Running or jogging is one of the easiest athletic activities you can start doing. The barriers to this sport are so low in terms of preparing and equipment that nearly anyone can become a runner. You already know how to run, now you have to make yourself go do it. If you need help finding the time or motivation, see the post – Nerdcore Fitness 101 – Finding Time to Workout. Beyond time and motivation, people tend to think of distance running as just too darn far to go. Look at it this way:
- Can you walk for an hour at a decent pace? Congratulations! You can do a 5K.
- Ever spent an entire day at a large theme park? Congratulations! You unwittingly participated in a 10K!
What do I need to start?
There is plenty of specialized equipment out there for runners, including very specific types of shoes, specialized socks, shorts, shirts, GPS trackers, heart rate monitors – you name it. Don’t let all that specialized gear intimidate you or prevent you from getting yourself moving. All you need to begin is a decent pair of sneakers, some shorts, and a t-shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the weather.
Do I need to stretch before I go?
You probably should. I recommend some stretching before you head out on the road. For your legs, but also for your back. The simplest stretch is, again, something you already know how to do. With your feet together, reach for your toes, stretch until there is some resistance but not painful, and hold it there for a 15 seconds. Don’t bounce up and down, and don’t worry about actually touching your toes. Repeat this three times. There are a lot more you can do, but we want to keep this simple.
Where do I go?
If you are fortunate enough to have a local high school track nearby with public access, use that. It’s flat, there are no pedestrians or cars, and they even have lanes you can follow – it doesn’t get any easier than that. My second choice would be a park trail or community biking / walking trail. Most of us will have to make do with either a sidewalk or the street. If you choose to run on the street, remember, you run against traffic, not with traffic.
How far should I run?
Start with a set amount of time instead of a set distance. Start out with a minute or two of a quick walk to get your muscles ready, and then run or jog for ten minutes. If ten minutes of solid running is putting too much strain on you them back off and alternate between 100 yards of walking and running. That will likely be close to a mile. Take a pause, walk a little bit and take an honest assessment of how you feel.
After ten minutes, if you genuinely feel winded – no problem, walk it back home, you did great. If you have not yet broken a sweat, try running for another five minutes, and finish off your first workout with five more minutes of walking.
As mentioned above, you will likely be running on the street. It’s critical that you be aware of your surroundings at all times. Yes, you want to find your “zone” during your run, but not at the expense of ignoring traffic, cyclists, runners and other pedestrians. If you are running with an iPod or other music player, keep the volume at a level where you can hear the surrounding environment.
What about staying hydrated?
A one-mile run is not going to significantly deplete you of any fluids or nutrients. It’s always good advice to stay hydrated before and after any sort of workout, but I’d argue it’s always good to stay hydrated period, regardless of any physical exertion. Just be sure you sip your drink and not chug it down.
Do I need to cool-down?
Yes. Considering we only ran about a mile, walk for just a few minutes after your run. You want to keep the blood flowing, this will help process any lactic acid that your body produced.
There you go! That wasn’t so bad. Notice that there was a lot more involved with planning your run than the actual run itself. If you made it this far, you have demonstrated that you can do this, and that you want to.
If the comic shop is within running distance, you just found your next hobby!
- Brian Kehs
About the Author: Brian Kehs is a husband, father of two, a runner, and a manager in IT. In addition to running, Brian is an avid Star Wars fan boy who thinks Neil Gaiman’s Sandman may be the best literature out there. He regularly run 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers and half marathons. In his free time he coaches an elementary school running club.