So You Want to Be a Runner?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It doesn’t surprise me that more people are running for cardio exercise these days. According to a recent survey by Running USA 49.4%, or more than 4.3 million of all finishers in 2007 road races held across the country were women. This represents a 25% increase from just 20 years ago and an almost 4% increase from just 6 years ago.

Compared to other forms of cardiovascular exercise, running is by far one of the best at burning calories AND it doesn’t cost a lot of money or investment in equipment. Besides a good pair of running shoes and sheer determination, one should be ready to run in no time.

Before beginning any exercise program, especially for those over the age of 40, it is best to get clearance from your doc prior to lacing up one’s shoes.

In my 2 ½ years of running, reading countless book on the subject, and talking with many running coaches, there are some common fundamental principles new runners should consider before embarking on their running career. Below are a few pointers to get you started.

  • The House that Jack Built It isn’t uncommon for new runners to want to hit the pavement with full gusto, believing the more they run the faster they will advance, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

    One needs to look at the first 6-12 months as a time for building a solid running foundation. Just like the foundation for your house, if you do not allow time for it to cure before putting up the frame, walls, and roof, your house has a greater risk of collapse the minute the first storm blows through.

    Same is true with running. If you don’t allow for proper adaptation your risk for injury rises dramatically. In addition one may experience lack of progress or burnout from doing too much too soon. One must allow time not only for their heart and lungs to adapt, but muscles, connective tissues, joints, bones, and the ever important glycogen reserves.

  • More is Not Better So if one day of running is good, then running every day must be better, right? Well not exactly. While one must run to become a runner, it is actually during the rest/recovery phase that one adapts to the sport. This is where the principle of hard/easy comes into play. You should run one day then either rest or cross train the following day to allow for the body to recover from the run. Using a running program such as Spark Your Way to a 5Khelps take much of the guesswork out of when and when not to run.

  • Be a Tortoise Not a Hare Once again discipline is key for a new runner. It is so easy to get caught up in the need to run fast; but as a newbie, running slow will actually build endurance which in part will allow for faster times in the weeks and months ahead. Only after you have a solid foundation, should you look at adding in speed drills. With speed comes a higher risk of injury--this is when listening to your body is crucial.

  • No Pain, No Gain, Not Quite Running should not cause pain. Soreness is to be expected but one should NEVER run through pain. Doing so could lead to bigger issues down the road. It is always better to take a few days off and allow the body to heal. As my running coach told me when I first started, “Your goal is to be a life-long runner, not just a once in a life-time runner.”

  • The Strength to be a Runner Strength training is a huge asset to most runners. Building upper body strength will help stabilize the shoulders while doing some really great lower body workouts will help stabilize the knees and hips. In addition, strength training helps build those all-important glycogen reserves needed for running.

  • Enjoy the Journey So many people run just to reach a a goal whether it is the 5K they signed up to do or just to finish a training schedule; but for me the challenge is being able to run which is something I never imagined myself doing before I began my journey to a healthier me 3 1/2 years ago.


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    MSMOSTIMPROVED 6/20/2020
    Rest days are imperative Report
    YMWONG22 2/23/2020
    Good article. Report
    CECELW 2/22/2020
    i think i've read this article before Report
    SPINECCO 1/16/2020
    Thanks for the information. Great information. Report
    Absolutely great Report
    Great information Report
    Great pointers for the new runner and great reminders for the old..... Report
    I've been doing this running thing for almost 26 years and can not imagine my life without a pair of running shoes. I do 3,000+ km (1875 miles) a year and the greatest thing about this way of life is that I can eat what I like, when I want and how much I want. At the age of 60 I still feel on top of this world and has medical conditions bothering me. All thanks to my running shoes and the open road! Report
    Great article! I've been doing a walk/run/walk/run thing on the treadmill, and slow and steady is definately good advice. When I started, it was mostly walking. Now I'm able to run for longer and longer incraments.

    Lululemon's Ta Ta Tamer is the best sports bra out there for those with large chests! It's pricy, but well worth it! Report
    I use to run for miles when I was a teen. I trained with my dad. I want to get back to it. So far I can't even stay on my treadmill for 15 mins. Thank you for your advise. I will definetly keep it mind while I go through this journey! Report
    I had knee surgery in one knee and my doctor said unnecessary pounding is not good however I think jogging is ok and ultimately I do not want to get into slow running - Can someone tell me where is there an article to start. I recently joined this gym where we do jump rope and running laps. And I cannot do either. I need some help Report
    I have been running for about 5 months on the wknds ONLY (unfortunately). I am a slow runner ...I do it for the challenge and although am not fast and barely can do 2 miles @ a time..I enjoy it ....I had never been able to run ..I hated to run and now its my escape and challenge. I look forward to my weekends. Reading this article doesnt make me feel so bad ..I am the turtle!! a happy Report

    Thanks again for all the info. I will be checking back in here with you to make sure I am staying on track. I will keep in mind everything you have said and I will keep you running with me at every step. Hopefully it will be a long and fun journey. Thanks for the help
    had_it Report
    Great blog. I have been running with my boyfriend for the past few months and I feel so slow but I know that with running it takes babysteps at first. I wish I could be one of those people who can just go for a 5 mile run, no biggie, but I'm working up to it! Report
    Yeah Nancy, another awesome story! I can't emphasis enough your point the hare and tortoise.Start out slow, run in your THR, and drink plenty of water...YEAH!!! Report
    I'm not a natural athlete and I am 46 years old, but I run 25 miles per week and am training for a Half Marathon next month. If I can run, almost anybody can run. The people who say they "can't" run usually start out too fast and get discouraged when their cardiovascular system can't keep up (the common "I can't breathe" complaint). If you want to run, be patient and work up to it slowly. Your heart and lungs need to get into shape as much as your muscles, bones and joints. Give your body time to adapt and increase your speed and distance gradually. Report
    To Wally2713 - try looking for a really good sports bra. They can make a big difference. As for me, I don't have that issue, at all, but I know from other women that a good sports bra is crucial. There are a couple of online stores - Title Nine Sports and Road Runners Sports.

    I've been running for years and I REALLY enjoy it. Indeed, the only real piece of equipment that you need is a good pair of running shoes - and I can't overemphasize that point. That doesn't mean the shoes have to be expensive, they just have to be right for your foot and your gait. Report
    I can't run comfortably. My boobs hurt to bad when I do... Report
    I have ran in 2 10k races, the Peachtree Race in Atlanta on the 4th of July. I was training to run a marathon and got hurt on a 20 mile run. I really want to get back to running. I love it. I'm going to take this winter to get in shape so that this spring I can start with 2k, 5k, 10k and run the Atlanta Thanksgiving Marathon in 09 Report
    I want to be a runner sooo bad. I remember being a kid and just running so fast it felt like I was creating the wind. I love that feeling of freedom and can't wait to feel it again. Watching the Olympics always inspires me to become more active, which is what initiated my joining Spark - - I am also following the Coach Potato to 5K program. Pretty awesome!

    ~Amy Report
    Good article. The SparkPeople has some great message boards, SparkTeams, and information for rookie runners like me. I completed my first 5K since college last month, and I'm looking forward to the next race. I wish I had read an article like this earlier, though, because I think I overdid things at first. Runner's World magazine (and website) has good resources for beginners too.

    Keep Sparking and Running!

    ZJ Report
    I only run when chased....LOL. Actually I ran with my dog a few months back and was impressed with my progress in getting into shape Report
    I've amazed myself over this past year. I went out for track when I was in 7th Grade/Jr High. I could not run even once around the track.
    Last year I started adding a bit of jogging to my walks. Today at almost 49 years old, I am running on average 3 miles 3 times a week. I'm still that slow tortise, it takes me 40-45 minutes to finish that 3 miles, but I'm thrilled every time I accomplish it. Report
    Anyone can become a runner! Runners aren't just the elites who finish races in Wow!! times. All who finish the race are runners. We all know the work it takes and pride we feel in doing our best. Don't worry how you measure up to anyone else, you are your own competition.

    Let me add a training tip I learned a long time ago: Don't go too far, too fast, too soon. Report
    Jack LaLanne turned 94 last month and he's in wonderful health. He says SWIMMING is the perfect exercise because it uses all the muscles and is 4 times more resistant in water than on land. It increases breath and doesn't hurt the joints. At my age, I'm going to go to the pool and leave running to the younger crowd. Report
    Sometimes I really want to run, I just crave it. But I have a lot of knee problems and don't want to risk an injury Report
    I have always said I would like to do a 5k when I am 40. That is next year. I never really knew where to start.I plan to train based on your article. I walk every day right now and have tried to add short lengths of jogging but I always seem to have trouble with my breathing. I am also having real trouble on knowing what to look for in a good running/walking shoe. Any suggestions? Report
    I have ran since my military days. It is even better for me now because I'm not stressing to make the required distance in a particular time or risk failure. Now I can jog or sprint at whatever pace my body desires. I am more comfortable running like I'm sightseeing rather than just rushing to the end. Report
    Thanks...this is great motivation for us newbies that it is possible! :) Report
    Great article - and so true! And, I didn't follow some of these tips at the beginning and have had a couple stress fractures over the years. Lessons learned, the hard way. One stress fracture kept me from running for about a year - because it was misdiagnosed. And, the last one kept me out for 7 weeks! I hope others can learn from my mistake - again this is a great article! Report
    I have been mixing some jogging with my daily walking, and do run when I am totally stressed out. I can't run far yet but someday soon I will be able to maintain some good runs. For sure you should start small and work up. I add minutes to my walk and jogging every week or two. Report
    I don't see myself running any time soon due to a cranky knee, but I do think the advice rings true for any new physical activity! Start slowly and allow your body to adapt and learn! Great blog!!! Report
    I've been adding some jogging to my walks and hope to build up to total running by spring! Thanks for this article! Report
    This article has inspired me to keep going. I've been walk/running on my treadmill and working my way up slowly to more running. I do use my heart rate monitor which helps me alot. Just like Lizzy63 I would like to run 1 mile without stopping or slowing into a walk. Report
    Thanks, for all the great tips! Report
    Love reading this. I started running, rather jogging, in June '08. I never would have believed that I could do it but I can. I ran my first 1/2 marathon last week. It took me just under 3 hours but I never walked. I keep thinking I should be going faster but now that I read what you said, I believe I am doing the right thing. Luckily, I have not been hurt. I believe it is because my training is slow and steady. I do not push myself, I just do what my body tells me to. As my training continues I hope to better my times but I do believe that the time is secondary and will improve as I continue to train. Thank you for this informative article. Report
    Great advice about allowing a rest day (or cross training day) after a run day. I swim and/or do weight training on days I don't run. I also do some squats and lunges to work out muscles that don't seem to benefit from the running. I get bored easily so the swimming, which is honestly my first love, keeps it interesting. I started running fairly regularly in February of this year and I'm still pretty slow but I'm just happy to be out there doing it. I never thought I'd be able to before! Report
    I agree! WHen I started running, I dropped weight like crazy! Report
    I am a new runner. I started running back in.. June '08 I believe and was in a 4 mile race in July.. I jogged some of the way and walked most of it. I did my best and I finished.. pretty close to last but that isn't what mattered to me. What mattered to me was that I finished it without giving up. My first race, and I was hooked to running for life. Thanks for sharing this article. I am certain most people will find this very motivating and inspirational. Report
    Nancy, always such sage advice. I am proud to call myself a runner after beginning a program in May just prior to my 52nd birthday in June. Your advice is always welcome and adhered to. Report
    I just finished my second 5k this morning, and had a personal best time...mostly because I have been following all of the principles you outlined in this article...I have a couple of friends who are considering taking up running, and I try to emphasize a lot of what you've said...I especially like the "life-long runner" as opposed to being a "once-in-a-lifetime runner." Report
    Very true. I used to run long distance but I I only run once a week these days. When you get older you become smarter and listen to your body more closely. Report
    Such an informative article! It makes me want to take up running. :) Report
    I LOVE your article. As an active 12-year runner, I'm often asked about how to start, and more importantly maintain, an active running program. You hit on many of the points that I have tried to share with people who approach me with these inquiries. At , I try to share tips that help people toward achieving their goals in this area. Keep up the good work! Report
    I have never liked running and only did it every 6 month when I 'had to' when I was in the military. I never took it seriously and while I ran the whole 1.5 miles without stopping it wasn't enough to make me appreciate or understand the dynamics of running. In between my 6 month runs, I used to walk, cycle and do aerobics to stay strong enough to run. I was also much younger. Lately during my walks I have had the urge to run. I've run a little but never to the point where I though I might injure myself. Recently I decided that I want to start running and I've starte the Couch to 5k program. While I can really run for more than a minute at a time I am closely following the program so as not injure myself and to not burn out from trying to do too much too soon. So far I am satisfied with my progress and can see myself actually liking to run, sometimes. Report
    Great article. I do think that it takes a while to build up endurance. Take it slow and you can be a runner. Two years ago I started running. I didn't like running, I hated it. With practice and endurance I have learned to love it. I completed my first 1/2 marathon and look forward to completing a full marathon in the spring. Report
    I want so badly to be a runner, but it's been a real battle for me. Last week was my first 5K, and now I'm sidelined with an injury. But I'll get back at it as soon as I can, a bit slower this time, and I will be a runner someday! Report
    I have found all of these tips to be true. I just completed a 5 mile race in 50 min 15 sec. I had to train for nearly a year to get to that point. It does take time. But sometimes the determination is more important to have--without it, you'll never reach your goal! Report