I dislike running, yet I want to begin. How should I start?
July 25, 2004 9:07 PM   Subscribe

I dislike running. Yet I want to begin running. How should I start?
posted by trharlan to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Start by walking. Set a time: 15 minutes of walking, for instance. Do it for a week. The following week, walk for five minutes, run for two minutes, walk for five minutes, run for two minutes, etc. Each week, increase the amount of running at the expense of walking -- but do it in very small and very precise amounts. Commit to *running* two minutes non-stop during the 2nd week, for instance -- not 2 minutes and 20 seconds, and not 1 minutes & 49 seconds.

Slow, gradual buildup. And don't overdo it - don't "aim high" and hurt yourself, discourage yourself, or screw yourself over. Set modest goals and timetables.

Good luck.
posted by davidmsc at 9:20 PM on July 25, 2004

Start by thinking again. Running can be hard on the body. Back when I was running regularly, I slowly but certainly developed plantar fasciitis, which made even ordinary walking painful.

That said, I find running a difficult habit to break. So, if you must run:

1. Get decent running shoes with good support.

2. Set and maintain a reasonable pace for your age and condition. (My tendency is to always try to "run a little faster," which I've learned is a route to trouble.) A good way to start is a combined walk-run: walk for 5 minutes, run for 5 minutes, alternating. It helps you build endurance and learn what your limits are.

If you have a gym membership, consider running on a treadmill or an ellipitical trainer. You always have the option of stopping if you need to.

3. For goodness sake, if you develop chronic pain, stop! Foot and joint problems are slow to heal. If you space out your running, you can always run more next time. If you let yourself develop chronic pain, you won't be able to run at all!
posted by SPrintF at 9:26 PM on July 25, 2004

Related question, while we're at it – I've been wondering what the benefits of running are, other than a general cardiovascular workout and a way to burn calories. Are there any specific muscle groups that benefit, anything not completely obvious to somebody who hasn't been exercising as much as s/he should?
posted by truex at 9:44 PM on July 25, 2004

also keep to the schedule. it is nearly as hard to get started again as it is to start in the first place. I second the good shoes bit - go somewhere staffed by runners who are selling shoes as a carreer choice.
posted by jmgorman at 9:45 PM on July 25, 2004

I'm sure I'll get flack for this. Since it's aerobic exercise it does little to benefit your muscles.

You'll see some muscular change over three months; but after that, your body adapts. It takes overload (and rest) to create muscular benefits. In fact, the longer you keep the same pace, the more efficient your body becomes at any given exercise.
posted by filmgeek at 9:50 PM on July 25, 2004

If you're in a neighbourhood where you feel safe doing this, try running after the sun sets (early in the morning also works, if you're willing to wake early enough). I find that the cooler temperatures and darkness make running easier and more refreshing. Just watch out for cars.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:52 PM on July 25, 2004

Do elipticals on a machine. Your joints will thank you.
posted by gramcracker at 9:53 PM on July 25, 2004

use an epiltical if you can. or just jog at night, like I do. Also, some people think you have to run fast to lose weight and get anywhere, which is incorrect. You should actually run slowly, much more like a slow paced jog, for an extended period.
posted by bob sarabia at 10:07 PM on July 25, 2004

While we are at it, here's a stupid question - is running the optimal cardio workout, or is there something better?
posted by Krrrlson at 10:22 PM on July 25, 2004

i would say taking cardio class over just running. they're usually pretty intense
posted by bob sarabia at 11:10 PM on July 25, 2004

Krrrlson: I think it's (more or less) agreed upon that any cardio-type exercise done with an HIIT flavor is optimal.

truex: filmgeek is right, but he doesn't mention that cardiovascular exercise can help a weight trainer by strengthening the heart, which is important even in anaerobic exercise like most bodybuilding.

But what I really wanted to say to the two of you is: GYOTFWs!
posted by trharlan at 11:54 PM on July 25, 2004

Investigate High intensity Interval training. See, it may be true that your body proportionately burns more fat if you are exercising moderately - the so-called fat burning zone. However, over any given time, it burns more fat in total in high intensity work, and more importantly, your metabolic rate is higher after your workout. The exercise is not just to burn energy in itself; the point is to raise your metabolic rate so you consume more energy when you are not actively exercising.

Running is cool if you like it, but there are other activities that are similar in energy output that may appeal: skating, martial arts drilling or sparring, the more energetic forms of dancing (ever see any fat sambistas?), rowing, ... personally, unless I can run on turf I find running joltingly unpleasant. I would suggest finding a park where you can run on grass or earth is even more important than good shoes. Nobody's body is built to run on concrete or asphalt.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:56 PM on July 25, 2004

running takes about 4 weeks to really grow on you after which you may be hooked for life - i'd say try to run 3 times week in the morning or evening nice slow pace, about 35 minutes or so for starters walk a little if things start to feel strained ... by fall when running in minneapolis is really sweet, you'll be loving it - a small radio, headphones and mpr are nice way to make a run pass faster - one of my best friends is in the best shape of his life simply doing one lap around lake harriet 3-4 times a week. i'd say try it - you'll learn to love it - plus its a great way to see this or any other city you might be visiting.
posted by specialk420 at 11:56 PM on July 25, 2004

I dislike running. Yet I want to begin running. How should I start?

Sleep with somebody's wife? Rob a liquor store?

Seriously, why would you consider an exercise program that is founded on something you dislike? My experience, and reams of advice I've read on the way to developing planning contemplating my own exercise program, says that if you don't like to do it, you're more likely to fail.

Again, more from research than personal experience, but my understanding is that swimming is much more of an "optimal cardio workout", because it uses far more muscles than almost anything else you can do. The thing that makes running so popular widely tolerated is that it's easy to do anywhere and equipment costs are minimal. You can fetishize the shoes, and the pants, and the gadgets, all you want, but it's just as easy to bop out the front door and "just do it".

Now, if you're saying that it's not running per se that you dislike, but the concept of running or the boredom of following any routine program week after week after week, you're in trouble regardless. Maybe it is the drawbacks of running, like having to run back from wherever you end up, or the sameness of the particular neighborhood you're in, or that sort of thing, but then you should really consider something else as the centerpiece of your routine, instead of running. Or at least look at mitigating them, by running in different places (from work, or driving to a lakeshore), or running with a partner.
posted by dhartung at 11:57 PM on July 25, 2004

Hah! If two of us recommend it without collusion, it must be good! (And it is).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:57 PM on July 25, 2004

I have flat feet. My arch hurts like hell when I try to run. Plus I'm overweight. Should I even bother? Or stick to the exercise bike?
posted by madman at 12:02 AM on July 26, 2004

If you're really that overweight, it may not be that smart. And we don't know how fit you are either.

Having said that: I have noted through various martial arts classes that flat feet = superior groundedness and stability. And being a fat bastard, pardon me, is advantageous in many kinds of sparring. I would suggest one of the grappling-style martial arts.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:47 AM on July 26, 2004

Hey, i'm overweight and I excersize! Jerks.

I jog instead of run. I do it late at night before I go to bed, a mile every other night (although sometimes every night but I tend to stop doing it altogether if I jog every night).

It is much easier than you think. I kept telling myself that a mile is way too much, that I am fat and will be a pudgy loser forever.... until I bought some shoes and sweatpants. Fuck what anybody tells you, and especially what you tell yourself. Standing up and doing it is refreshing and makes you exude self confidence. Take it from a 6 foot 283 pounder: Jog and you will feel fucking great.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:23 AM on July 26, 2004

start slow, I could hardly go 1/4 mile when I started.
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:32 AM on July 26, 2004

Play ultimate. I hate running, but when playing ultimate I can run around for ages because it's so much fun and I don't notice. Also, you're running on grass which is much better for your body than hard ground or road.
posted by quiet at 1:56 AM on July 26, 2004

Exercise sucks. I've been running three times a week now for two years and i still hate it. I've just accepted the fact that i spend three hours a week doing what i hate and i love myself for it.

A lot of people will tell you that its just a matter of time before you are addicted to running - that has not happened to me yet and its not going to happen. It just sucks, but you feel good afterwards - like doing the dishes or hoovering.
posted by FidelDonson at 2:23 AM on July 26, 2004

One alternative to running is find a spinning class. Much better on the joints, and you control the intensity of the workout.

Another recommendation I would have, whether you run or do something else-get a heart rate monitor. It is much easier to work at the proper intensity if you use one-and it also is cool because you can really see progress with it.
posted by konolia at 3:36 AM on July 26, 2004

Count me as thankful that I'm not running any more. I did track in high school just because it was an extracurricular I could slap on my college applications. While it was the best shape I ever got in and I loved those endorphin highs after a good 6 miles in below freezing weather, I never really loved it. And once I got into ultimate frisbee in college, running for its own sake seemed so pointless. Gee whiz, there's a reason why in every other sport, punishment from the coach involves running laps.

Yeah, I say either combine running with something else fun (ultimate, soccer, whatever) or get into bicycling. At least with cycling, you'll cover more distance and see more scenery.
posted by alidarbac at 3:41 AM on July 26, 2004

Don't listen to the naysayers. Running is the path to enlightenment. Or at least the path to acceptable pants sizes.

My attitude towards running could be summarized as "subdued loathing." But then I think about how big my pants were before I started and how my waist is always trying to creep back to that size, and running seems like a decent idea.

The starting is rough. It takes sheer will for a couple weeks until you notice that you're thinner and the stairs don't present as much of an obstacle. Then it's generally pretty easy to put your sneakers on and get busy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:07 AM on July 26, 2004

i run, and have done for years, but i don't see the point of doing it if you don't enjoy it - there are plenty of other exercises.

anyway, in my experience, there's no one way to make it enjoyable. you have to change things depending on how you feel. sometimes running the same route over and over again, watching your times drop, is fun. othertimes it is more interesting to run at random, wherever traffic lights dictate (i try to keep moving, so if the lights are letting traffic flow across my path at a junction, i turn). and yet other times it's interesting to try increasing distance.

as for how much to do - it depends on how fit you are. i've heard of people starting by walking, although frankly it seems amazing that someone can be so unfit they cannot run at all. i started by running for just 10 mins or so (my diary from starting is here).

most importantly, in my experience - don't push too hard. be patient, get better slowly, and avoid injuries.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:25 AM on July 26, 2004

Keyser Soze, how did you go about increasing your distance? You say you could barely do a lap when you started - did you just jog as far as you could each time, or did you have specific goals?
posted by iconomy at 5:46 AM on July 26, 2004

If you really hate running, you might try walking as an alternative. Walking or running a mile or kilometre have exactly the same benefits for your body. The difference lies in the time it takes, and the amount of stress on your joints. I've found I hate running too much to keep at it, but walking I genuinely enjoy and do quite faithfully. Plus I can combine errands with walking - the library and Home Depot are a half hour's brisk walk from my home.

I've read that the runners who run for the sake of exercise (as opposed to for the love of it) are the ones who quit.
posted by orange swan at 5:54 AM on July 26, 2004

Running and. walking have the same benefits for your body? That seems doubtful. My heart rate while walking is barely above my rest rate.
posted by smackfu at 6:56 AM on July 26, 2004

Coming back from a knee injury I've taken to the elliptical trainer over running. Plus, it's air conditioned. I personally only like running outdoors if it's below 40F.

Another alternative to timed runs is to, say, run the distance between two streetlights, then walk for the next two ... if you're on a regularly spaced lighted street.
posted by sohcahtoa at 7:23 AM on July 26, 2004

I had goals for the night: 1/4 mile here, do it again the next night, if I could go farther I would.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:50 AM on July 26, 2004

Isn't swimming better for you overall and easier on the joints than running?

if i was going to start an exercise like running, i'd start on a treadmill in front of a tv.
posted by amberglow at 8:06 AM on July 26, 2004

I'll echo the "start slow and short and build it up" sentiment (I've been running for a long time, and am currently easing my wife onto a distance-running program, and that's been working pretty well for her). Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun are both fantastic places to start out because A) you have something to look at while you run, B) you can easily look across the lake to pick some landmark as your next goal ("ok, I'll run until I get to the bandshell, then I get to walk," etc), and C) they both make good distance references.

When you're just starting out, the trick is to dissociate your mind from what you're doing; like, if you're running a constant mental loop of man-this-sucks-this'll-never-end-dammit-I-need-to-breathe, you're screwed. That's where picking the landmark to run to comes in handy; another trick is to count with your breath, going up to 100 and back down.

After a few weeks, running'll feel natural. You just have to get over the hump until that point. Until then, use any motivation that works for you- competition with other runners, desire to burn enough calories that you can drink as much beer as you feel like without waistline concern, whatever.
posted by COBRA! at 8:11 AM on July 26, 2004

I always enjoyed running, but injuries (unrelated to running) have forced me to quit.

Running is not the be-all, end-all aerobic workout, but it's not a bad one. I've found that, for whatever reason, I've tended to lose a little more weight when running than when just cycling, which has always been my primary form of excercise. Swimming may be the ideal workout, since it uses more of your body and generally doesn't screw up your joints, but it's very equipment-intensive (you need a pool). Too bad for me, I don't enjoy swimming. Cross-country skiing is also an incredible workout, but has very specific requirements.

I miss running because it's easy: just pull on my tights and shoes and go for half an hour around the neighborhood. Cycling involves at least 10 minutes of prep time and at least 60 minutes road time to get in a respectable workout.

Speaking as someone who has logged a lot of hours on a stationary bike, I don't recommend it as a primary form of excercise--if that's how I were getting started, I'd probably quit quickly. It's incredibly boring, even in front of the tube. It's hot. It's less comfortable than being on the road--there's something about being able to rock the bike underneath you. Maybe that's just me, though. If you've got the excercise jones and it's the best option available, it's nice to have around though.
posted by adamrice at 8:12 AM on July 26, 2004

Run barefoot. No, really. You're less likely to hurt yourself.
posted by aramaic at 8:15 AM on July 26, 2004

Running is bad ass, but it requires a ton of patience to get started. (I just started about 6 months ago and am now hooked.) Start slow... don't kill yourself out there and in a matter of weeks, you'll start to see that things get easier. Lately, I've found that my biggest challenge hasn't been running faster, but learning to control how I burn energy so I can run longer and longer distances.

'Course, I'd be remiss in my duties if I failed to remind you that it can get pretty hot out there... and you don't want to underestimate the destructive power of summer heat. Drink lots of fluids and, if possible, try and find a route that takes you past water fountains.
posted by ph00dz at 8:23 AM on July 26, 2004

I wouldn't start anything I hate, but don't listen to the naysayers. Plenty of people run their entire lifetimes with minor problems and major benefits.

Having the right shoes, not doing to much, starting off slowly, running on soft ground, and cross training all help.

Swimming, joining a martial arts class, sure, they're all great, and can be used to give you a break from running. But none of them are as easy or as convenient to everywhere as running (for most people).

It's not for everyone, but nothing is. You'll have to judge for yourself.

Running and. walking have the same benefits for your body? That seems doubtful. My heart rate while walking is barely above my rest rate.

It's not doubtful, it's fact. Just as there is a difference between a slow jog and a fast run, there is a difference in walking. When people say walking can be a substitute for running they are not referring to a leisurely stroll where your heartrate is "barely above my rest rate".

Try to walk a 12 minute mile, and then job a 12 minute mile. The walk will be much more difficult. For the same reasons when you're walking fast to catch a plane you end up in a slow jog. You could actually walk just as fast, but much easier not to.

It is true that walking a mile will burn
more calories than running a mile -- although it takes longer to do
so. When you run a mile, you're burning mostly sugar, or
carbohydrates, which is how your body gives you fast energy in bursts.
When you walk a mile, it gives your metabolism time to switch from
burning carbohydrates to burning fat."

WebMD - Dean Ornish

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports - "Walking for
Exercise and Pleasure":

As far as a being better on the joints, walking is, without a doubt,
the better exercise. It's one of the safest exercises you can do and
it provides great cardiovascular benefits without all of the stress
that running puts on the body.

According to Dr. Ann Gerhardt, a Sacramento, CA doctor who was forced
to walk for exercise after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament
while skiing:

"The other plus about walking is that if you do the technique
correctly and put as much effort into walking as you would running,
you can get the same aerobic benefit. You are moving almost every part
of your body."

posted by justgary at 8:36 AM on July 26, 2004

I didn't see anyone else mention this: get an excercise partner. Whether you run, walk, or lift weights at the gym, I've found I enjoy it much more if I have someone to do it with. Even if it's just taking the dog on her evening walk.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:50 AM on July 26, 2004

It took me about ten years of starting and stopping to finally start to learn to love running. However, just as I've finally started to learn to enjoy this activity, my body apparently can't take it: a stress fracture last year, and severe tendonitis in my right Achilles this year. I definitely concur with the advice to get good shoes and take it slow at first. Don't let your enthusiasm overtake your body's limits, as that's what has happened to me.
posted by greasepig at 11:30 AM on July 26, 2004

Nordic skiing is one of the best exercises you can do. Cardiovascularly, I mean. I personally find it terrifically boring, but it's way good for you. Depending on how far north you live, it may or may not be very doable, but it's good for you. Come to think of it, a lot of nordic skiers in the alpine community where I grew up train in the offseason with rollerblades (or these weird, 3-foot-long skis with wheels on them) and ski-poles; you can do that in any weather. The poles keep your upper body involved in the exercise, and they're helpful for getting up after you fall.
I always kinda figured that biathlon would be a good thing to get into, because if you get bored with the skiing, you always have the shooting to look forward to. And shooting is fun. Just be careful not to hit any bunnies or other biathletes.
posted by willpie at 11:33 AM on July 26, 2004

. . .which isn't an answer to the question at all. Sorry.
posted by willpie at 11:36 AM on July 26, 2004

Running Room has an online Learn to Run program which is quite conservative in the rate at which it ups its intensity (to keep it applicable to the general population -- a personal trainer would be able to develop a regime that best fits you, but that would cost more).
Getting the right shoes for your foot type may be of paramount importance (depending on your foot type) to avoid shin splints and other impact-related problems.
posted by cardboard at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2004

trharlan, when I first started running, I did it by setting (and meeting) goals. First, I wanted to be able to run a mile. Then I wanted to be able to run a particular route around town. I would gradually increase the distance and push myself to run faster. Finally, I decided to start running. After about two months, I ran a 5k. A few months later, I ran a half-marathon.

If you aren't a competitive person, or if you get bored running by yourself, consider running with a group or with a like-minded friend. When I was in law school, I'd organize running groups or go on running dates (which seems astounding, in retrospect).

And since you're in Minneapolis, consider exploring The Best Running Routes in the Twin Cities. There are great trails on the west side of the Mississippi, around the lakes, and heading toward Saint Louis Park on the Cedar Trail. It's also fun just to run through the various college campuses (I was a big fan of the U of M and the stretch of Summit between Saint Thomas and William Mitchell).

Good luck!
posted by subgenius at 1:56 PM on July 26, 2004

Despite my initial hatred of it, I have been running pretty consistently for the last couple years.

What I ended up doing is buying a heart rate monitor (you can pick one up fairly cheaply) and just try to keep your heart rate in the "aerobic" zone. It was fairly suprising to me that I could do this just by walking briskly and then later by running at a comfortable pace. As my heart improved, so did my comfort level and I was able to move to a respectable pace after a pretty short period of time.

The nice thing about the heart rate monitor is that you know if you are doing yourself any good and to reassure yourself when you are just starting out. I ended up ditching mine now that I've been running long enough and know how my body is faring.

Also, you should start running today because you will be amazed at how good it feels. You burn so much fat and get so much fitter at the beginning that it becomes self sustaining. Later on, getting through a plateau is much harder than the iniitial effort of starting to run.

Good luck!
posted by rks404 at 3:33 PM on July 26, 2004

I have been running for about 7 years now (and that's 1/3 of my lifetime) and I wish I had started earlier. I'm not very competitive, but I don't think my mile has ever been above 6 minutes for the past 6 years.

Advice, in no particular order, for both beginners and intermediate runners:
  • Get good shoes and synthetic apparel. This is extremely important. jmgorman is right, go to a place staffed by runners. Bad running shoes or shoes not made for running may give you blisters, insufficient cushion, and lasting joint damage. Don't be afraid to pay $100 for good shoes - they are likely to last long.
  • Find a partner. I would not have managed to start running and improve without my high school cross-country team and my excellent coach. A good partner is either just a bit faster than you overall or way faster but willing to coach you.
  • Run interesting places. I usually alternate between 3 to 5 distinct loop courses around my house, trying to maximize the scenic value. You may want to drive to a trailhead at a highly scenic park nearby instead of just running around your house. The beauty of the places I run (mostly cross-country trails) is probably the top contributing factor to my enjoyment.
  • If your weather is outside the comfortable envelope (15-25 degrees C), take special measures: if it's cold, don't overdress, but try to warm up quickly and protect your head and hands since they are the only parts of your body that will be insufficiently warmed up by circulation; if it's hot, wear sunscreen, drink fluids, and don't push yourself to the point where you overheat.
  • Persevere. You will feel pains/cramps in many places as you start running. If your body is reasonably healthy, these pains will go away after several weeks of active training, and will indicate that your body has structurally strengthened up enough to withstand the stresses of running. A possible exception is shin splints, which may bother you for several years before your shins strengthen sufficiently to handle the shocks. Unfortunately, if you have chronic knee or ankle problems, you may not be able to run at all.
  • Warm up and stretch. After several hundred meters of warming up, stretch all the critical muscles of your legs, feet, and lower abdomen. Look the stretches up in a book.
  • Don't confine yourself to overly rigid schedules, and you don't have to run every day, but try to run at least 3 times a week. You may need to force yourself out the door and for the first ten or twenty minutes, after that it becomes pleasant as endorphins kick in.
In terms of pacing and distances, I can't really recommend a single approach since there are so many factors and patterns to choose from. You should choose whatever pattern you feel is a hard workout for you - it may be 1.5 miles 3 times a week barely above jogging speed, or 5 miles 6 times a week cross-country timed, but it should not be too easy.
posted by azazello at 7:09 PM on July 26, 2004

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