Health

20 Tips That Will Actually Help You Start Running

(And people who aspire to be runners.)

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If you've ever kinda thought about maybe trying out running, you totally should go for it.

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Hear me out.

• It's great for your cardiovascular health.

• And it can even be meditative.

• You don't need to pay membership or class fees.

• Or factor travel time into your workout.

• You can literally just run out of your front door, keep going, and that's a workout.

• If you start slowly with confidence in your ability to kick ass, you might just really like it.

But, yes OK, it can be intimidating if you have zero idea where to start. So, as a longtime runner who also happens to report on this stuff for a living, I thought I'd compile some tips from myself and fellow runners. Consider this your welcome wagon.

1. Have realistic expectations for your first few weeks of running.

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Your very first runs might feel really hard (though they shouldn't feel too hard; more on that later) and will probably challenge your resolve (maybe even more than they challenge your body). But after a few weeks it'll be easier to breathe and move and you won't feel as sore and you'll feel like a damn champion. Just know that the very beginning could be rough but that it'll definitely get better.

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2. Get fitted for sneakers at a speciality shop.

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The right pair of running sneakers will mean a more comfortable run and lower risk of injury. Most running specialty stores can analyze your gait and tell you which sneakers will work best for the way your foot lands, the amount of cushioning you like, the kind of terrain you're running on, and how many miles you're running each week.

3. And then buy last year's version of those sneakers to save some coin.

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There are places like 6 p.m. and the Road Runner Sports clearance section that sell previous years' editions of the sneakers a pro told you would be perfect for you. It's often the case that a new edition of a sneaker just means new colors and tiny changes to the shoe, so your overall fit probably won't be affected too much.

4. Use a Couch to 5K app that eases you into running.

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An app like Couch to 5K will have you ready to run 3.1 miles after nine weeks of 20- to 30-minute workouts that alternate walking and running three times per week. It will track all your progress and have you feeling like a badass by helping you consistently hit your (very manageable) goals.

5. Do lots of walking, especially in the very beginning.

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If you're brand new to running or cardiovascular exercise, there's no reason to think that you'll be able to get out there and run for 30 minutes straight without needing rest here and there. Alternate running with walking throughout the run — say a minute of walking, followed by a minute of running — or just take short walk breaks whenever you feel like you need them.

6. Track every run so you can see your progress and make notes about your workouts.

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Apps like RunKeeper (pictured above) and MapMyRun use GPS to automatically store your route, distance, and your pace so you'll watch yourself run farther and faster over time. Most apps also allow you to enter notes about each run so you can see patterns like that the first mile always sucks or that you run faster when you go first thing in the morning or that your left knee always gets sore after three miles, etc.

7. Get moisture-wicking underwear.

Lots of apparel comes in quick-dry and moisture-wicking varieties, but there's one place that's way more uncomfortable when it's mega swampy: your undercarriage. So, if you're choosing where to invest, get a few pairs of quick-dry undies and you'll be cooler in summer, warmer in winter, and less likely to chafe year round.

8. Also get good (non-cotton) socks.

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The thing about cotton is that it really soaks up and hangs on to moisture, which means that if your sneakers get wet for any reason — sweat, a puddle, the rain, a dripping water bottle — your feet will stay damp for your whole run. In the summer they'll be hot and wet and in the cooler months your feet will be cold and wet. Plus, cotton means more friction, which means blisters. Socks made from a synthetic material will wick moisture away from your feet and control temperature well, which means a much less swampy run.

9. Make sure your pre- and post-run snacks or meals make you feel great.

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Eating the right mix of carbs, protein, and fat can be amazing fuel before you run and an incredible recovery aid once you finish. For both steady state and higher-intensity runs, you'll want to make sure you're getting enough carbs before and after you exercise. Check out some guidelines and tips for fueling and recovering from both kinds of runs here.

And get some snack ideas from personal trainers here.

10. Don't stretch before you run.

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Studies have shown that static stretching doesn't prevent injury and might also negatively impact your performance during the run itself. Just don't.

11. But definitely get loose with a dynamic warm-up.

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It only takes a few minutes of bodyweight movements — like this three-minute sequence — to get your body ready for your run, which means the run itself will feel better and you'll be less likely to get injured.

12. Think of days off as part of your training.

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To get stronger and fitter and become a better runner, you need to recover from your workouts so you can get back out there and crush it again tomorrow or the next day. Start out by running two or three days per week and getting plenty of rest in between. Doing lighter activity like restorative yoga or taking a bike ride is great for off days, too.

13. Honestly just slow down and run at a pace that legit feels comfortable.

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The quickest way to make running terrible is to try to go all out all the time. It'll make you tired and out of breath and probably feel totally defeated. Run at a pace that allows you to carry a conversation.

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15. Do a little bit of strength training.

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You don't need to start lifting heavy weights or even go to the gym. Just spending 10 to 15 minutes doing bodyweight workouts in your living room a few times per week will strengthen your core and lower body, which will make running easier and minimize risk of injury.

Here's a seven-minute bodyweight workout just for runners.

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16. Don't even worry about pace or mileage. Just focus on consistency.

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When you're brand new to running, just focus on getting out there a few times per week and finishing the run. You'll be psyched to notice how much easier it will start to feel once you've been doing it regularly for a few weeks — you'll breathe more easily, be less sore, and need fewer walking breaks. Once you've built a baseline of fitness and mileage you can work on running farther and faster.

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17. Music is aces, but consider listening to a podcast or audiobook.

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By all means listen to music to get pumped and keep you moving. But when you're new to running, it's often the mental challenge of finishing the run that can be most foreboding. Distract yourself from feeling overwhelmed or bored with podcasts that will engage you.

18. If you're one of those people who's always forgetting to drink water, use an app to track your water intake and remind you to drink up.

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You will just feel better if you're properly hydrated when you run. Use an app like Plant Nanny (pictured here) to remind (and incentivize!) you to stay hydrated.

19. For extra motivation (and potential for seriously high-quality selfies), time your runs to sunset when the light is amazing.

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Use the app Magic Hour to plan your runs right when the light is prettiest. It'll make for an extra beautiful run and, tbh, the best Instagrams. And if you're an early riser, Magic Hour will tell you when sunrise is coming, too.

20. Sign up for a fun race and think of it as a celebration of your progress.

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You can set a goal simply to cross the finish line — don't worry about how long it'll take you to finish. It's a huge accomplishment to be able to finish a 5K, so pick a fun race where you can run in a costume or drink green beer after.