So you want to be a runner? Welcome to the club! To quote the legendary Bill Rodgers, who won the Boston and New York City Marathons four times each, was on the 1976 Olympic marathon team and is the former American record holder for the marathon, “Anyone can be a runner. We were meant to move. We were meant to run. It’s the easiest sport.”
While running may not always feel easy, it’s simple enough to do, just lace up and go. These 10 steps will get you started.
1. Embrace You
Admittedly, this step can be the easiest or the hardest. You can talk about getting in shape, losing weight, running faster or finally completing a marathon or half marathon, but you’re the only one who can make it happen. If you want to do any of those things, it’s up to you to start the forward momentum.
2. Set a Goal
Why do you want to run? No matter what your motivation might be—a race goal, a fitness goal, a charity goal or anything in between—you should make your intentions known. Telling your friends and family you’re going to run a half marathon or shoot for a BQ time in the marathon will hold you accountable. Heck, tell the world and post your intentions on social media. If your goals are more private or guarded, like the desire to lose weight, tell someone close to you who can provide support along your journey.
READ MORE: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Running
3. Go Running
Running is the one sport that you don’t need to worry much about how to do it. If you’re new to running, start out by running 2-3 miles at a time and work your way up from there. Not very fit?… run just a mile. If you’re more fit, run 3-4 miles. The key is being consistent and running on a regular basis. Avoid taking more than two days off in a row and mix up your routes, distances and paces to keep things fresh.
READ MORE: 14 Signs You Are Already a Runner
4. Get Some New Shoes & Gear
Running is one of the easiest and most inexpensive sports to engage in, mostly because you just need some running shoes and some basic apparel. Expect to pay $100-$150 for a good pair of running shoes, but make sure you get a shoe that works for you. The best way to do that is to visit a locally owned running store that can help get the right fit and determine what kind of shoe matches your running gait. You can certainly find shoes cheaper than that at online discount sites, but saving a few bucks and winding up with the wrong shoe is a recipe for injury. Moisture-wicking apparel (shorts, shoes, sports bra, socks, hat) are also worth investing in, but properly fitting shoes are most important.
4. Have Fun
Simply put, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Running can be easy at times and it can be hard at others, but it should always be fun. The notion that you’re doing something for your short-term health (namely moving your body) and long-term well-being (ideally offsetting long-term health issues from being sedentary) should be inspiring and motivating. But once you get into it, you’ll find that running a few miles with friends (or alone) is one of the purest forms of fun.
READ MORE: It’s Never Too Late to Start Running
5. Run With Others
Running alone can be great, but running with others—running partners, co-workers, family members, neighbors—can offer built-in accountability, camaraderie, inspiration, motivation and much more. Long runs and harder speed workouts are much better when done with running partners. You still have to suck it up and grind through it, but doing it with others will seem easier, more enjoyable and more purposeful.
READ MORE: 10 Ways Running Can Change Your Life
6. Be Consistent
Running once or twice a week isn’t going to help improve your fitness—unless you’re doing other activities too. The best way to improve your running fitness (and overall fitness) is to run at least four to five days a week without taking too many days off in a row. Although most of your initial running can be slow and at a conversational pace, you’ll eventually want to run faster and mix up your paces to take your fitness to the next level.
7. Run Faster
Once you have a base level of aerobic fitness, you’ll want to start running faster workouts. No, that’s not to suggest you need to become one of those speedy front-of-the-pack runners, but running at the same slow to medium pace all the time will eventually lead you to a fitness plateau that could lessen your fitness and your motivation. If you throw in a spicier workout once a week—a fartlek run or a tempo run or even some kind of track workout—you’ll continue to notch up your fitness in a variety of ways. Not only will you become faster, you’ll also become more efficient and you’ll become stronger. Joining a running group is the best way to knock out harder/faster workout sessions
READ MORE: Run Faster with Regular Speed Workouts
8. Run a Race
Setting a goal of finishing a race—no matter if it’s a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon—is a good way to motivate yourself for several months of training. You don’t need to worry about breaking any records or even running fast. For starters, your goal might just be to to get in shape and reach the finish line. There’s a huge authentic accomplishment in that. That’s why finisher medals have become a personal badge of honor and a remembrance of all of the hard work, fun and accomplishments along the way and why you should display yours with pride, even if it’s in the garage or a hallway where few people will see it. Eventually, though, you might want to improve your time and train harder or move up to a longer distance. All of the inspiration you pick up along the way turns into lifelong motivation to keep running.
READ MORE: How Cross-Training Can Improve Your Running
9. Do “The Other Stuff”
If you want to continue to improve as a runner, you’ll have to do more than just run. That might seem counterintuitive, but you should do some strength work on a regular basis (even if just 15 mins every other day), consider improving your diet, exchanging bad habits for better ones and making sure you get enough rest on a regular basis.
READ MORE: How Runners Can Get Stronger
10. Keep on Running
Once you get started running, you can and should keep doing it for a long time. Because it’s easy and accessible, you can squeeze in a run before work, at your lunch break or in the evening. You can run when you travel for work or vacations. (Running is a a great way to explore new cities, scope out restaurants and go sightseeing.) You can plan trips around races, run epic trails and even use running as a form of commuting. While aches and pains are part of the game, running is fairly age-proof if you stay limber and generally follow a healthy lifestyle.
READ MORE: 5 Habits of Successful Runners