Life: How to start running and stick to it

how to start running

Once upon a time, Carolanne, the author of this blog, hated all forms of exercise.

She avoided P.E like the plague, becoming a master in the art of handwriting forgery and an expert at spinning tales as to why she could not join in that game of rounders today, sir.

As a child I was never encouraged to go to dance classes, or join a sports club, so apart from the times I was forced to join in P.E I didn’t’ really get any exercise, making it appear even more scary and full of potential embarrassments.

Fast-forward 15 years later and that shy, uncomfortable 11 year old is now only a slightly uncomfortable 27 year old, but with a completed 10k race under her belt.

Now, I’m under no illusion that running a 10k is similar to, say, a marathon, but it’s a pretty damn long way to run when you’re a beginner and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself for finishing it. I trained for about six months, going from running once a month (an hour of running on the treadmill, giving myself an injury and avoiding it again until my next hour run) to running regularly throughout the week, building up my distance over time.

So I thought I would tell you how to start running.

It took me a long time to get to this point; a lot of trial and error, and years of putting myself off the gym by going too hard went by before I got to where I am now. Here are my running tips for beginners who want to, or have started running and want to improve and start to enjoy it – and stick to it.

Disclaimer: You may never really ‘enjoy’ it but at least you won’t be in so much pain after, alright? 

Find out if you like running inside or outside

If you want to start running, it doesn’t have to cost you any money. Gym prices can be costly and can be a waste of money if you don’t go. The world could be your gym, and running in the park doesn’t cost you anything. However, some people do not like running outside. I am one of them. I hate running outside; it’s cold (or hot), I have to carry my iPod and my keys and there are hills I may not want to run up. I like running on treadmills in the comfort of the gym, with a handy tray for my water bottle, iPod, phone and anything else I feel like having with me. It’s warmer in there and I also have a range of machines to use. I am lucky in that my gym is very affordable and it’s not too far for me to travel. My fiance, on the other hand, likes to run outside; he finds it boring to run on a treadmill and likes ‘going out’ running. So just find out what works for you and stick to it.

I found running much easier and more enjoyable when I wasn’t on the town fields panting running past a group of young lads playing football on a cold January morning.

Start small

The biggest mistake I made when starting to run was not starting small enough. I looked at what my friends were doing and tried to do that, not realising that they were used to running and you can’t just be an amazing runner over night. I pushed myself too hard, and felt dejected when I failed.

If you really want to become an accomplished runner, you have to start small. If you’re a complete beginner, run down the street for five minutes and back again, then sit back down on the sofa. Just keep doing it, and then move up to ten minutes, twenty minutes and so on. If you want to learn to run, you need to think of it as something you are learning, and that takes time, trial and error.

how to start running

Keep a running diary

Every time you go for a run, write down the time, date and your stats including distance, speed, and if you want to, calories burnt (although this is not necessary). If you run on a treadmill, all of these things will be displayed to you after you finish your run, which is very handy. I usually just take a photo of the screen with my mobile phone camera and then jot it down afterwards. If you’re running outside, you can use a pedometer, a fitness gadget that tracks you, or a mobile phone application such as Run Keeper. Keeping a diary will allow you to see how you’re doing and when you look back at it you should be able to see how much you’ve improved! If you like, you can also add some notes including how you felt during and after the run, and any circumstances that may have affected your run, for example, heavy wind/rain or not eating before hand.

Get some good quality workout clothing

I cannot stress how important this is, particularly for women. If you have breasts, you must buy a sports bra. If you have larger breasts, buy a really high quality sports bra such as one that has ‘Shock Absorber’ in the title. Whatever type of sports bra you go for, make sure you wear a new one every six months (I only found this out recently, oops).

Along with a good sports bra, invest in some good quality workout clothing. You don’t have to pay a lot for your trainers, but make sure they are suitable for running (they should have spongy support at the base rather than flat) and that the insole is suited to your foot type. You can measure your foot type at sports shops, but basically the rule is the more your foot arches, the higher the arch insole you need. If you have mainly flat feet like me, you need a flat sole otherwise it will rub on your feet and running will become incredibly painful! I’ve been there. I know.

Also, this is just me, but I like to wear a cute T shirt when I’m running as it makes me feel chic. As chic as you can feel with a sweaty back.

Stop caring what other people think

When I’ve spoken to people about their problems with starting to run, or their fears about training for a 5K, one of the main issues they have is feeling self-concious around other people. If this is holding you back, then it’s just something you’re going to have to get over. I felt self concious the first few times I went running, but then I realised that is ridiculous and I just put my headphones in and forgot there was anyone else in the gym.

Honestly, nobody gives a crap what you’re doing or what you look like; they are all too busy thinking about themselves. Also, running is good for you and it is a positive thing, so you should feel proud of yourself for giving it a go. If you’re worried about running inside, then go to a gym. If you feel uncomfortable exercising with males, find a female-only gym or a gym that has a female-only room. If you want to run outside but away from the general public, go running in the countryside or in a quiet park. There are always things you can do to make yourself more comfortable and though you might not find your ideal situation straight away, you will build your confidence over time so that you won’t care what other people think anyway.

Running is for you, and you alone. So enjoy it!

Are you a beginner runner? Are you an experienced runner with more tips? Let me know in the comments!