Yes, to get started running is challenging (especially if you’re brand new). And even though it’s a fairly simple sport, it can also feel overwhelming since there’s so much information about it — from what type of sneakers to get to what types of foods to eat for optimal performance — available.
But while you’ll likely face a physical challenge when you get started with running, the actually getting started and figuring out the lay of the land part doesn’t have to be so hard!
Many different running lessons will come with time and experience, but here are 10 simple steps that can help you get started running without feeling bombarded with too many different strategies and concepts. Instead, I’ve listed out just the fundamentals you’ll need to get you going so you won’t have to feel like a total newbie (like I definitely, cluelessly did when I first started).
Get Started Running: 5 Steps
1. Set a Goal
It’s great if you decide one random day that you want to start running, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to just start randomly running around town without any real idea of your current fitness level or what you want to achieve with and get out of running.
Not only will you have a better idea of where to start and what exactly to do by setting a goal, but by thinking more deeply about why exactly you want to start running, you’ll have a source of motivation that you can continually return to on those days when you don’t quite feel like lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement. And trust me, no matter how much we grow to love running, we all have those days.
How to Set Your First Running Goal
It’s well and good if you decide, “My goal is to run my first 5K,” but if you don’t approach that goal realistically based on your own personal starting point, it will be way more challenging to achieve.
Most coaches and trainers would tell you to set a “SMART” goal. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based.
For example, a SMART running goal for someone who is totally new to running would look something like this: I want to be able to run 4 miles without stopping (specific and measurable) by three months from now (realistic for a beginner runner and achievable if you put in the work necessary, based on a specific amount of time.).
2. Make a Plan
Ok, you’ve set your goal (hooray!), but now you need a plan for how you will achieve it. Obviously everyone reading this will have a slightly different goal based on where they’re starting from, so I can’t give you a specific plan. Although, I do have a free “couch to 5k” training plan for beginner runner’s in my “Ultimate Guide for Beginner Runners.”
If being able to run your first 5k sounds like a good starting place for you, then I definitely encourage you to go that route. But if you have something else in mind, that’s fine too. Just remember, make sure it’s realistic. As I mentioned in the beginning of my post, there’s lots of info about running out in the world wide web, and there’s definitely no shortage of guides and plans for beginner runners, so once you have your goal, get out there and research a plan for how to achieve it. You could use Google to find free plans or you could consult a coach to create something custom. It’s totally up to you!
Currently, I follow Jason Fitzgerald’s Injury Prevention for Runners program, which includes 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon training plans for runners of all levels, as well as strength training routines for injury prevention and a handful of additional super-helpful resources. (Disclosure: I am an affiliate for this program, but I wouldn’t be promoting it if I didn’t use it myself!)
3. Gear Up
You have a your goal. You have your plan. You’re pretty much ready to get started running. And yes, you’ll be totally fine if you throw on a pair of gym shorts, a cotton tee and whatever sneakers you currently have for your first run. But trust me, if you’re going to be running a few days per week, you will be way more comfortable with a new pair of sneakers made specifically for running and some moisture-wicking apparel.
You can see my must-have gear recommendations in my ultimate beginner’s guide. And I also have a gear section where you can find all my posts that talk about the different gear items I use personally if you’re interested in more recommendations. But to get started running, you really won’t need more than a good pair of sneakers, some comfortable socks and a few pieces of activewear apparel.
4. Figure Out How You’ll Keep Track
You have a “SMART” goal, which, if you set it right, should be measurable (see step 2). That means you need a way to keep track of your goal. This can be in the form of any regular, blank journal, a journal made specifically for runners (like the Believe Training Journal), or even an app or a simple online spreadsheet. It’s totally up to you and your style.
Personally, I keep my training plan saved in a Google spreadsheet, where I check off each workout after it’s completed. While running, I use the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch to track my milage and pace, but unless you really want a GPS watch, I don’t think it’s necessary for a beginner runner since most free running apps will track your distance and pace for you just as well.
Whatever you choose, just make sure to be consistent, that way you have an easy way to see if you’re on track and making progress. Plus, it’s an easy way to help hold you accountable for your goal.
Related: The Best Running Apps
5. Go Slow
I will say this over and over and over again. I’ve said it probably 1,000 times before on this blog, but it’s probably the number one thing I didn’t know but wish I had when I first started running, so I will say it again. Just go slow.
Inevitably, you’ll want to get out there and test your limits and try to run at a pace that you think is “fast” and competitive. Trust me on this one: don’t do that. Let go of any preconceived notions you may have about what’s a “good” or “fast” pace and instead, find a pace that feels comfortable for you (even if that means you’re walking at first), and then take it down a notch from there.
Your body will thank you for taking it easy and you’ll find it’s much easier to build and increase your endurance if you approach the process slowly, because here’s the thing: no matter what it’s going to take time. You can’t speed up the process by trying to run faster or further than what your body is ready for (that will likely only lead to injury), so one of the best things you can do is to approach your goal one workout at a time and keep most of them easy (unless the workout specifies a faster pace).
Are you a new runner? What other questions do you have about getting started? Let me know in the comments below!