You have to learn to walk before you can run. I’m not sure how accurate this statement is since I’ve seen lots of babies that could run before they could walk, but when talking about running I think it rings true.
(this post was originally written in March of 2010)
You Have to Learn to Walk Before You Can Run
Today’s topic is courteous of Tracy who sent me an e-mail earlier this week asking:
“How would you recommend I start a running program for myself? I’m definitely a beginner runner, but not out of shape.”
The funny thing about running is it seems like it should be so easy. I mean you’re running for heaven’s sake! Humans have been running well, ever since there were humans – and we’ve all seen the Kenyans running in marathons looking like gazelles because they move so smoothly and making it look absolutely effortless. It makes you wonder why when you run a mile or two you are so out of breath you feel like you’re going to die!
But I’m already active, shouldn’t I already be fit enough to run?
So many people automatically assume they should be good at any sport they try, simply because they are active and in good shape. Well, that’s just silly. Just because you’re a good skater doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good cyclist (unless, of course, your name is Clara Hughes), and the same goes for running. Whenever you take up a new sport or activity there is a learning curve, and running is no different. Even though it seems like the easiest and simplest of activities, as with anything you need to start slowly.
Certainly being active and in good shape will make running easier for you than someone who is out of shape and inactive, but you should both be starting out with the same program, the only difference is the fitter person will probably cover more distance in the same time span as the less fit person.
So where do I start?
Many people decide one day that they want to become active and take up running right out of the gate. These are the people that often find themselves discouraged or injured not long afterward. Before even starting to run, you should be able to walk 4 miles in an hour give or take 5 minutes or so. If walking a 15-minute mile winds you, then you should probably stick with walking a little longer until you’ve built up your stamina.
Assuming you can walk a 15-minute mile without much difficulty, you should be able to safely start to add in some running intervals. I have always found a walk/run combination to be the best when starting out, here’s the program I normally use or give to people when they want to begin running:
Week 1 Run 1 minute/walk 1-minute x 10 = 20 minutes total
Week 2 Run 2 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 7 = 21 minutes total
Week 3 Run 3 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 5 = 20 minutes total
Week 4 Run 4 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 4 = 20 minutes total
Week 5 Run 5 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 4 = 24 minutes total
Week 6 Run 6 minute/Walk 1-minute x 3 = 21 minutes total
Week 7 Run 7 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 3 = 24 minutes total
Week 8 Run 8 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 2 = 18 minutes total
Week 9 Run 9 minutes/Walk 1-minute x 2 = 20 minutes total
Begin each run/walk with a 10-minute walking warm-up and then a 10-minute cool-down afterward taking you to approximately a 40-minute workout each time. remember to stretch afterward. If you are looking for some examples check these out.
Take it as slow as you need to, learning to run is a slow process
Complete the weekly run/walk workout 3x before moving on to the next week. Don’t be afraid to repeat a week a few times until you are ready to move on and don’t be afraid to play around with the run/walk ratios to make it work better for you. Maybe at week 4, you feel like running 2 minutes/walking 30 seconds a time, or something along those lines. It’s your workout, make any alterations you need to, to make it work for you!
Another good program that runs along these same lines is the Couch to 5k from Cool Running. I know lots of people who have used this program successfully as a starting point for learning how to run so you may want to check it out as well.
To avoid running injuries (Runner’s knee, ITB Issues, etc.) try to plan your runs for non-consecutive days. Many of these injuries are overuse injuries and new runners can set in very early on if not careful. Also, make sure to wear a pair of good-fitting running sneakers. If you’re serious about becoming a runner go to a specialty running store and get fitted for a pair of sneakers. A good running store will analyze your gait (take your old sneakers with you so they can take a look at the soles to check for a wear pattern), fit you for a properly fitting pair of sneakers, and even get you to run around the store so they can see if the shoes fit properly. Believe me, although they might be a bit more expensive than your local shoe store, the information you get will be invaluable and your feet, knees, and legs will really thank you!
Above all, enjoy yourself. Running can be a very freeing experience, many runners say they do their best thinking while they run (personally I do my best thinking in the bathtub) and can’t function without their daily jog. Having said that, running isn’t for everyone. If you try it and discover you hate running, don’t do it anymore. Want to know a secret? I hate spinning. Everything about it. I tried it once at a fitness conference and my ass was sore from that seat for days. I loath spinning classes, so I don’t go to them, and I’m pretty sure nobody thinks less of me because of it.
I’ll leave you with this thought. Many people debate over the difference between running and jogging. Some say it’s based on your speed and whether or not you take walking breaks, some say it’s whether you have more of an upward thrust versus a forward thrust, but I identify with the group that believes this:
A runner is someone who has a goal in mind when they run (time, distance, whatever) while a jogger is just out there jogging for the sake of jogging.