My first attempts at jogging were met by my body feeling like it was going to fall apart. Jogging seems as easy as lacing up and taking off down the street, but it has hidden challenges. Here's how I learned to get over the beginner's hump and turn jogging into a habit.
I have been a cyclist for a long while, and because of that, the very act of jogging has always been weird for me. Why would anyone want to do more work to go less distance? However, cycling requires a lot more time that I simply don't have now. Jogging provides a similar exercise in less time, and about five months ago I started to make the switch. For me, this isn't about running a marathon someday -- it's just about getting the minimum amount of exercise needed to keep me alive and well.
The Only Gear You Really Need: Good Shoes and the Right Shirt
Like most people, I decided to start jogging at random and then went out and tried it in the closest thing I owned to running shoes. This was a pair of Adidas soccer shoes. As it turns out, they're not the best thing to run in. So I learnt the important first step: get the right gear.
You don't need a lot for running. In fact, the only thing you really need is a pair of shoes. I also picked out a shirt from my closet that felt like it would be a good shirt for running. It was nothing more than a random promotional shirt, but when I put it on I immediately get into the mental mode needed to force myself off the couch and out onto the streets. With the right gear, it's time to learn the next important part: the right form. Photo by MichaEli.
Learn Correct Form Before You Even Hit the Pavement
My first attempts at starting a jogging routine went something like this: purchase shoes, put shoes on, go outside and run. When I returned home after a short 1.6km run, I nearly puked my lungs out in pain and promptly fell to the floor with aching bones. The reason? Part of it was the new experience for my muscles, but as I learnt after a couple more attempts, the real problem was my complete lack of form.
When I first started, I hadn't run with a purpose since running home from school to watch TV. In turn, I had no real idea what I was doing. In my head, this was all about the mental effort of running and not about form. As it turns out, form is just as important, and I was doing it horribly wrong. The video to the right guides you through how to do it properly. While it might seem like something you should just "know how to do", it's worth the time to practise and get it right.
Don't Try Being Awesome Yet
As I mentioned above, I come from a cycling background, and while I'm certainly no fitness guru, I'm in decent shape all around. With the gusto of a real rookie, I figured I'd be awesome at jogging right out of the gates. I was disappointed rather quickly.
My first run attempt was about 1.6km of sustained running. When I was done, every part of my body was on fire. I decided I should probably look up a better method. Coming from cycling, I found Cycling Tips suggestion that's repeated across a number of other sites:
In the beginning of your running fitness it's wise to run for 5 mins, walk for 2 mins. This will still get you a great workout but will be much easier on your body and will allow you to get out of bed the day after. Slowly build up this walk/run mixture to eventually phase out the walking so that you can run for a full 30-45 mins.
This was key for me because my inflated ego of being "in shape" on a bike wasn't transferring over to jogging. I was a beginner and I had to treat myself like one. Photo by Alastair.Pott.
Find a Time and Stick to It
Some people can probably go out for a jog whenever they have the free time, but I'm a person of habit and had to pick a time I knew I would stick to on a regular basis. We've pointed out before that a schedule helps you stick with an exercise routine, and it's certainly the case for me. After playing around with mornings, afternoons and evenings I settled on an early evening time: 6.30pm. This works for my schedule 100 per cent of the time, easily transfers into other seasons, and captures daylight most of the year.
Accent the Experience with Cheap Tech
Taking a cue from our own Adam Pash, I know that technology is a great way to get yourself in shape because it gives you tangible data showing where you're improving (or not). As an avid user of the RunKeeper smartphone app to track cycling data, I started using it for its original purpose of jogging as well. For me, this was all I needed to get started because it let me track my accomplishments easily.
I'm also a person who loves a good story, and right when I was getting a little bored with the routine of simply jogging to beat my own scores, the iOS app Zombies, Run! (also being released on Android on June 14) was released. Zombies, Run! essentially turns running into a little game, complete with a story mode, survival supply gathering and more. If you want a way to turn your jogging into a story, it's a great option that might provide you with the narrative incentive you need to keep it up.
You don't need any of this tech, but for some people it might help. Just remember that the cheap or free smartphone apps will work fine when you're starting out. If you really want to get into training, you can make the jump to the more expensive and dedicated tech (like a Nike Running Watch or BodyMedia Armband), but it's not necessary for the casual runner.
Five months into this, I've formed the habit of running and I've kept myself in shape in considerably less time than I was spending on a bike. I was starting from a pretty good fitness point, but I had a bunch of hiccups along the way that nearly caused me to stop completely. Like any beginner I had to actively hunt down what worked best for me then exploit that until it became a new habit. The bumps I ran into certainly aren't the only ones, so share your own experiences in the comments.