Get a Running Start

by Sage Rountree 23

Get a Running StartHere on Chi, you’ll find my plans to get you through a fast 5K, 10K, or half marathon race.  The key word there is race — the training schedule gets you ready to be speedy (define speedy however you like). But if you’re not already running, that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach. You just need to start with a few months of base training to get you ready to go faster.

There are many good plans and tools to help you get a running start. (Check out Cool Running and Runner’s World online. The May 2009 issue of Runner’s World has lots of tips for beginners.) Each of these plans incorporates short periods of running in the context of a walk. It boils down to this: walk at a pretty quick pace, occasionally break into a jog, then return to walking. Repeat. Gradually increase the proportion of time you spend running, then very gradually increase the length of each workout.

Don’t get too hung up on the numbers. At this stage in your running career, speed, distance, and duration are all far less important than consistency, accountability, and the right equipment. Bring these three things to your walk/run routine, and you will see progress.

You need to make your running a routine. Prioritize it by scheduling it on your calendar and holding yourself to your plan. Three times a week is good. Four or five times a week works, too. Just start with a schedule you can stick to consistently, and be persistent.

Persistence means that sometimes you’ll have to psych yourself up and head outside in less-than-favorable conditions. Cold out? Add a layer or two. Hot? Put on sunscreen and carry a drink. Raining? A brimmed hat keeps water out of your eyes. Windy? That’s built-in resistance training. Electrical storm? OK, this would be a good reason to use the treadmill.

Having a buddy provides accountability. Your buddy could be a workout partner who meets you under the streetlight at 5 a.m., or at the front door to the office building at 5 p.m. Your buddy could be a dog who shows unadulterated excitement every time you touch your running shoes. Your buddy could be you: running gives you time to work through ideas and emotions in a separate space, one where you can think and feel but don’t have to immediately act on those thoughts and feelings. Choose a buddy whose company you enjoy, and you’ll be more likely to run consistently.

Tracking your workouts also holds you accountable. Writing down what you plan to do and logging each completed outing will give you a tangible record of your progress. You can use a sheet of paper, a logbook, a spreadsheet, or an online program (look at TrainingPeaks, WorkoutLog, or Daily Mile, among others). Keep track of your time running, mark the distance if you know it, and note how you felt.

Running requires minimal equipment. The most critical piece, though, is a good, fresh pair of shoes that fit you properly. Visit your local running store and have your stride evaluated. The shop’s employees will make recommendations. Choose the pair of shoes that feels best — not the ones in your favorite color — and expect to spend around $100. When your log shows you’ve put in 50 or 60 hours of training on those shoes, it’s time to start looking for a new pair.

Depending on your size, a good quality sports bra can also be very important. Try a few models and stock up when you find one that works for you. Like shoes, sports bras need to be replaced regularly.

Beyond shoes and a bra, you can keep your equipment basic or gussy yourself up with wicking clothes, a watch with GPS to measure your speed and distance, lightweight sunglasses, hydration belts—you name it. There’ll be time for all of these extras as your running progresses. For now, check your shoes, schedule time with your buddy, and get out there consistently.

Sage Rountree is a USA Triathlon Certified Expert Coach, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher, author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga and The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga, a contributor to Runner’s World, a member of PowerBar Team Elite, and one of Athleta's Featured Athletes in 2009. She loves competing in triathlon and running races of all distances. Through her business, Sage Endurance, she teaches yoga to athletes and coaches clients in running, ultrarunning, triathlon, and duathlon... {more»}