You’ve taken up running, and you love the idea of being a runner. You really enjoy it (most of the time), but somehow, you just can’t seem to make it out the door more than every couple of weeks. What to do?

First, this issue is very common among new runners, and it usually means they’re trying to go either too far, or too fast (or both). Here are some tips for getting yourself to a happier running place.

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Run outside

Treadmills can be very useful during bad weather, but most people prefer to run outside. You’re more likely to fall in love with running a safe outdoor route than on the treadmill in your basement.

Get a decent pair of shoes

What are you wearing on your feet? We love Converse All-Stars, but we don’t recommend them for running (not enough support). You don’t have to break the bank to become a runner, but you’ll definitely enjoy the experience more (and avoid injuring yourself) with a decent pair of professionally fitted shoes from your local run shop. (You shouldn’t have to pay more than $150 for an entry-level shoe. Trust us, it’s a good investment.)

Don’t worry about the gear

You need decent shoes, but you really don’t need much else, at this point. (Ladies, you may want to get a good sports bra.) A T-shirt and a pair of shorts or tights are fine. A digital watch can be helpful, but you really don’t need a fancy GPS, the latest sweat-wicking technical gear, compression socks, or any of that stuff. As you become experienced, you’ll learn about products that might enhance your running experience, but for now, just focus on getting out the door on a regular basis.

Set small running frequency goals

If you want to be a regular runner, and you’re currently running a few kilometres now and then, make a commitment to go for a run twice a week, and make it the same two days every week (say, Tuesday and Saturday). Put it in your daytimer. If you find you’re too tired to go out after work, try setting your alarm 20 minutes earlier and get it done first thing in the morning.

Set small pace goals

If you’re winded after 20 minutes of running, you may be trying to run faster than appropriate for your fitness level. If you’re a fit athlete who just hasn’t done much running, you may be able to handle a faster pace than someone who has never been particularly active. All runners at any level should start by warming up with 10 to 15 minutes of walking or slow jogging, and if you occasionally have days where that’s about all you can manage, that’s perfectly OK.

 

Photo: Meagan Hayashi

It’s OK to run/walk

There’s also nothing wrong with alternating running and walking on a schedule (like 10-and-ones or five-and-ones, where you run for five or 10 minutes and walk for one minute–here’s where the digital watch comes in handy), or with taking occasional short walk breaks in the middle of your 20-minute run. Every now and then, challenge yourself to run continuously for a longer period. Don’t feel bad about how long it’s taking you to build up to what you consider a respectable distance. Training your body takes time. The main thing is to stick with it, and pretty soon you’ll find you miss it if you don’t do it, and so that you can hardly wait for your next run.

Once you get comfortable in your running routine, you can adjust your goals upward. Try adding an extra run each week. (Better to increase frequency than duration, at this point.) If you’re feeling great, try increasing the length of one of your weekly runs, say from 20 minutes to 25 minutes. It’s important to increase your weekly mileage gradually so you don’t risk getting injured when you’re just getting started.

Join a clinic

Lots of running shops offer learn-to-run clinics, and these can be a great way to learn safe techniques for increasing your distance, as well as a great way to connect with other new runners. If you feel nervous about joining a group, be assured that everyone else has the same doubts, and the point of the group is to make people feel comfortable.

Celebrate small wins

Did you just run continuously for 30 minutes without stopping, for the first time? Or make it out to run twice a week for a whole month? Fantastic! Enjoy every little accomplishment, even if it seems tiny. Most important of all, avoid comparing yourself to anyone else. No matter how good a runner you become, there will always be people who are faster. Strive to improve your own performance with incremental goals, but most of all, make it your goal to enjoy the sense of physical and mental wellbeing that being a runner brings.

And remember–if you run, you are a runner.

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