Many people new to exercise often begin with walking, and why not? It is something you already know how to do, it does not require any special equipment and you can do it almost anywhere. Walking yields tremendous health benefits, too. Walkers tend to have better health outcomes, including lower cholesterol and blood pressure than their sedentary peers. No one can quarrel against the benefits of walking. Some, however, may be ready to kick their fitness plan up a notch with running. Why run? Because it is more strenuous, running burns more calories in less time than walking does. Running can also energize your routine as you work to set new PR (personal record) goals and maybe even enter some races. Wondering how to get started? Read on for advice that will have you running in no time at all.
Make a Training Schedule
Beginners should aim for three days each week. The goal here is to build stamina and avoid injury. You don’t want to go out too often because you will hurt yourself and probably not be able to go out at all. Three times a week allows for periods of rest and recovery, particularly important for beginners and older runners. Carve out 30 minutes for two weekday walk/run trainings. Plan your schedule to include progressively longer walk/run sessions on the weekend.
Choose a Local 5K
There is something about committing to a race that forces you to honor your training schedule. Choose a race that is 8-12 weeks away depending on your beginning fitness level. Generally, if you can comfortably walk for 30 minutes you can be ready to run a 5-k in 8 weeks.
Gather Your Gear
Make sure your shoes offer the level of support that is appropriate for your gait and arch. If you aren’t sure, visit your local running store for advice.
Running is largely a series of one foot hops, which for women means lots of bouncing. Choose a good fitting sports bra to minimize bounce and maximize comfort – get two so you have a spare.
Avoid cotton socks which can cause blisters and chafing. Also, consider some kind of sports lube to protect yourself from sores when clothes or body parts rub against your skin.
Hit the road.
Start with a 2-5 minute warm up walk, depending on your fitness level. Once you have warmed up, alternate periods of walking and running until you are comfortable running almost exclusively. For example, a very new beginner might alternate running for 10-30 seconds with walking for 1 or 2 minutes. If you are further along or as you build stamina you might run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute, or run for 5 minutes and walk for 1 minute. With time you will be able to run for 30 minutes.
There are countless walk/run training programs available. Don’t get discouraged if your progress does not match the weekly training plans. Remember that there is not a one size fits all program. Let your breath be your guide. If you can talk comfortably and your lungs don’t feel like they are on fire, you probably have the right balance of walking and running. If you can’t catch your breath, run less and walk more until you build more endurance. Remember, the key is to avoid injury. The most important thing is to go at your own pace, stick with it and keep moving. Good luck and have fun.