Running can be intimidating AF. These insider tips will help ease you into your sneaks with confidence.
Starting a new type of workout can be scary. If you’ve never done something before, it’s tough to confidently jump right in without second-guessing yourself and your fitness level. But every workout has its own quirks (and perks), which is what makes mixing it up so good for your body—and, obviously, fun.
Running is one of the most intimidating workouts of all. If you don’t run, chances are you look at people who actually like to do it with total awe (and secretly wonder if they’re crazy). But anyone can be a runner. You just have to have the confidence to start.
Here are some of the most important basics to know if you want to add “runner” to your list of bad-ass self-descriptors. It’s time to stop wading in self-doubt and start jogging toward your first 5K.
1. Investing in a good running shoe is a non-negotiable.
Everyone’s foot is different, Andrew Kalley, founder of Kalley Fitness and NYC-based triathlon coach and personal trainer, tells SELF. So the sneaks that are best for you may be different from what your BFF likes. “Some runners pronate, like I do, where your foot rolls in. Some supinate, where you foot rolls out,” Kalley says. Most shoes are either neutral, stability, or minimalist. Kalley recommends heading to a running store for a gait analysis to find out what your feet need. Here are five things you should know before you buy sneakers.
2. Don’t lace up your sneakers like a corset.
You want to tie your shoes firmly so nothing’s slipping and sliding, but feet tend to swell during running, Kalley says. “Always leave a little room for swelling, especially if you are planning longer runs.” That’s also why it’s also recommended to try running shoes a half to full size bigger. Try this simple shoe-lacing trick that’ll help keep your heels in place.
3. Skipping a warm-up is a bad idea.
“A proper warm-up is critical for all exercise, including running,” Kalley says. Depending on the workout, the best warm-up will vary. But if you’re a beginner just going out for a couple miles, spend just five minutes doing some dynamic stretches “to active your muscles to prepare them for a higher intensity.”
4. Run for time, not for mileage.
If you’re new to running, forget about how many miles you’re going. Start by setting time goals. Kalley suggests starting with 15-minute runs three times per week. “Don’t focus on pace for the first three months.” Once you’ve got a good foundation, then you can start thinking speed.
5. Work your way up to longer runs to avoid burnout.
Start with no more than two or three days a week, and only build up duration by 5 to 10 percent each week. “This will help prevent injury and overtraining,” Kalley says. A good way to not stick with running longterm is by burning yourself out or getting hurt right off the bat.
6. Hold off on the fancy running watches at first.
Fitness trackers and apps are very helpful if used properly, Kalley says. They can help track mileage, pace, and progress over time. But they can be overwhelming for newbies—it’s best to just run and build a base, first. “Eventually, using a device will help keep you on point.”
7. Proper posture will save you from back pain.
Poor posture is one of the biggest causes of back pain in runners. “Your running posture should be tall and straight with a slight forward lean. Shoulders should be back and elbows should be bent at 90 degrees,” Kalley says. Your back and shoulders should never be rounded, and your core muscles should be engaged—basically, listen to your mother and stop slouching. Try these six easy moves to improve your posture.
8. Keep your strides short and quick.
“The key is to focus on short, quick strides and build your ability to turnover fast and efficiently, then lengthen your stride over time without sacrificing cadence,” Kalley says. That way, you’ll be able to keep a good, steady rhythm while making each stride cover even more ground.
9. Hydrate all day every day, not just right before a run.
Hydration is key before, during, and after running. This means staying hydrated throughout the day, but also sipping some H2O immediately before and during. “Depending on the length of a workout, you should drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid before,” Kalley says, and 1 to 3 ounces every mile, or more, depending on conditions (read: if it’s a humid summer day). Post run, drink 16 to 24 ounces to rehydrate.
10. Figure out if you need to eat before or not.
It’s OK to run on an empty stomach if that feels best for you, but many people find they need that pre-workout fuel to stay energized. Experts recommend eating a high-carb, low-fiber snack about two hours before you plan to hit the pavement.
11. Always have a post-workout snack so your body can recover.
“It’s critical to replace both carbohydrates and protein after a workout,” Kalley says. The amount you need will vary depending on your size and the length of the workout. A protein shake or smoothie is a quick and easy way to get those macronutrients. Kalley’s favorite is: 1 scoop vanilla vegan protein, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 16 ounces almond milk, frozen blueberries, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon hemp seeds, and 1 teaspoon coconut oil.