There's almost never a bad time to start running — or to get back into it, if you’ve taken a break. We just spent a month trying to stand on our heads, so a little plain old jogging is going to feel great by comparison.
This is an all-levels challenge, so I have something in mind for everyone reading, whether you already know how to run or not. And if you have injuries or mobility issues that prevent you from walking or running, feel free to join us with any mode of travel that suits you.
If You Already Know What You’re Doing
If you already run regularly, I’d like you to pick a focus for the month, something you don’t spend as much time on as you should. Maybe you’ve been all about the long runs but haven’t done speedwork in forever, or vice versa.
Can’t decide? Make it hill repeats. Pick a hill, jog up it four times tomorrow, and then next week make it five (and so on). By the end of the month you may still hate hills but you’ll be really good at them.
OK, got it? No need to read the rest of this post — just lace up and get out of here.
If You’ve Run Before, But Don’t Feel Comfortable With It
Now that we have those folks out of earshot, it’s time for some real talk. Running is whatever you want it to be. You can mix running and walking, you can do all your runs on a treadmill, you can go out for a jog and take forever because you’re slow, and that’s all OK.
What’s important is working with what you have. If you’re working at an effort level that feels challenging but not killer, then you’re running the right speed no matter your exact pace.
In fact, do yourself a favour and turn off the alerts in your running app that tell you how fast or how far you’ve gone. (If you dare, ditch the app altogether and measure your runs by distance or time, but not both.)
Your assignment for this month: Put yourself on a schedule, and stick to it. Three or four times a week is good, but ramp up slowly: Mix walking with running at first, or start with two runs this week and add more as the month goes on. Even if you have the cardio fitness for four strong runs right off the bat, your bones and tendons need a little time to get used to pounding the pavement.
Like the more advanced folks, you should pick a focus for this month. It might just be consistency, or perhaps you’d like to work on a particular skill or try a new way of running — on trails instead of roads, for example.
Basically, if you haven’t felt comfortable with running, this is your opportunity to figure out what you do like, and make some happy memories.
If You’re A Total Beginner
You’ll have to teach your body what easy, fun, comfortable running feels like. Right now, it doesn’t know.
You probably have two speeds right now: Walking and sprinting. People who run a lot don’t have some magical spell for sprinting for 30 minutes straight; they just have a few gears in between, so they can decide to run medium-slow or sorta-fast or whatever their workout calls for.
So your job this month is to figure out how to travel on foot for extended periods of time without working so hard you want to die. You have a couple of options:
- Just walk. If this feels too easy, walk faster, or walk uphill. You can get a good workout this way, and if you’re new to exercising, this might be your ideal pace for now.
- Walk, but add some short sprints every few minutes. This doesn’t really teach you to slow down, but hey, maybe you’re a sprinter at heart. Alternate running and walking for as long as you’d like your workout to last.
- Jog, and take walking breaks. Remind yourself to jog slowly, and keep your walking breaks short so that you’re still a little tired when you start up again. This will help you to keep your jogging to a slow pace, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself skipping the rest breaks.
You can do all three of the above, of course. Not sure where to start? Tomorrow, put on some comfortable shoes — they don’t even have to be running shoes! — and get out there and walk.
No, you don’t need to stretch first. No, you don’t need any special clothes (besides a sports bra, if applicable). You don’t even need a running app or a “couch to 5K” program for your first time out, although you might like to pick one soon to help guide you through the initial learning stages.