Three years ago, I weighed 150 pounds more than I do right now. At that point in my life, becoming “a runner” was something about as mystical as becoming a Jedi Master.
But now, what once seemed impossible has become ordinary. Mundane, even. It’s hard for me to have a conversation where fitness and running don’t come up.
Because of that, whether I’m on Twitter or at a barbecue with friends and family, it’s not uncommon for people to ask me what they have to do to become runners.
That’s when my inner-jerkface pops up and says, “Run.”
“No, seriously,” they say. “What do I need?”
“To put one foot in front of the other? A decent pair of shoes, and that’s about it.”
Honestly, in my experience, the only thing you really need is a decent pair of running shoes. Note that I didn’t say an expensive pair of running shoes. I said a decent pair.
What’s the Difference?
Now, if you’re like me, your first step in pretty much anything is to hit the Internet and read as much as you possibly can. And if your experience was like mine, you’re overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there (on pronation, under-pronation, over-pronation, supination, stability, motion-control, cushioning, neutrality) You may have had no idea what these folks were talking about.
And that’s okay. Because a new study in The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that none of that really matters for newbies.
Runner’s World broke down the scientific language pretty well by saying that “new runners can safely run in neutral shoes, regardless of their degree of pronation” because “injury rates were similar in a large group of new runners with varying degrees of pronation, even though the runners all wore the same neutral running shoe.”
What does that mean for you?
It means stop worrying. It means that you should only worry about one thing when searching for a decent pair of running shoes…
Do these shoes make your feet hurt?
If the answer to that is yes, then you need to keep searching. If the answer is no, then it’s time to go hog wild.
Eventually, it’s worth getting fitted for shoes at a local running store and having your form analyzed to help prevent yourself from being injured. But if you’re a real newbie looking for your very first pair of running shoes, don’t worry too much.
Just find a pair of shoes that doesn’t hurt your feet (from $20 Old Navy Active shoes to $150 Nimbus 15). While it is true that more expensive shoes can last longer and boost performance, if you’re just starting to run, you shouldn’t care about either.
You should care about running. And you can’t run if your feet hurt.
Once you get those shoes that don’t hurt, what then?
You get out the door (or on the treadmill) and put one foot in front of the other, that’s what!
There’s just something about the feel of a new pair of running kicks that makes people go crazy the first few times they go running. I did. You will, too.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for those first few runs to ensure you don’t make yourself hate the very idea of running.
You’re going to start out running way too fast for way too long. Your lungs are going to burn, and you’re going to be gasping for breath. And if you’re doing a program like C25K, you may not even be able to run the entire first 60-second interval.
So slow yourself down and remember Hal Higdon’s rule for running at a steady pace: “Ideally, you should be able to run at a pace that allows you to converse comfortably while you do so. This isn’t always easy for beginners.”
The idea of “converse comfortably” is a bit relative here, but the idea’s what matters. You’re not going to be debating ethics or politics on the trail, but you don’t want to be gulping for air so much and so hard that you hyperventilate either.
Short and Simple
When you first start running, you’re going to feel like you’re on top of the world. Between the rush of beginning an exercise regimen and the comfort of your new shoes, you’re going to feel like you can just keep going and going and going.
Don’t. Please. For the love of everything good in the world, keep your first few workouts short and manageable.
If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’re going to be miserable. There’s a reason that programs like C25K begin with short, 20-minute run/walks. If you pace yourself and don’t go too hard, then 20 minutes should be enough to make you feel like you’ve accomplished something without making you hate the universe and everything in it.
Sure, maybe you can go longer, but if you’re so sore that you can barely walk for a week afterward, then you didn’t do any good. Running is about making progress over time.
All other advice aside, you should be out to enjoy yourself. Don’t judge yourself by any standards other than what you can do. You might be on a track where people are running faster than you are and passing you, or they might be running longer intervals than you can. Or you might just hate road running and prefer a wooded trail.
Find what makes you happy and do that. The best part about running is that it’s all about personal achievement. You’re only out there for yourself. If you hate what you’re doing for some reason, then try something else. Change up the scenery, the music, the time of day, something.
Just do what you can, even if that means you can’t stick exactly to the program you’re using. Eventually you will be able to power through it. And you’ll love it.