How To Actually Start A Running Habit—Even If You Hate Cardio

Written by Amanda C. Brooks

Here are three mottos every runner, beginner or advanced, should live by: Running isn’t about speed. Running isn’t about setting personal records. Running isn’t about how far you go.

Running is a process and one that you should definitely enjoy by allowing yourself to go on a journey. You don’t have to run 3 miles on day one, you just have to put one foot in front of the other — and then do it again tomorrow.

Now that we understand my philosophy on running, here are a few more tips to help you on the journey. Sure, there are a million different training plans, techniques, and things you’ll learn along the way, but to start it’s a bit more simple:

1. Start walking.

When you are starting out, always walk before you run. Literally warm up to every run with at least a half mile of walking. Then take walk breaks while you run to allow you to spend more time running. Over time, you'll decrease the breaks but always keep the warm-up.

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2. Slow down.

Stop trying to go so far or so fast on day one … or day 30 for that matter! When you find you can’t breathe, slow down. When you find you just can’t break a distance barrier, slow down. When running sounds like something awful to do, slow down. Eventually this all leads to speeding up, but you need a base first.

3. Join a running group.

Many people are afraid to join a running group because they might be the slowest person there. As someone who has moved a lot and tested out a lot of groups, I can tell you there are always walkers, there are always superstars, and everyone is welcoming.

If you happen upon an unfriendly group, high-tail it out of there and find another group. Nothing will keep you showing up for runs like having friends or even acquaintances who expect you to be there.

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4. Invest in quality gear.

You probably know that better running shoes are going to make your knees, legs, and feet feel better but could be surprised to find that you really do need some of those expensive socks! Running socks are expensive, but any runner will tell you we learned the hard way how important they are for preventing blisters and keeping feet happy.

Heading to a local running store can feel intimidating, but trust me, they're there for you — and their main goal is to help more people enjoy a sport they love. So what do you reallllly need? Here's the short list:

  • Good running shoes
  • Wicking socks
  • Body glide

5. Always perform a dynamic warm-up.

Stop with the pre-run stretching from your school days! Instead, try a dynamic warm-up (think: jogging in place, high knees, or butt kicks) and then spend some time doing yoga or any static stretch after you finish your run. It’s a great time to reflect on how far you’ve come and allow your body to cool down from the raised heart rate.

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6. Smile.

Fake it until you make it, right? Even in running, when you force yourself to smile, I guarantee it will lift your spirits. Take a moment to look around you and enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine, and the fact that you are making this choice. Here are a few mind games to keep you going when you feel like giving up:

  • Fun to the next stop sign. OK, maybe the next one.
  • Just run until you’ve hit a round number on your watch
  • Mantras help.

7. Don't worry about supplements right away.

You may have heard people talk about gels or have friends who swear by a pre-workout supplement. When you're just starting out, most of this is unnecessary. These are the tools that will help you get to the next level once you have a base. For now, spend your energy focusing on continuing to show up.

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