How Best to Start Running

by Ryan
(California, USA)

how best to start running

I have started running the last few weeks but I am at a loss of where my fitness is. I have been playing tennis for a long time but the last four years I play 3-4 times a week. I also do a game called Dance Dance Revolution that I have played for the last 10 years.

The last three runs I have done are as follows:

Monday: 3.36 miles, 30 minutes, Average heart rate 177, max 199

Wednesday: 2.25 miles, 20 minutes, Average heart rate 181, max 205 (it was much warmer this day and it was after 3 days of playing tennis and doing other things 6 hours a day, I most likely shouldn't of done a run)

Friday: 4 miles, 35 minutes, Average heart rate 177, max 199

I was trying to run decently fast during these runs but could have gone faster and longer but because I am just starting out I didn't want to hurt myself since I am not sure what I should be doing.

I know I shouldn't be following one of the Beginners Running Programs just because I'm already quite fit. But not sure how best to start running, what to do that would benefit me the most and to not injure myself!

Answer by Dominique:

Hi there,
Thanks for your question about how best to start your running.

The info on your runs is very helpful.

I agree that starting with the beginners running programs is not necessarily needed for you, given you are able to run upto 4 miles at least. Those programs are great for those of us with a lower base of fitness and who want to start with a run/walk approach.

My thoughts on what you should do:

1. Find a local race
2. Slow down heaps
3. Use a structured approach to your running

So here goes, with a bit more detail:

Find a Local Race

how best to start running

My own running is often fuelled by the desire to prepare for a race. It helps when I have a race in my calendar, something to aim for, something that provides a bit of urgency, so you feel like you cannot skip your training. It would be great if you could find a race somewhere close to home that offers a 5k or 10k distance. Ultimately, it's dependent on what you want to go for.

I know you can already run 5k, but it might be fun to see how fast you can do it. Really push yourself and go for it. Really depends on what excites you.

I am a big fan of crawl before you walk before you run before you run far. Take it easy those first few months of your running career. Yes, given your fitness, you could maybe even shoot for a half marathon. But I'd feel much better about you first aiming for a 10k in three months, then, if you want to go further, run a half marathon three months later.

I am a big fan of parkrun. People from all different walks of life, all different sizes and fitness levels coming together on a Saturday morning and running a 5k. Some race it, some run it at an easy pace, some walk it. A very inviting format and you can make great new friends there and learn from other runners. And it's free.

Slow Down Heaps

how best to start running

As you say, you were running those runs quite fast. Your heart rate stats demonstrate this. Looks like you were in a race three times last week!

That's ok for one week, but please don't continue like that. It is a recipe for disaster and is likely to lead to injury down the line.

Running needs to be predominantly slow and easy. The pace at which you can have a conversation with somebody. You want to bring that heart rate right down. When you run with your heart rate as a guide, you want to be predominantly in Zone 1 and Zone 2. For you, that is likely somewhere in the 130-155 range. For a better indication of what heart rate to aim for and for calculators that determine your heart rate zones, check out my Heart Rate Monitor Training section.

Use a Structured Approach to Your Running

how best to start running
When you start running you achieve the best results with running at least three times per week. More is fine if your body can handle it and you can fit it in in your schedule. Build up gradually.

A good running program for you to try would be the 10k Running Program. It gets you ready for your first 10k, assumes you can run 20-30 minutes non-stop already, relies on three runs per week and has a solid structure which includes plenty of easy and long runs and a little bit of faster running as well.

A few other good pages to have a look through as well:

  • My page on How to Start Running

  • A page about different running workouts you can do. Keep in mind, most of your running should be easy. But experimenting with a few different paces and types of running will keep things interesting!

  • Hope that helps.
    All the best,

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