Running is hard; you want to remove any other obstacles that make it harder.
This is especially true if you are a new runner or returning to running after a hiatus. The secret lies not in motivation, but in creating a sustainable routine.
In this article, you will learn how to start a new running routine that you actually stick to.
1. Set Realistic Goals
You always want to start where your current fitness is, not where you want your fitness to be. This is the golden rule of training, no matter your experience! So, if you are entirely new to running, you want to start small.
You may begin with three short run-walks on nonconsecutive days rather than running five or six days per week.
You want your goals to align with your fitness. Goals should be just enough to motivate you, but not so hard that you become discouraged or injured in the process.
For a beginner runner, that may be a goal of running three days per week for two months. As your fitness builds and you meet your goals, set new ones that are just within reach.
2. Build a Routine
Routines help our minds anticipate what is about to happen. For example, a small routine before a run can prime your brain to get ready to run. Over time, establishing a routine will make runs feel like second nature, even when your motivation that day may be low.
For example, if you want to run in the morning, set a routine between waking up and running. You may take a few sips of coffee and perform some dynamic stretches before heading out the door.
If you prefer evening runs, you may find that a few minutes of meditation or walking outside helps your brain calm down and transition more smoothly from your work to running.
3. Focus on Recovery
If you do not feel good when you run, you are less likely to adhere to a routine. However, you can control how you feel by taking proper care of your body.
Dehydration, injury, and poor sleep all will make you feel awful during a run, whether you are a new or experienced runner. So be deliberate in preventing those three conditions.
To prevent dehydration, be mindful to drink ample fluids. You should be using the bathroom six to eight times per day (on average) and drinking enough that your urine looks like light lemonade.
To achieve this, frequently drink water or other fluids throughout the day, including before and after runs. If you are running for longer than an hour or in hot weather, bring liquids with you.
A majority of runners will experience an injury - but you can prevent injuries from happening. In addition to running, you want to spend two to three days per week completing resistance training. Strength training reduces the risk of both muscle and bone injuries in runners.
Progressing your training plan gradually - rather than jumping up your mileage in huge increments - also prevents injury. And if in doubt, do not run through pain!
Finally, sleep becomes of the utmost importance when you start running. A2020 study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisejournal found that poor sleep altered your body’s ability to perceive effort. Inadequate sleep makes runs feel harder; it will feel exponentially more challenging to start a running routine if you are not sleeping well.
You will not run every day; rest days are an essential part of a sustainable routine. Most new runners begin with three to four days of running per week. However, creating a habit for something you only do a few times per week can prove difficult to many people.
One solution? Create a similar habit on your non-runs days. The simplest way to do so is to do a similar activity, such as walking, at the same time of day.
For example, you could create a routine of consistently exercising at 7 AM; some days, you may walk, and other days you may run. This routine will create a habit and make it easier to stick to your runs for the long term.
5. Nourish Your Body
Think of your body like an engine. You want to make sure it has sufficient fuel to power your running - and high-quality fuel! Do not restrict calories or try an elimination diet while starting a running routine unless you work closely with a registered dietician.
Instead, aim to eat several servings of fruit and vegetables per day, choose lean proteins and whole grains, and minimize heavily processed foods.
You may find that a daily multi-vitamin (such as Essentially-U) helps support this healthy diet and prevents any nutritional deficiencies.
It’s also essential to ensure you have energy when you head out on a run! If you had a meal within the past 2-3 hours, you should be fine; but if more time has passed, then you may need a small, easily digestible snack such as a banana.
You want to avoid running too close to a large meal, as this may cause GI upset such as indigestion or runner’s trots.
In closing, running is a great way to increase your overall fitness. But, as with all things, you need to be smart about how you start out.
Make sure you are gradually increasing the amount of running and intensity over time. This will help avoid many injuries that can occur with running.
You also need to take care of your body, with a special focus on hydration, sleep, and nutrition.
Laura Norris is a certified running coach, marathoner, and content creator. She runs her own coaching business (Team Norris Running) and her blog (Laura Norris Running). She loves helping runners achieve sustainable growth in the sport while cultivating a lifelong love of running and has coached over two hundred runners to first races, PRs, and BQs. She uses evidence-based coaching methods and is currently pursuing her MS in Applied Exercise Science at Concordia University-Chicago.