How to Start Running

You want to know how to start running? We’re glad you asked.

Running doesn’t take special equipment or an expensive gym membership—a well-fitting pair of shoes and sweat-wicking apparel will do just fine. And, yes, you can start anytime.

But before you lace up your shoes and sprint down the street, you should know some basics. This guide will take you through the fundamentals of running, provide tips on training and setting goals, and teach you one simple trick to sticking with it.

Running shoes fill a display at a Fleet Feet store

How to Choose the Right Running Shoes

Before you start running, you need to know how to choose the right running shoes.

Shoes that don’t fit well can lead to discomfort, blisters or more serious injuries, so it’s important to find the right pair.

Your running shoes won’t fit the same way as your casual shoes, and the size of your feet changes over time, so don't rely on how your shoes fit in the past. So, measure your feet. A local running store will take accurate dynamic measurements to get you into the right shoe.

Also invest in quality shoes. A $120 price tag might seem steep, but the investment is worth it. The premium materials last longer, and the technology is backed up by scientific research.

Pro tips: Once you’re into running, it’s also important to know how to make your running shoes last and when they’re ready to be replaced. Also, rotating through at least two pairs of shoes on a regular basis helps the shoes last longer and helps you to stave off injury.

A group of runners meets for a Fleet Feet training session

Learn How to Set Running Goals

Weightlifters don’t load a bar with a random assortment of weights and try to do a squat. In the same way, you shouldn’t take off down the road without a plan.

Setting goals is an important part of getting into running. But you need to set the right ones.

Vague or overly broad goals, like “being healthier” or “getting in shape,” won’t help your training because they are difficult to measure and don’t have a defined end. Instead, set specific, time-bound goals: Goals like running a mile without stopping or finishing a 5K by August give you something to work toward and tangible ways to measure your success.

Here are some tips to set good running goals:

  • Set attainable goals. Setting goals that are too lofty can lead to disappointment and burnout. Never run a race before? Don’t jump straight into training for a marathon. Start with a 5K and work your way up to longer distances.

  • Set measurable goals. It’s easy to lose motivation if you don’t have a reason to train. Knowing how far or how fast you want to run will give you defined markers of success and show you how close you are to meeting your goal. Plus, meeting your goals will give you a mental boost to propel you toward bigger challenges, like covering longer distance or learning to trail run.
  • Set goals that fit your schedule. You’re busy. Between work, family, travel and all the other things you do, there might not be much time left in your week. So, set goals that will work in your schedule to avoid making excuses when it comes time to run. Only have an hour a day to train? Plan accordingly. And when it comes to running workouts, prioritize quality over quantity.
Runners begin a race in Columbus, Ohio

Race Training for New Runners

If you start running regularly, chances are you’ll end up signing up for an official race. From 5Ks to marathons (and beyond), races demand more specific training than running for exercise alone.

Dependable resources for race-specific training abound, but if you’re new to the sport, it’s best to discuss your running history and your goals with a real, live person before embarking on a training program.

In fact, signing up for a local training program for running is even better. Group training provides expert coaching and a supportive atmosphere so you can reach your goals and make friends in the process.

Many 5K training programs for beginners last about six to 10 weeks, ending with your goal race. A typical week in the middle of a new-to-running 5K program might look like this:

  • Monday: Run-walk intervals. Run three minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat five times.
  • Tuesday: Cross training. Ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes.
  • Wednesday: Run-walk intervals. Run four minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat five times.
  • Thursday: Cross training. Bike, swim or lift weights for 30 minutes.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Run 2 to 2.5 miles.
  • Sunday: Rest
Runners hold warm drinks while sitting in a hammock

Find a Running Community

Starting to run on your own can be intimidating, but running with friends makes the miles seem easier and can help you stick with it.

Runners are a welcoming bunch, and local running clubs offer classes, goal-specific training and community to get you going. Look around your area to find a running club or a weekly pub run you can join. Then make a habit of being there every week.

Outside of your weekly group runs, finding a running buddy can keep you on track, too. A friend who knows your goals and your habits can push you to meet them—and knowing another person is waiting on you can be a great accountability tool.

If you can’t find a human running partner and can’t make it to a group run, you can always run with your dog.

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