Before you put on your running gear and head out for your first run, you have to be aware about a couple of things.
Listen to your body
The single most important thing you have to learn (and this is valid for nearly all sport activities), is to listen to your body and to understand what it is telling you. If you never run in your life and you start like there is no tomorrow, your body will tell you. Listen to him! Slow down! If your foot, your knee or your back hurts, take it seriously. If you do not listen to your body, there is a good chance that it will become worse and in some cases chronic – you do not want to get there.
If you have the slightest doubts, call your doctor or physiotherapist. And for those who are older than 40 and/or are overweight, go see your doctor BEFORE putting on your running shoes. He will check if your heart, lung and the rest of the body can keep up with your ambitions.
You will see, I am a fan of setting objectives. Objectives are the best motivator. If you run just for the fun of it, you will be less consequent and tend to skip the one or the other session. However, if you have clear goal in mind, you can build a clear training plan which will take you there. Keep your objectives measurable and reachable. It does not make sense to target a 10k under 40 minutes within 3 months if you have never run before. Your first objective could look something like
- Run 3 kilometers in a stretch within 2 months or
- Run 30 minutes without walking in 8 weeks
These are realistic objectives you can start with. They are measurable (distance or duration) and reachable. There is another type of goal: time. For example you want to run 5k under 30 minutes. I do not recommend to set time based goals at the beginning. Once you are able to go the distance in one shot, you can work on improving your time.
Build your training plan
In the beginning, you will find it difficult to build your training plan. The best way is to ask Mr. Google. There are literally 100s of training plans out there, some of them free of charge, for some of them you have to pay. One of the best adapted programs for beginners are the famous Couch-to-5K® plans. They will bring you from 0 to 5K in 2 months, if (and here it comes) you train between 20 and 30 minutes per session. Consequence is key – do not skip any sessions, with every missed session you take the risk not to reach your objectives.
Speed and distance of your first run
Your first run will not be long, be prepared. And if you haven’t done any other sports in the past years, chances are that most of the time you won’t even run… but walk. This is completely normal. 18 months ago, I tore my achilles tendon on the soccer field – a way my body chose to tell me that I am getting older. After surgery and 6 months of physiotherapy, I got the green light – I can go for my first run. 5 minutes walking, 1 km light run, 5 minutes walking. My physiotherapist saw my face telling her ‘That’s it? That’s ridiculous!’. And I saw her face telling me ‘Yep, that’s it! And it won’t be easy!’.
I went home and put my running shoes on for the first time in 6 months. After I walked the first 5 minutes, I started to run. Let me tell you, it was the hardest and longest kilometer in my entire life. My body completely forgot what it means to run like I would have never been completed 21k and Marathons in the years before.
Running sessions for beginners are always a combination of walking and running. In your first two to three weeks, you will more walk than you run. It is required so that your body can get used to the new type of effort. The more you progress in your program, the more you will run until you are able to jog the full distance.
Set your objectives, build a plan and be consequent
Do not overdo it. Many beginners are looking for quick results, get frustrated and stop their efforts before reaching their goals. Set measurable and reachable objectives and identify the right training plan for these objectives. Then, follow religiously your training plan, do not skip any sessions and consequently follow through. Believe me, the feeling of achievement on the day you reach your objective, is worth every minute you have spent in your running shoes.