When I started at Lifehacker last July, I quickly got into a routine of plonking myself at my desk and sitting there all day, barely moving out of my chair. Though I was no Herculean physical specimen beforehand, my previous job was far more physical, so I began losing my fitness quickly at a desk. Battling my belly and lethargy, I decided to take up running. It sucked.
But I learnt to make it suck much less.
For the last four months, I've been trying to get active at least four days of the week, putting in running sessions of around 45 minutes duration. The absolute most critical thing for those just starting out is to realise that it will be hard. It's not meant to feel like a Sunday stroll. It's meant to feel like your muscles are aching and you have to take in huge, gulping breaths with a pounding heart. So keep that in mind. It will be hard but you can overcome. You will overcome. You just need to commit to it.
Couch To 5K
If you've never heard of Couch To 5K (C25K) before, it's a nine week program that aims to get you fit enough to run five kilometres. It works as a guide to slowly build your fitness by alternating walking and jogging for set periods of time, up to 30 minutes. In the first month, it was the most important resource because it gave me something to aim towards and it is designed in such a way that you don't feel overburdened early on - it starts off by simply requiring 60 seconds of jogging, alternating with 90 seconds of walking every second day. Within a few weeks, you'll take your jogging up to 15 minutes plus and you may even feel like committing to more jogs throughout the week. With that said...
Don't Worry About Numbers
Early on, I committed to just doing the exercise without thinking about how much I weigh or how long it took. I wanted to stick to the Couch To 5K schedule as best I could, but if I found I was really struggling with it, I would modify it as necessary.
I found that I regained fitness quickly and so began a schedule in the fifth week where I ran for 15 minutes, rested for five, and then ran for an extra 10. If you're focused on a specific goal or length of time, aim towards that, slowly building up to it. You may only want to run 3km every two days, so modify the schedule for shorter distances too.
Extrapolating from the Couch To 5K figures, six minutes per kilometre is a good aim - if you want to run 3km every day, aim for 15 to 20 minutes.
You Need A Great Playlist
A good playlist is paramount.
This has been absolutely essential for me and one of the reasons I have been able to push myself further and further. The right playlist depends on your own musical tastes which, for me, is a mixture of upbeat, heavy tunes mixed in with some nostalgia. I built a playlist specifically around running and have constantly updated it over time, taking out songs that I am tired of and replacing them with whatever banger currently makes me feel good.
For interest sake - this is my current Spotify playlist.
Fitting It In Your Schedule
The age-old excuse is that there isn't enough time in the day to exercise and, believe me, I feel that.
To combat this, I suggest planning around the jog. I set daily reminders that prompt me to get out of the house/office at certain times of day. I always aim for just after lunch, but try to allow myself as much flexibility as possible. The way I see it, the run is about an hour out of my day, once I factor in the jog, the route and the post-run shower and once I've made that commitment, I know how much time I've got left over.
The Right Gear
It goes without saying that if you're just running around in your everyday sneakers, you're going to have a bad time. If you just want to get out and active every day, they aren't going to be too bad but if you're looking to jog or run for extended distances, you need to look at some trainers. I've been using Nike's Free RN for a while and recently upgraded to the Nike Free RN Distance 2, which provide me with great support under foot.
Second to this, a good pair of wireless, sweat-proof headphones are a necessity if you're listening to music. Corded headphones will always end up frustrating you so I suggest a non-obtrusive wireless pair to get you through.
For women, there will be a whole other raft of things to consider, especially regarding clothing. I wish I could help, but I cannot. However, this guide may be able to point you in the right direction.
Vary Your Route
Fortunately for me, when I started jogging our offices were in Circular Quay which meant that I could run around the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens every day. However, for me, running the same route is a sure-fire way to send yourself back to the couch. When I am jogging around the neighbourhood, I do my best to pick side streets that I haven't run down before. More often than not, they lead me to a fresh tangle of sidewalks and parks that I haven't seen before. Then, in my attempt to work out how to get home, I end up running further than I even anticipated.