From the Sofa to the Sidewalk: Running for Beginners

By Jenna Chapman

For those of us who have never been into running, getting started may seem intimidating.  Running is an excellent form of exercise and provides benefits for both your physical and mental health, so it’s worth lacing up those sneakers and giving running a try, even if you’ve never attempted to before. Just like with all goals, if we break them down, we can work our way toward progress.

Before you even step outside, start by finding inspiration.  Follow running accounts on social media, listen to a running podcast, or read a running-focused book!  Doing your research will help you realize that there are many other running newbies out there of all ability levels – and if they can do it, so can you!

Much of running is mental, so try to visualize yourself jogging down the street or through a park in your neighborhood. What will it feel like to be out there? Would you rather run in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Will you listen to music? If so, what songs might motivate you to push through when the run gets tough? Imagining yourself on the run will help you feel prepared when you step out the door.

Now that you’ve done the upfront work, now is the time for you to leave your comfy couch and hit the pavement. Don’t worry…your sofa will be even more welcoming when you finish exercising!)  A great way to ease into running is by using interval training, where you run for a set amount of time and then walk for a set amount of time. You can choose what seems best for you, but a nice starting place is to run and recover for equal amounts of time (run for 2 minutes, walk for 2 minutes.) Repeat this until you reach your desired distance or time on the run.  Increase the intensity by cutting back on the rest time in between intervals when you feel ready!

Here are some more tips for new runners:

  • Map out a few routes in your neighborhood – a short one, a medium one, and a longer one. When you have these already determined, it eliminates the time spent trying to decide where to run. Having one less choice to make will make it easier to get out the door.
  • Go to a local running store to get fitted for running shoes. This will reduce your chance of injury and your feet will thank you!
  • Make sure to warm up your body by stretching before (and after) your runs. Focus on loosening up the major muscle groups (calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, as well as your upper body) and you should be good to go. Look online for common stretches for runners.
  • Don’t run on an empty stomach. Having a little bit of fuel in you will give your body the energy it needs. A banana, some trail mix, or a PB&J are good options to start. It’s also crucial to hydrate to stay hydrated before and after your run.

The most important thing to know about getting started running is to not be too hard on yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously! Have fun out there. It’s okay if you feel awkward at first or need to stop and take breaks. Running is a great way to give your physical and mental health a boost, so don’t let fear get in the way of meeting your goals. Everyone starts somewhere. See you out there!

Jenna is a UX Product Writer at Vitality. When she’s not writing, she enjoys running through her Chicago neighborhood or along Lake Michigan, reading a memoir or feel-good novel, and crocheting cozy projects with vibrant yarn.

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