You don’t need a 26.2 bumper sticker to consider yourself a runner. Knowing how to start a new running routine is the first step.

By Southern Living Editors
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Runners often have a love-hate relationship with their running routine. The idea of lacing up and hitting the open road can feel daunting, especially when your alarm is blaring and the sun is barely up. But it’s not the groggy first foot on the ground that gets a runner out of bed; it’s the therapeutic rhythm that builds as strides sync with favorite tunes and thoughts drift away as quickly as the miles pass by; it’s the runner’s high that gets the endorphins flowing and sets the tone for the day, regardless of what your agenda has in store.

While the healing quality of running is something beneficial any time, it’s felt more essential lately than ever before. The rapid spread of novel coronavirus has shuttered everyday gym routines, and sheltering in place has stirred a sense of anxiety in homes across the nation. Running is a great way to keep healthy movement in our lives when we need it most, and starting a running routine doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think.

If you’ve been away from the road for a bit or have never considered yourself a runner, don’t let your nerves keep you from a new challenge. Here’s a few things for beginners to consider before hopping on the treadmill or hitting the streets (at a safe social distance, of course).

How to Get Started on a Running Plan

Before you tie up your shorts, look at your schedule. Carve out time in your routine for running, and plan to stick to it. All you need is about 30 minutes three to five times a week to reap the benefits.

Plan to work your way up instead of overexerting yourself. Going too far too fast is the easiest way to injure yourself. Start with small goals and consider a run-walk-run approach while you build up stamina and strength. For the first few weeks, focus more on how long you run than how far you run. Start with 20 minutes a day, and slowly increase your time each day as you can.

If you want to commit to a specific race distance or guided running plan, consider this Couch-to-5k Plan for Beginners for a calendar you can follow.

The Equipment You Need

While it’s true that all you really need is a pair of running shoes to get started, it’s important to keep in mind that your shoes are the only protection between you and the pavement. The quality and fit of your shoes are critical, so head to your local running store and invest in a shoe that works with your stride.

Quality sportswear, like a sports bra and seasonal running shorts or leggings, that will keep you dry and comfortable is essential as well. The last thing you want mid-run is an ill-fitting undergarment distracting you from your goal.

Tech-savvy accessories can keep things fresh and help you track your goals too. From Bluetooth headphones for your favorite playlist to running apps and pedometers, running tools can get you in the groove or help you gamify your stats.

Running Inside vs. Running Outside

When comparing sidewalks to treadmills it often comes down to personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to run, but there are pros and cons to both.

Since there’s no belt to bring your foot back underneath you, running outside requires a bit more of a workload on your glutes, Pamela Geisel, M.S., C.S.C.S., a certified strength and conditioning specialist told Shape. Outdoor running has also proven to provide a significantly greater energy boost than treadmill work.

Treadmill running is more forgiving on you joints since a cushioned belt is easier on impact than cement or pavement. Plus, setting the treadmill to a 1% incline is proven to offset any differences in difficulty between indoor and outdoor running.

Easy Training Tips for New Runners

  1. Find a running buddy. During coronavirus social distancing, this may look a little different than normal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a support system. Go for runs with a family member you’re sheltering in place with or text a friend running schedule reminders and chat about your accomplishments over the phone. After the coronavirus outbreak, consider starting a small running group to keep things going.
  2. Write down your goal. Jot your reason for running down on a sticky note or journal. Take a peek to remind yourself why you started on days that your motivation is running low.
  3. Don’t forget to stretch. Stretching before and after your running will not only help you avoid injury, but it will help lessen any soreness that could hold you back from running again tomorrow. Stretch and give you self a quick rubdown with a form roller for the best results.
  4. Your Body Needs Recovery Time Too. Don’t overexert yourself. As you put new demands on your body, be sure you stick to the rest days in your schedule to avoid overuse injuries or burnout.