One of the most pervasive pieces of advice often given to beginner runners is to run at a ‘talking pace.’ The idea behind this is that by running at a speed that is comfortable enough for you to hold a conversation, you’re ensuring that you don’t go too hard and end up injured or burnt out. While this advice sounds good on the surface, there’s just one problem: during those first few runs — sometimes even the first several — ‘talking pace’ may not really exist.
The ease of your transition into running is highly dependent on your activity level prior to starting a running routine. If you’re already active in other ways (maybe you go to the gym, play soccer, or go on big hikes) running at a talking pace makes sense. Why? Because you likely already have a fitness level that will allow you to find whatever that comfortable pace is.
If you’re coming from a fairly sedentary lifestyle, on the other hand, the idea of talking while running may sound outrageous to you, and you might be getting discouraged when, no matter how much you slow down, you’re still huffing and puffing. If this sounds like you, we’re here to tell you not to worry and certainly not to give up. The reality is, running is hard. When you first start, there may not be such a thing as a ‘comfortable pace,’ and that’s OK. Simply going for a run is pushing you out of your comfort zone, and that’s awesome!
So how can a runner in this situation avoid overdoing it if they can’t find an ‘easy’ pace? The answer is to control other variables. One of those is how frequently you run. As a beginner, you should avoid running every single day, and at least leave one day in between runs. Two or three days per week is a great place to start.
You can also control how far you run each time you head out the door. Your best bet is to start small, and as your fitness improves you can gradually make your runs longer. In the beginning, try going out for 20 to 30 minutes. That will help you build a good base and leave plenty of room for adding time when you’re ready.
Finally, remember there is nothing wrong with taking walk breaks when you need them. As your running improves, those breaks will get shorter and shorter until you don’t need them at all anymore. You may be able to get to that point in just a few weeks, or it may take you a few months. That length of time doesn’t matter, what’s important is that you keep pushing yourself out the door.