How to start running and NOT quit!

Running can make you fit, it is a nice hobby, an emotional breakout and a way to meet new people. You don’t need much to start – only a pair of running shoes and some motivation. Still there are a lot of people who find it hard to start or decide to quit after only a few attempts.

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These are the reasons that make newbie runners decide that running is not their thing AND why none of them should discourage you to start (and not quit!):

“I can’t breathe and my lungs don’t feel right”

In the beginning it’s hard to correctly figure out the right speed. When you watch runners on TV or sometimes even in the park, they run rather fast. It looks very easy and light as if the athletes are merely feeling any tension. Subconsciously you connect running with this form. BUT you are just beginning. Can you beat nuclear scientists in a math contests if you’ve just started learning the multiplication table? No? Same here. You should try to start slow and by slow I mean the tempo that you find comfortable enough to last at least a few minutes. Running is not much different from walking especially when speed is not your major current aim. You CAN run for at least 20 minutes even if you’ve never ran before. It’s just not going to be very fast. Sometimes it will be as slow as a fast walk. You might need to take little breaks and really walk for a while. That’s not such a big deal as long as you try to resume running after you catch your breath. I’ve noticed that walking is very important for runners. You need to learn to cover up a previously defined distance. At first, you’ll run for quarter of it and walk the rest, but soon (sooner than you’d imagine) the running part will grow and you’ll be able to run it all!

Example: A friend from University decided to start running. Near our Faculty there’s a nice park. I decided that we start by doing a 5k in the park everyday before lectures. She had never ran before so it was really a challenge for her. The first day we did our 5 km for more than 45 minutes – she had to stop several times to walk and during running parts she was as slow as 8 km/h. Only after two weeks she felt comfortable enough to run for at least 4 km in a slow pace without stopping. Only one month since we started she signed up for a local 5k race, which was held in the same park. She covered the entire distance running for the astonishing 33 minutes! Yes, this is far from race fast, but for someone who has just started a month ago, it’s amazing!

No joke – walking is very essential for a runner. Being a mountain runner myself, there’s a lot of up hills that I need to climb by walking fast, because sometimes this can save energy when the hill is long and steep.

“I have a weird sharp pain at the right side of my abdomen”

This pain usually occurs right under the ribs and it feels rather unbearable. It is called a side stitch and it can happen to both total newbies and experienced runners. The reasons behind it are quite unclear, but it is not a dangerous condition by any means. One theory regarding this pain is spasm in the diaphragm due to decreases oxygen; it may also be due to irritation of the ligaments supporting the liver. Another theory is based on what you’ve ate before your run. You should always leave at least 1.5 -2 hours after eating before a run. Dehydration might be another reason. For me, the cause is unregular breathing. Sometimes especially when running on an uneven terrain you hold your breath while crossing some obstacle. Exhaling is just as important as inhaling. If you feel a side stitch, slow down and try to exhale and normalize the rhythm of your breathing. The pain will disappear soon.

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“My legs hurt and I’m afraid I might get injured if I continue”

Every new exercise puts pressure on muscles you haven’t been using too much. Running consists of repeating the same few movements over and over again and thus it can make your legs feel sore for a while. Running is one of the sports with a lot of possible injuries considering joints, muscles and tendons, but if you’re just a little bit careful, none of this will happen to you.

  • Make your progress slow – increase the distance slow, don’t jump into speed training before you’ve had at least an year of comfortable running. Your legs will slowly slowly adapt to running and they’ll carry you with less and less effort.
  • Make sure that your running form is right. Film yourself while running. Make two movies – one when you’re energetic and one after a long run – this is how you’ll know if your form is getting worse when you’re tired. Most people put too much pressure on their knees, running right can lower the risk.
  • Always warm up well before a run.
  • Don’t forget to stretch after your run. A nice massage under the shower with warm water can do miracles for your muscles.
  • Do some leg strengthening exercises – they will both give you toned legs and will prevent injuries.
  • Change the running ground often. Some pavings are too hard on your joints such as cement and asphalt. You can still run on them, but it’s better if you can sometimes switch to softer terrains such as mountain paths or grass. Your speed will decrease a bit, due to the uneven terrain, but your legs will sing happy songs of harmony.

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“I’m not very fit and I’m afraid other people will look at me if I run out in the park”

Most runners (well, all runners) are very friendly people and in difference to other people, they know that it’s hard to begin and that it takes balls. They value your enthusiasm way more than they care if you look like a running model or if you run slow. A very nice motivation is joining a group of runners. People who don’t always run alone are more likely to not quit.

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There is nothing to be afraid of and if you push trough the minor inconvenients in the beginning you’ll be very glad that you didn’t quit and you can call yourself a runner!

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If you’d like to read more on this topic, if you’re just beginning to run and you have questions or you’d simply like to share experience and talk about running, you can join the discussion in the forum of Cake in the Six Pack.

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