Whether you love running or hate it, you have to admit that the idea of it is pretty cool. If this is the year you’d like to enjoy some of the cachet running brings – you have to get started first. Here’s how.

Make a right sized goal
Your goal should be unique to you. That means it should be developed with your fitness level, schedule and interests in mind. Running the Boston marathon is a great goal but it is not the only running goal to reach for. You can also decide this is the year you nail that 7 or 10 minute mile. Choose a goal that is challenging, but doable, all things considered.

Make a plan to make it happen
Using the example of the nailing the 10 minute mile, decide on a training plan that fits your schedule. How many days will you run each week? Will you include intervals and sprints? How close are you to the ten minute mile now? When would you like to achieve your new personal best? Use the information you have about your goal to make a week by week plan that helps you accomplish it. If you aren’t sure how to approach this consider an online training plan, or work with a running coach.

Get some support
Enlist a buddy or join a track club for support and accountability. Running in groups can up the safety factor, especially during the winter months, and make the hard days more fun.

Excited female breast cancer marathon runners cheering in parkMake a date
There’s nothing like a deadline to get you moving on your goal. Take a look at an annual race calendar. Choose a distance and date that fits with your goal. For example, newbies might sign up for a 5k. More seasoned runners might sign up for a 5k, but with a goal to beat their best time. Of course if you have a few races under your belt you may also choose a longer distance. Just be sure you allow yourself plenty of training time. Overly ambitious goals quickly lead to failure – not because we can’t do it but because we didn’t allow enough time, or have enough patience for the ups and downs of training for a long-distance race.

Schedule rest days
Injuries are a big reason people intending to go couch to 5k instead boomerang from 5k to couch. Be careful not to do too much, too soon. Build miles gradually. Ideally, you won’t add more than 10% more distance each week. Stretch only after you warm up. Stretching cold muscle can lead to injury. And take rest days. Overuse injuries can quickly sideline you no matter how motivated you are.