The temptation to sit on the couch binging on Netflix, booze and food is at an all-time high. And with gyms closed many might be struggling on how to find ways to start a new workout program. While there are plenty of at-home workout classes and videos out there, now is as good of a time as any to start running.
Running can be intimating for a beginner. What seems like an easy enough activity—just put on some sneakers and go—quickly becomes hard. And this is with respect to everything from the stamina and endurance needed to actually run to how to run effectively when it comes to having form down to having proper running shoes.
But new runners don’t need to feel overwhelmed. Running now should just be for the pure enjoyment of it and its many health benefits both physical and mental.
So how do you start running during the pandemic?
Follow these steps to get started running now.
Step # 1: Prepare
The most important thing you need to properly fit running sneakers. The problem is running stores might be closed or not conducting in-store fittings. In that case, see if you can chat with an employee on the phone or virtually to see their recommendations based on your shoe size and gait (how your foot falls when it touches the ground).
If all else fails you might just want to start in the sneakers you have, just make sure they aren’t too worn out and that they are intended for at least waking.
It’s also important to plan the route of where you will run ahead of time. Know the expected distance or make sure to bring a phone for a running app or smartwatch to know when it’s time to turn back home or when your mileage or time is completed.
Because of COVID-19, extra planning is required such as knowing what time is best to head to a park to avoid a crowd to run while practicing social distancing. If it is ideal park hours on a nice day, it might be better instead to hit the trails or run the neighborhood.
Step # 2: Start Slowly
This could very well be the first time you are running. If so, I am so happy you decided to give it a try.
There a few things to keep in mind as a beginner.
Have patience. Not every run feels great and it takes time to get to that point where the endorphins are rushing in and you realize you love a good run.
Don’t get discourages. You can struggle on Monday and barely make it a mile but on Wednesday you could be a speed demon or have the energy to go the distance. Even elite runners have bad runs. Just dust yourself off and go into the next run with a positive mindset, leaving the crappy workout behind.
It’s okay to walk. Jeff Galloway made a name in running and recruited so many people to the sport with his Run/Walk Method. There is no shame in walking when you need to.
It is the best way to start running for the first time, for the first time in a long time, or after an injury or coming back from having a baby.
You need to build up your endurance and start building muscle strength. The last thing you want is to cause an injury like shin splints from doing too much too soon. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Step # 3: Train Smart
It’s important to exercise—even during this pandemic. But you need to run smart. This means knowing when it’s a good idea to run and when you should rest. You don’t need to run every day to be a runner. That brings you on the fast track to injury. Stick to three runs a week with a rest day after each run. Feel free to completely rest or to cross-train with yoga or another low-impact activity one to two times a week.
Starting to run now is encouraged. But don’t push it too much. Even if you can already run a mile or run fast from your day 1, you should keep in mind that now is that the time to push the body. That’s not to say never do a hard workout, but don’t make every run a “hard run.” Stick to an easy pace for most of the miles ran in a given week. Then sprinkle in some challenges like a hilly course or throw in a fartlek run, a run where you randomly run fast to an object you see like a mailbox then back to normal pace then speed up again to the next object.
The idea is that running while healthy does cause stress to the body. Think of it as being in that “flight or fight” state. The body then is at work repairing muscles and recovering after a hard workout. So constantly working the system hard puts you at risk for having a weaker immune system following a hard run, which then means it makes you susceptible to illness.
Putting It To Practice
The best way to start running is to dedicate three days a week for runs. Start with the workouts lasting 20 to 30 minutes.
Always start with a dynamic warm-up, don’t do static stretches. The best way to prepare the body for the work ahead is by warming up the muscles, getting the blood flowing, and increasing the heart rate. This is down by doing walking lunges, squats, jumping jacks, toy soldiers, etc. Dedicate at least five minutes to a warm-up.
New runners start by using the Run/Walk Method that includes a comfortable jog for two minutes followed by walking for a minute. Repeat until reaching the desired time.
When this becomes comfortable, play with the intervals. You might want to then do two minutes of jogging following by only 30-seconds of recovery by walking. Another option is to jog for three minutes, recover for one minute. The objective is to be able to run for a mile without stopping to walk.
Play with these intervals for three to six weeks. This is how long it takes the body to adapt to the training. When this is achieved, the new runner can then work on speed or focus on running further.
Running or jogging comfortably means moving at a pace that you can hold for the duration of the workout or that interval of running. Also known as conversational pace, you should be able to talk without gasping for air.
Since it’s not advised to run in groups, be aware of your surroundings, and be aware of safety features on your phone or running watch.
Run just “for fun,” as a way to exercise and enjoy some fresh air instead of thinking that you need “to be fast” or “good at it.” Running at its core is in our human nature. This means everyone can do it at any age or stage in their life. Just be smart and safe and the rest will fall into place.