Teach me how to run
September 27, 2009 7:13 PM   Subscribe

I want to take up running. Thinking about training for a 5K as a goal to keep me motivated. Advice, alternate suggestions, tips?

I am pretty much a couch potato and want to change that.

I have two small children, so joining a gym seems logistically difficult. Plus the machines intimidate me. We have a treadmill in our garage, and a safe neighborhood, so while I'm open to other suggestions, running seems an accessible and simple entry to a more fit self.

But I've never done it. I've read a bit about proper form, etc but want to know - if you're a runner, how did you start? Tips and advice (and encouragement!) greatly appreciated.
posted by mazienh to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check this out:
The couch to 5k running plan
posted by tresbizzare at 7:16 PM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

To get started, it might be easier to make it your goal to run consistently (2, 3 times a week, perhaps) for six months, say.
posted by clockzero at 7:17 PM on September 27, 2009

Yep - google "Couch to 5K. There are many.

It is indeed an excellent way to ramp up from not running at all to being a 'real runner' in just a couple of months. Because you have a goal that's not too far off, and very visible rapid benchmarks of improvement, it's a satisfying way to go.

I started running this way myself.

Tips? It's hard to do this wrong if you're following a plan. Select a good race: something that is beginner-friendly (most 5Ks are), that is fun, nice comfortable terrain, and maybe has a fundraising or goody-bag or event aspect that you enjoy. It's hard to understand how fun races are until you participate in them.

Invite some friends or loved ones to race day so you will be sure to come through and actually run, and will have someone to look for at the finish line or along the way. It's great!

Don't set a time goal your first time out. Follow your training plan, and on the day of the race, run what feels good. It's too hard to know how you're going to race when you've never done it.

Don't wear brand-new shoes or gear to the race. Race in stuff you've been running in, so you won't have any blister/chafe surprises.

But by all means, enjoy getting running gear if your budget allows. It makes a great reward mechanism: a new singlet after 2 weeks, new shoes after a month, new music downloads for every workout, etc.

Have another goal in mind for after your first 5K, so you don't just rest on your laurels. You could either run other 5Ks to try and better your time, or plan for a 5 miler or 10K.

Have fun! You can totally do it. This is running's near-universal achievable goal - and it's fun, too.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: C25K podcasts, previously.
posted by zamboni at 7:29 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Definitely agreeing with registering for a 5k race. I started running almost a year ago after being a coach potato for almost 10 years and what really motivates me is having a race to train for.

I started on a treadmill. I was actually afraid of running outside so I felt the treadmill was safe. Plus you could track your speed and distance and you don't have to worry about the weather.
For the most part I just jumped on the treadmill one day and started jogging. I discovered the Couch to 5k plan a few weeks later and switched to that and found it very helpful in planning a workout.

It took some time but I realized that running outdoors isn't scary. I actually prefer it to the treadmill now.
Some people like to track their runs by time but I'm big on knowing mileage. If you run on the streets in your neighborhood you can map out your route on Google Maps and see how far you've gone. You can even find out your mile markers so you can start tracking your laps.

Aside from shoes and an awesome running outfit grab a watch as well. I bought a Timex Ironman watch from Target. Only about $25 and you can tracking your workouts/laps/etc on it.

I recently purchased the Nike+ chip and wrist band combo. The chip goes into your shoe and it basically tracks distance (it also works with certain iPods and you won't need the wrist band!) and then you can upload your results to the Nike+ website. Having the chip is a huge motivator.

You can do it!
posted by simplethings at 7:57 PM on September 27, 2009

Don't push yourself too hard too fast. Once you get into the swing of things, it's easy to get carried away. Remember, no increase great than 5% per run.
posted by smoke at 7:58 PM on September 27, 2009

Like everyone says, Couch to 5K.

I finished week 6 of the 9 week program today -- I ran 25 minutes straight! I used to hate hate hate running but this program works and now I can't wait to run more. I have 2 small children too, so I know how hard it is to find the time and energy. Drop me some MeMail if you need some more motivation.
posted by ellenaim at 8:16 PM on September 27, 2009

Best answer: Learn to run clinics at a running store -- mine were once a week and we learned about proper form, proper shoes, stretching, etc etc, and then did a run that increased in distance/time every week. This is especially good if you need other people to help you get motivated. You definitely should go to a running store and get fitted for shoes before you start running seriously -- it will save your feet.
posted by pised at 8:55 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Listen up, maggot.
posted by rdc at 9:59 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have an iPhone, try out the free version of RunKeeper. It tracks your mileage via GPS and it's really motivating to see your speed/distance increase. (If you spring for the paid version, you can program in interval workouts. I'm currently using that to do the Couch to 5K plan.)

I started running seriously last year, and unfortunately I've had to deal with lower back pain ever since. I've seen several physiotherapists for it and tried different shoes. The thing that's made the biggest difference for me - and the reason I've got back to the Cto5K plan) - is forefoot running. Basically, it means landing on the front part of your foot rather than slamming down on your heels. It's taking me a little while to get used to, but the back pain is pretty much gone. And I think it's making me a bit faster too. So if you find yourself dealing with a lot of injuries, you may be better off changing your running style too.
posted by web-goddess at 10:13 PM on September 27, 2009

Join dailymile.com. Tracking your mileage (you can track workouts, hikes, bike rides and other activities too) is a good way to hold yourself accountable/review and gloat over your progress/connect with other runners.

Good luck!
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:46 PM on September 27, 2009

I've successfully done the couch to 5k the past two summers (because I get out of shape during the winter) and I register for a fall 5k race to keep me motivated and give me something to work towards.

The biggest tips I can give you are:

1.) Just get out there and run at least 3 times a week. (Can be hard, depending on your schedule, but you have to keep up with it. This year, I often just ran around the house when I didn't have time to drive to the park to run. Just run.)

2.) Go at your own pace. Both years that I've run, I've found it helpful to stick firmly to the couch-to-5k plan, but if I start getting tired, say during a 5 minute run in the beginning, I'll slow my pace down significantly to just above a speed walk. My legs are still in the "running" motion, although I may be going just as fast as a walker. That way, I'm not "giving up", but rather slowing waaay down to stay in the race and stick with the plan I set out on.

Good luck! You're in for a great ride - crossing that finish line for the first time feels absolutely amazing. I was walking on air for days after I set my first personal best!
posted by siclik at 11:52 PM on September 27, 2009

Best answer: I did this a couple of years ago. It's actually much easier than you might think, you'll get to 5km pretty quickly. You may want to sign up for a 5K then a 10K a couple of months later to ensure you keep it up - because it's very easy to lapse too.

You should get proper running shoes, from a shop that specialises in running shoes - they'll get you to run on a treadmill and take video of your feet, and recommend shoes that compensate for the way your feet may naturally turn when they land.

Personally I regard a cheap heart-rate monitor as essential too - when I tried to start running without one I'd always get exhausted too quickly. Actually what was happening is that I put too much effort in, my HR was shooting up above 180 straight away and I had to stop within a few minutes. Now if I keep it in the 145-155 range I can go for hours. This will be different for you, you like reading so you'll enjoy finding out about training zones etc.

Of course, if you're as unfit as I was and you suck as much at running as I did when I started there's no way you'll be able to keep your HR low while doing any sort of jogging or running. So initially, do run/walk sessions. Improving technique helps with that too - I found reading about "pose method" and "chi running" useful. I didn't adopt either of them, but I did start landing on the middle/front of my foot instead of my heel and making short fast strides (about 170 footfalls/minute) which podrunner mixes are good for enforcing if you can tolerate that kind of music!

Must stop procrastinating now so final points very briefly: "Technical" fabric better than cotton. Bodyglide. Find somewhere nice/pretty to run. Much harder to go faster than go further. Do interval training to improve speed once you can make the distance. Garmin Forerunner with 'sporttracks' software - expensive but awesome in a very geeky way. Hope that helps!
posted by dickasso at 2:36 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

This article on sprinting might be interesting to you as an alternative to jogging. I don't really know, but feel like sprinting is better for you in two ways, it's more efficient exercise and I think it's easier on your body to work out intensively for a short period than to pound yourself for a longer period.
posted by sully75 at 5:13 AM on September 28, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I wish I could mark them all as best answer! I'll be picking up some good shoes and then trying the Couch to %K program for sure, that is just the kind of guidance I think I need to do this right....
posted by mazienh at 6:53 AM on September 28, 2009

I highly recommend the Nike + chip. This article pretty much sums up why.
posted by jasondigitized at 8:07 AM on September 28, 2009

one thing that helped me start running/biking regularly is listening to audio books instead of music. That way I don't get bored. I actually look forward to the exercise. But then again some people need music for the rhythm so YMMV.
posted by pyro979 at 9:28 AM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Back when I couldn't run 3 miles, music made my rhythm screwed up, so podcasts were a great solution. Now I can be distracted by the conversation and could run at any rhythm I choose. I'd recommend an iPod shuffle (the square one with the button, not the latest generation).
posted by yeti at 1:51 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make sure warmup/cooldown walks and stretching before and after are always part of your run. If you're short on time, decrease the run but never the stretching! This will prevent all kinds of aches, pains and injuries.
posted by albertagirl at 6:06 PM on September 28, 2009

« Older To squat or not?   |   Silencing squeaky floorboards. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.