Everyone at Runner’s World fell in love with running for a different reason: It connected one person with their dad; it helped another get over a breakup; it made one of us feel powerful and confident just when we needed it; it transformed our relationship with food.
The reasons may vary, but our mission is constant: We believe the world is a better place when more people run. And, we believe that if you go all-in, running will change your life.
Want to join in but don’t know where to start? We got you. Here, you’ll learn all about how to run, including expert advice on exactly how to start running even if you’ve never done it before, the gear you need to get going, and how to stay motivated to keep clocking kilometres—happily and without getting injured. All it takes is these five gradual steps, and putting one foot in front of the other.
How to Run, Step 1: Commit
Starting a new habit is hard, especially when it’s one you find intimidating. But here’s the trick: Don’t go all-out in effort, and start with just one or two days a week, gradually adding more days as you getting stronger and more confident. Creating a realistic schedule (and sticking to that schedule) is key.
Treat your training time like you would an important appointment, and if you’re really struggling to commit, find a workout buddy or a group so you have a solid reason to get out there more often.
Pro Tip: If you want to run in the morning, lay your running outfit next to your bed the night before. It’s one less thing you have to think about when you wake up.
How to Run, Step 2: Set a Goal
For newbies and seasoned runners alike, it’s always helpful to set goals. Giving workouts a purpose—whether it’s to lose weight, finish that first race, or simply run a set number of days each week—makes each run more valuable. Goals also keep you consistent.
The key: determining your “why” or what motivates you to start running in the first place. Finding a training plan that works for you and your schedule (and adjusting it as needed) will help you reach your goals, as will mentally setting yourself up for success and creating a support system.
Pro Tip: Always aim to start your race or run at a slow pace—walking is perfectly okay. Using a conservative speed to start primes you for a great finishing kick and strong finish.
How to Run, Step 3: Gear Up
You really only need shoes to start running—which can put a lot of pressure on finding the perfect pair. The best way to do this is to head to your local specialty running shop. They’ll put you on a treadmill and analyse your stride to match you with the right fit and style, according to how you naturally run. If you need a place to start, though, you can check out our list of the best running shoes for every distance and style, and our guide to choosing the right shoe.
Once you have the kicks, you’ll want to add a few other essential pieces of gear to your closet to make the run more comfy, such as a friction-free pair of shorts (men’s or women’s), performance socks, and sweat-wicking tops.
Not sure how to gear up according to the weather? We also have a what to wear tool to help with just that.
Pro Tip: Consider replacing your running shoes after 500 to 800 kilometres.
How to Run, Step 4: Stay Healthy and Fuel Right
If you feel pain, it’s time to take a break—which means the most important factor in becoming a consistent runner is becoming a healthy one. When first starting out, there are a few common injuries that can plague runners. Luckily, you can avoid these issues altogether by taking some precautions.
First, make sure you don’t ramp up your weekly mileage too quickly. Even if you are feeling great, going too hard too early can lead to injuries, because your body isn’t used to the effort.
Additionally, strength training and warmups and cooldowns are key to strong, pain-free running. Squats, lunges, glute bridges, and planks are great for strengthening your legs and core—two muscle groups that help you run faster and longer.
Finally, you need to nourish your body in order to make it through the miles. Nutrients such as carbs, protein, fibre, iron, healthy fats, and electrolytes will give you energy, build your muscles, and ensure you don’t “hit the wall” (runner-speak for not fuelling enough to get through a workout).
Pro Tip: Up your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent to avoid injury (at least in the beginning). That means if you run 10 miles the first week, don’t run more than 11 the next.
How to Run, Step 5: Maintain Motivation
You’re never going to head out the door if you don’t have a reason. So think about what you love about running—or what you want to gain from the sport—and keep that in mind whenever you need a reminder.
Sometimes it helps to read about someone else’s amazing journey.
Pro Tip: You need at least one easy day after every hard day of training. Go at a pace in which you could hold a conversation with someone and if you want to walk, that works too.