3.1 miles — the perfect distance for your first foray into one of the world’s most popular sports (for the record, that’s about 6,000 Fitbit steps). We’ll help you navigate some of the obstacles that trip people up when they’re starting a running program for the first time, or coming back to running after a break.
Here’s how to properly get started.
Register for a 5K race
It may seem crazy to sign up for a race before you’ve even started training, but trust me, it’s motivating. Having a race date will give you purpose. There are plenty of resources out there for finding races and events. Local running stores also host training runs. Social networks are also great places to become aware of local events.
Focus on simple goals
Running packs a lot of bang for the buck. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and you don’t need much to get started. But a lot of people lose steam after starting a running program because running gets hard quickly. Most people start out too fast. Lungs start to burn. Breathing turns into panting. People pass you on the path, discouragement sets in. Don’t fret. The biggest challenge is finding the right pace. This experience happens to everyone. Just slow down and alternate between jogging and walking.
Run every day
If you shoot for seven days and only end up running even three or four days, you’ll be on track to have a great 5K. Watch this great TED talk on the value of doing something new every day.
A lot of people don’t immediately associate running with fun. But the more fun you have with it, the more likely you’re going to stick with it. So embrace it, smile and relax.
Count steps, not miles
Everyone is going to ask you about miles. How far did you go? How far did you run this week? What’s your goal time for your race? Don’t focus on the numbers when you’re training for your first 5K. Just get out there, every day, and focus on meeting your daily Fitbit step goal. Don’t forget that walking counts just as much as running!
Set yourself up for success and finish strong
Always arrive hydrated and with fuel in the tank. You’ll get better at this the more seasoned you get with your runs and distances. Don’t forget to bring along some easily digestible carbs like a banana or an organic energy/granola bar, but experiment with a few different foods that your body does best with. And be sure to finish strong. It’ll make your run that much more rewarding.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to success. There will be some challenges along the way. You really need to find a source of inspiration and energy that works for you. Remember to always be patient and listen to your body — and don’t let injuries slow you down. They happen to everyone, so stay positive and good luck!
Jenn Pattee is a competitive ultrarunner, outdoor fitness maven and relentless pursuer of playtime. She founded San Francisco’s Basic Training in 2008. Every morning and evening, she and her team of instructors take groups of dedicated amateur athletes through scenic trail runs and innovative cross-training routines designed to increase endurance, flexibility, core strength and speed. She recently wrote about run-commuting.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.