I am not a Magic 8 ball, but sometimes people ask me questions (though thankfully they don’t shake me afterwards). EVA asks, “i noticed you started out walking and are now running. how did you do it?” I’ve been asked this before and my advice is: Don’t do what I did! I did no research and I had no plan. I was just walking on the treadmill one day, all 200-something pounds of me, and I decided to kick it up to a run. I started out doing short distances and eventually got up to a mile. A mile! It was awesome. Then I injured myself. This was because I was not stretching properly and I did not have good running shoes and didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
So, avoid the idiot’s method of running and do some reading before pounding the pavement. Before I dispense any advice, I should remind you I am not a doctor and I don’t even play one on TV. It’s always best to consult a physician before embarking on any exercise program, yadda, yadda, yadda. I know I sound like one of those disclaimers at the beginning of an exercise tape, but seriously, it’s best to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk before starting any intense exercise program. Okay? Don’t sue me if you twist your ankle. You’ve been warned.
The act of running applies something like 3-4 times your body weight on your joints. (Someone who is better at Googling than me can find the exact statistic.) If you weigh 500 pounds, you should not be running. You’re going to break yourself. Find another lower-impact exercise until you are at a weight at which you can run. I don’t know what weight at which it is “safe” to start running. Listen to your body. If you start to feel pain above and beyond the “I’m running and it hurts” type of pain, you should probably stop.
Couch to 5K
Couch to 5K is a popular training program that gets you from your couch to a five kilometer run (3.1 miles) in two months. If you’re not a runner, but want to be, this is the best way to go. The program originated at the Cool Running web site. You start by alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of
running walking for a total of 20 minutes. Eventually the jogging intervals get longer and the total time increases, and whallah! You’re running! There’s a big list of Couch to 5k resources here. I didn’t do Couch to 5K, but I know a lot of people who have and they all speak highly of it. And despite the title, you don’t have to actually own a couch to succeed.
Hold back a little
Most people start out running too fast. They sprint for 30 seconds, upchuck their lung onto the sidewalk and go back home. Run only 70%-80% as fast as you think you can. You’ll last longer and go farther. After a couple runs you’ll be able to pace yourself and have a better sense of your limits.
Yeah, it’s boring. Do it anyway. It prevents injury. If you ignore me you’ll just get hurt and then your Couch to 5K program will be your Couch to 5K to Couch program.
Get good equipment
A good pair of running shoes also prevents injury. My local running store videotaped my feet as I ran on a treadmill to analyze my gait and recommend the best shoes for my running style. I’ve signed up to run a half-marathon in May, so I’m probably going to invest in some socks and clothes that wick sweat away from the skin. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need space-aged socks, but down the road you might consider it. Assuming you can run down the road.
Read expert advice
There are web sites that know a lot more about running than I do. Read sites like Runner’s World and Cool Running for more information on stretching, what to eat, etc. They can’t actually do the running for you, but they’ll get you off on the right foot, no matter what kind of shoes that foot is wearing. Jeff Galloway is a well-known runner who was overweight as a kid and has a blog for beginners as well as several training programs.
Accept that running is not for everyone
I love running. It’s my thing. But it’s not everyone’s thing. If you give it a good chance and decide you don’t love running, that’s okay. Find an activity you do love, or at least tolerate, and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.