Start Running — One Step at a Time

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In Boston, Marathon Monday is arguably the largest event of the year — a statewide holiday centered on the 26.2-mile course snaking through eight towns before depositing runners in the heart of downtown Boston for a victory lap through Copley Square. When I moved to the city, I became fascinated with the 30,000 runners who challenged themselves on the course each year. Little did I know, as I read the Globe’s special marathon coverage cover to cover, that I’d be completing my own Marathon Monday march in a few short years.

I’d run track in high school, but by the time I was studying the marathon route in the newspaper, I thought my running days were long behind me. However, my rescued Labrador Retriever/Great Dane had other ideas, and it was his need for exercise that initially had me lacing up my sneakers and hitting the Charles River Trail. At first, we ran a couple of miles at a time, but before long, I signed up for a co-worker’s charity 5K, then a 10K, and soon enough, my first marathon.

This evolution didn't happen overnight, but little by little through a regimented, incremental training plan. Here are insights for cultivating a running practice of your own.

1Any Day Is a Good Day to Start

I recently spoke to a friend who just completed his twenty-third consecutive Boston Marathon. He swears that a summer training schedule is better than a winter one. Other runners prefer the briskness of winter training. My favorite running months are April and October, with 58-60-degree days, some sun, and a slight breeze. Moral of the story? Any day is a good day to begin running, and any day is a good day to keep running. Dress appropriately, and you’ll be good to go. Once you get into the habit, it’ll be easy to keep pushing yourself out the door.

2Buy the Appropriate Gear

Invest in a good pair of running sneakers. Any knowledgeable rep at a specialty running store can fit you for a pair of shoes that will support your foot and gait. Running shoes can be pricey, but they will help you avoid injury and pain. Don’t be surprised if you’re encouraged to buy a pair half a size up from your regular shoes since you’ll want enough room for your foot to move within the shoe without slamming up against the front of it. Running store sales associates can also refer you to other gear you’ll need. Depending on the season and your climate, this may include several layers, or you may live in a locale where you’ll only need warm-weather gear. If you are running during times of day with low visibility, you’ll want reflective gear and accessories like blinking sneaker lights, a headlamp, and a light-up vest. You may also want an armband or running belt for your cellphone, keys, and tissues. You’ll need to stay hydrated during your run and may require a travel water bottle. You’ll have several options of bottles that fit into belts or come with a hand-grip strap for easy access. While running gear can get pricey, particularly in a running-dedicated store, you can also find many of these items online through women’s athletic companies or in discount retailers like TJ Maxx. The important keys to remember are to dress in thin layers and to wear breathable, wicking material.

3Start Slowly

Marathon runners, and even 5K competitors, aren’t built in a day. Many beginning runners start out with a run-walk routine, which allows the muscles to become familiar with the stress of running without overtaxing them, leading to injuries. Set small, incremental goals to build up your muscle strength and stamina over time. If you live in a city, try running one block and walking one, or if you’re in a less urban area, running for two minutes and walking for one. Be patient with yourself and trust that even if that first mile feels impossible, it will get easier with time. Start slowly also refers to speed. At first, your muscles won’t have the conditioning needed for sprints or speed, so set a slow, comfortable pace. A good benchmark is that you should still be able to carry on a conversation when you run.

4Develop a Training Plan

The very first thing my Boston coaches did was hand us a training plan with a day-by-day, week-by-week training schedule that allowed for a combination of running days with incremental mileage, cross-training days, and rest days. (Yes, rest is important.) You can find a plethora of beginning running plans online from reputable sources, like this one from Runner’s World. Many runners enjoy the Couch to 5K app, which takes a runner from first run through completion of a 5K in six weeks. Whichever training plan you choose, make sure it includes a sensible increase in mileage, time for rest, and cross-training, and is well-reviewed.

5Find a Running Buddy

This step makes the experience more enjoyable, and it gives you accountability. My first training partner was my rescue dog, but once I found a running community, I was much more highly motivated to show up for group runs. Check out running groups online or at your local running store. Many have groups for women or for beginning runners. Maybe you have a roommate or friend who’d like to run with you. Either way, finding someone to share the miles with makes them pass more quickly.

6Find Your Motivation

There should be a reason you run, whether it’s developing a healthier habit, making new friends, or supporting a charity endeavor. Find the motivation that rings true for you and let it help you get out the door until the pull of the run is motivation in and of itself.

7Be Smart About Your Environment

Know your running route before you set out and what the neighborhood is like, particularly in the early morning or evening hours (if you’re trying to squeeze in your run around a 9-5) when visibility might be poor. Try to plan your run for areas where there might be other runners or walkers and where you feel comfortable traveling on your own. Carry your cellphone in an easily accessible pouch or armband, track your route with a running app, and even if you like to listen to your favorite playlist or podcast, keep one ear open to traffic, pedestrians, or other potential risks.

8Trust Your Rest Days

It may seem counterintuitive that one crucial component of running is resting, but your muscles need time to recover. Sometimes, you need a complete day off, an Epsom salt and baking soda bath (a doctor-recommended alternative to the dreaded ice bath), or a good session with your foam roller. However, rest days can also include a walk or a light yoga or stretching session. One of my favorite post-long run activities was a yoga class for runners. Whatever your chosen rest activities, take that rest time seriously. You’ve earned it.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to running, but the tips above can help you get started and find your rhythm. Enjoy the journey.

Tags: Friends, healthy, Self Care, exercise, workout plan

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Written By

Samantha Facciolo

Samantha Facciolo is a freelance journalist who writes about education, immigration, social justice, travel, and the intersections of culture and cuisine. See Full Bio

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