How to get started running for your health and fitness.

My legs are still hurting from the half-marathon that I ran two days ago, and it’s making it difficult for me to write this. For the most part of my life, I’ve been one of the least athletic persons on the planet, and I’ve never given much thought to jogging as a kind of exercise. On the other hand, here I am, a runner who has completed three half-marathons, a number of 5K races, and a 10K.

The appeal of running lies in the fact that it is one of the least expensive types of physical activity available, and it can be completed by virtually anyone so long as they have the motivation to do so. If you’re ready to make the transition from couch potato to runner, this comprehensive book will teach you all you need to know to get started jogging for exercise.

Runners on the right track

Consult with a medical professional.

Before beginning any type of fitness plan, you should always make an appointment with your primary care provider, even if you are in excellent health. If you have any health conditions, you should consult your physician for guidance on how to alter your workouts so that you can perform them in a manner that is less hazardous for you. After all, you don’t want to sustain an injury while you’re out there running, because it would be a guaranteed way to halt whatever progress you’ve made in terms of your fitness level. (You’ll have to take my word for this, but after competing in a 5K and striving to attain a good time, I ended up getting a stress fracture in my femur. I was given an award, but shortly afterward I had to take some time off work due to an injury.)

Obtain a pair of shoes.

You will need a pair of supportive athletic shoes unless you plan to try jogging barefoot, which is something I do not recommend for beginners. These shoes will assist cushion the hits that you will be giving to your feet, so it is important that you have them. Runners often prefer brands such as Asics and New Balance, but shoes purchased for less than twenty dollars at retailers such as Target and Walmart should suffice as well, particularly if you just intend to run for shorter distances (six miles or less at a time). Not the price tag, but how comfortable they are to wear should be your primary concern when purchasing new footwear.

However, avoid being too frugal that you end up purchasing a pair that isn’t supportive and leads to an injury. It is better to spend an extra twenty dollars on a pair of shoes rather than save yourself two or three hundred dollars in medical costs.

Make a plan for your workouts, but leave room for flexibility.

Knowing exactly how you want to arrive to your destination is the most effective strategy to reach the running goal you’ve set for yourself. Even if you have no intention of ever competing in a race, Runner’s World has a training program for complete novices that begins with a series of shorter runs interspersed with walking pauses. You may also simply print out the plan and use a watch to clock your walks and runs, or you can download and utilize one of the many free or inexpensive smartphone apps that are now available. Just keep in mind that these timetables are not cast in stone; if you think you might need to repeat a week, doing so is not a problem at all.

If you are so out of shape that you can’t even walk around the block without getting winded, you should put off running for a time and instead begin a walking program to build up your fitness level. If you are able to walk around the block without getting winded, then you are in good shape to run. Even if you do not have diabetes, the advice provided by the Mayo Clinic on how to improve your health by walking is still beneficial.

Prepare yourself for failures.

You’ll undoubtedly face setbacks as you get more miles under your belt. You could injure yourself, or you could find yourself so swamped at work that you don’t have time to go for a run for a complete week. These obstacles along the path are disheartening, but they are in no way a justification for giving up the fight. When they do occur, it’s best to just accept them and focus on finding ways to prevent them in the future. It’s possible that after your run, you’ll realize that you need to stretch more afterward. Alternatively, you might decide that you want to get up an hour earlier so that you can finish your run before going to work.

Ensure that your expectations are reasonable.

When I first started competing in races, I was in awe of the people at the front of the start line, who would finish a five-kilometer race in approximately fifteen minutes and run miles in under five minutes. In light of this, the completion of my race in 35 minutes seemed positively glacial. And I felt horrible. But it didn’t take me long to see that people like these speed demons are the exception rather than the rule. You may potentially become that quick with enough practice, but it’s quite unlikely that you ever will. And there’s absolutely no problem with that at all. After all, you first started jogging so that you could get in shape and enjoy yourself, not so that you could compete in the trials for the Olympics, right?

Instead of comparing yourself to other people, try setting expectations and goals that are more in line with what is actually possible for you. When you see that you are making progress toward your goals, you will have more motivation to keep running.

Force oneself to take on increasingly difficult tasks.

After you’ve run and finished your first 5K, you may take your running to the next level by preparing for longer races, such as a 10K, a half-marathon, or even a marathon. The experienced runner Hal Higdon has developed top-notch strategies for competitions spanning all distances. Because they all involve some form of cross-training as well as rest days, they are ideal for beginners.

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