9 Valuable Tips From Walkers Who Transitioned to Running

Walking is a great form of exercise, especially for those who are new to fitness or recovering from an injury. In addition to helping with weight loss, this low-impact cardio activity also improves heart health, strengthens bones and joints and boosts mental wellness. But if you're short on time and want to ramp up your calorie burn—or just have the urge to push your workouts to a more challenging level—you might consider incorporating some jogging or running into your routine.

After losing 100 pounds, SparkPeople member MIRAGE727 knew he had to keep up with the cardio. He started walking some local 5Ks with his wife, but grew tired of getting lapped by the runners. At the age of 60, he started SparkPeople's 5K Your Way Walk/Jog Challenge. Today, he is the team leader for the challenge and co-leader for the Rookie Running Group. "I believe if you want to become a runner, you can do it," he says. "So I'm paying it forward by helping others experience the excitement and good healthy lifestyle of a runner."

Running for the first time can be daunting, but with the right motivation, persistence and these tips from real runners who made the leap, you can succeed in picking up the speed.

1. Start slow.

"I had to be willing to run very slow (not a whole lot faster than my walking speed at first) and repeat weeks that were hard before moving on in the [Couch to 5K] program. My speed came up a little on its own after my stamina improved." – KARABU
"To transition to running, I would suggest taking it slowly and methodically, building up a little at a time. A good Couch to 5K program can help you get there slowly but surely." – TDBECKER
It can be tempting to try to push yourself right out of the gate, but going too hard and fast too soon can result in burnout or injury. Start by focusing on endurance, conditioning and form—the speed work can come later.

2. Design a training program around what you love.

"I used to hate running, but have now completed three full marathons. I transitioned my love of walking to a love of running by volunteering as an exerciser of high-energy shelter dogs. The dogs' love for running was contagious, and these pups helped me train for my three marathons." – Chantelle Wallace
Who says you have to stick to the treadmill or the track? Find an activity you love that can incorporate running and it won't seem like such a chore. For example, try jogging with your kids or grandkids at the park, running with your dog or trying some deep-water running.

3. Sign up for a running event.

"To make the leap, I simply signed up for my first 5K. If I sign up for something, I don't back out, so I knew if I found one and agreed to do it, I would find a way to make it work. I was addicted after the first race!" – Micah Pratt, director of Medicare Health Plans
Signing up for a charity race is a great way to boost your running motivation while also benefiting a good cause. Explore these helpful tips on how to prepare for your first running event.

4. Do it with others.

"Running with a group has been a great way to keep me motivated and honest with my training. What better way to keep on track than having some great friends who will give you grief if you slack off?”  SparkPeople employee Mike Honkomp
Who says running has to be a solitary sport? A jogging buddy or local running group can help keep you motivated and accountable. You'll be a lot less likely to skip your early morning run if you know someone is waiting for you at the gym or the sidewalk.

5. Strengthen your knees.

"The first thing I did (learned from my daughter's knee injury) was to work on strengthening my legs and knees. I did all the exercises she'd been given to rehab her knees, and did those before I ran a step." – ANNE-IN-GTX
Knees are the most commonly injured joints in the body, and they become even more vulnerable with the impact of running. To help prevent injury as you ramp up the mileage, add some knee strengthening and stretching exercises to your routine.

6. Give it time.

"I was a walker for many years. I was also an athlete who hated to run! Be flexible and realize you may actually hate it for the first few weeks. That will change as your muscles get stronger and your body starts to crave the endorphins." – Mary Connolly with The Cause Coach
"Results take time. Don't go out too hard and too fast in the beginning, as you are more likely to get an injury. Stick with it until it becomes a routine." – Jennifer Spangler
As with any new activity, it will take some time for your body to acclimate to the movements and demands you're putting on it. Be patient, take it one stride at a time and it will gradually get easier—and maybe even fun!

7. Cross-train.

"Cross-training is essential...as a new runner, you should not run every day." – ANNE-IN-GTX
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of your new sport, but having a one-track fitness mind can result in injury, burnout or muscle imbalance. Incorporate some cross-training activities that complement and enhance your running, such as cycling, rowing, swimming, walking or cross-country skiing.

8. Find a challenge.

"Go under “Challenges” on SparkPeople; they have a couple of walk/run challenges. It's a great way to start." – FITWITHIN
Ideal for walkers who are ready to try some jogging, the 5K Your Way Walk/Run Challenge trains you to walk/jog a 5K in less than five weeks. Ready to ramp up to running the whole thing? Try the 5K Your Way Running Challenge.

9. Don't be limited by others.

"Don't let anyone tell you that you cannot or should not do something. Embrace every step you take and celebrate all of your accomplishments. Don't compare yourself to others. We all have our own path on this life journey." – Dawn Bardon
Each runner has his or her own unique motivations, strengths and areas for improvement. Instead of comparing yourself to other runners, focus on celebrating every small accomplishment along the way, whether it's running for a full minute without stopping or completing your first 5K race. Regardless of your pace, intensity or frequency, you are a runner—and your only competitor is yesterday's version of you.
How did you make the transition from walking to running? What advice would you give to someone who is considering picking up the pace?