the beginning part of your running career it’s vital that you focus on a pace that is comfortable!
6. I’m afraid I won’t be able to stick with the plan – how do I stay motivated?
Answer: There are many things you can do to help stay motivated. Here are a few;
- Sign up for a race. Do it now! Having a race goal (and race fees!) on the line will be a powerful source of motivation. I guarantee it.
- Run with a partner. And promise to get each other through the rough patches. Neither of you will want to let the other down.
- If you are taking up running to lose pounds, try not to focus solely on weight loss. This is because especially in the beginning of your running career you will likely gain some weight due to muscle growth. Take tape measurements and photos of your body every few weeks. You’ll be happy to see the inchesdropping even if the pounds don’t initially follow suit.
- Journal your experiences in a running blog or on a forum and connect with other runners for support. You’ll be amazed at just how much support you’ll get!
7. How do I know if I’m running correctly?
Answer: This is a wise, common question among beginners. Unfortunately, the answers are often not as good as the question. Beginners are often told to run in a manner that feels “natural”. This can be true to an extent, but you also need to make sure you aren’t going to injure yourself due to your “natural” form. The best way to check make sure your running form is good is to find a (legitimate) running store and have them watch you run. Not only will they make sure your form is acceptable but they will also make sure you are wearing the right shoes. My running store of choice, TC Running, is a wonderful place to go to analyze your gait by some great runners!
Just remember, the earlier you can figure out how to run correctly, the better. Not only will it help prevent injury but it is also very hard to change running form after a few years of running.
8. Should I stretch?
Answer: Only a few years ago, the answer from just about anyone you asked would have been an absolute “yes!”. But more recent research has been telling us other things:
- Stretching before running may actually be bad for you, leading to injury.
- It is better to warm up slowly (e.g. by starting out walking) than to stretch before you run.
- Stretching after five minutes of easy running is more advisable than stretching before running.
- Stretching afteryou run is always a good thing.
9. Should I change how I eat now that I’m running?
Answer: For beginning runners running under an hour a day, nutrition is not a big issue. You really do not need to add anything special to your diet. That said, if your nutritional habits were poor before you started running, this is an appropriate time to fix them. Water is a runner’s best friend. Drink water before and after you run.
10. I am taking up running to lose weight – how much can I expect to lose?
Answer: There are many factors to consider. Here are a few things for you to think about:
- Running is at the top of the list of activities for the number of calories it burns so you’ve made a good choice including it in your weight loss strategy.
- Many runners don’t lose weight because they reward themselves for running by eating more or binging. So, rewards are sometimes not very rewarding in the long run.
- While you are likely to lose weight running 30 or so minutes three times a week, more pronounced weight loss usually doesn’t happen until you are running more frequently and for longer durations. The message: Stick it through as a beginner and you’ll reap the benefits in much greater quantity for the rest of your running career.