If you can’t make it to your local gym due to Covid-19 restrictions, you may have already crafted an impressive temporary gym setup at home. But if you’re still longing for a way to get out of the house and work up a sweat, it might be time to indulge in one of the oldest — and simplest — human exercises: running.
Perhaps you’ve been a little intimidated about giving running a try, but there is no need to fear. We talked with running influencers and coaches to get their advice on how you can start training smart and sprint past the finish line of your fitness goals.
As you begin your training, you might not be happy with your starting pace. But everyone has to start somewhere.
“I think we get really in our heads about it and that’s part of why we won’t slow down to try to run further,” says Amanda Brooks, a running coach and founder of the Run to the Finish blog. “We don’t want to tell people that we’re running because we think we’re not fast enough.”
Chances are you’re not going to be breaking any world records on your beginning runs, so instead of comparing yourself to longtime runners, focus on putting in the effort to incrementally reach your running goals.
New runners might start by running two or three days a week and using off days to stretch and strength-train to prevent injuries. Over time, your body will become more durable and be able to handle higher run volumes. Even a combination of walking, jogging and running for 20 or 30 minutes can help to build up endurance over time.
“We just have this natural tendency to go out and we think running should be a certain speed, so we go really hard and that’s why we can only make it a couple of miles,” Brooks says.
Using a combination of speeds to increase your distance can also help to break down mental barriers, making you feel more confident when tackling longer runs.
The key to seeing improvement in your running is consistency. While you may be running more often, that doesn’t mean that each run needs to be faster than the last.
“One of the No. 1 mistakes I see is that everyone tries to run the same pace, all the time,” says Sarah Canney, a running blogger and founder of Rise.Run.Retreat. “But the truth is that your body responds so much better and will improve much more quickly if you vary the intensity.”
Going at the same pace on every run can lead you to burn out quicker and make you more prone to injuries. A good weekly training schedule will include a mix of more up-tempo, harder runs and easier recovery runs. An up-tempo run might be one at about the pace you can comfortably run a 5K (or about 3.1 miles). A recovery run would be at a pace two or three minutes slower than that for the same distance.
Let’s say you’ve got 30 minutes. Canney suggests trying this workout on a nearby hill to build cardiovascular endurance:
- 10-minute warmup run on a flat or rolling surface.
- Five or six hill repeats lasting 30 to 60 seconds in duration; run up the hill and then walk or jog back down the hill and repeat.
- 10-minute easy-paced run and cool down.
No matter how much time you’ve got, there is still no excuse for skipping out on the warmup.
“That’s going to keep you from getting injured,” Brooks says. “That can be five to 10 minutes of doing a dynamic warmup [or] walking for just a few minutes, especially if you’ve been sitting at work.”
For some, running can be a great mental release, a chance to be alone with your thoughts and step away from other responsibilities. But for others, the task of running, especially for multiple miles, seems agonizingly boring.
Making longer runs enjoyable is about finding what works for you. Crafting a blood-pumping music playlist of your favorite songs might be your first instinct. But be wary, music might make you want to run faster as you sync your strides with the beat. Brooks recommends listening to other things like audiobooks or podcasts to help you slow down and increase your distance.
“Play little games like, ‘I can only listen to this while I’m running,’” Brooks says. “It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, I really want to hear what happened’ so you either need to finish this run or need to get back out tomorrow.”
Then there are running apps that can help you with pacing, coaching and even finding music to fit your run for you. Human is an all-day activity tracker that’s big on motivation, nudging you to hit your daily run or daily 30-minute exercise. Then there’s Pacer, which is all about, yes, pacing, but also encouraging you to start a regular running habit. Couch to 5K is much like it sounds, too, with set plans to get you from your daily runs to regular 5Ks. And if you’re looking for a change of scenery, an app like Trail Run can help you find available running trails near your location.
While any type of running shoe can get the job done, if you’re looking to increase your mileage and training frequency, it’s well worth investing in good footwear. “If you happen to have a goal like the half marathon, paying for those more expensive shoes will pay dividends in how your body feels,” Brooks says. “As runners, we really focus on our legs but obviously our feet are taking a lot of pounding.”’
Keep in mind that there is no perfect running shoe. To get the best fit for your foot, Canney recommends visiting your local specialty running store to have your feet and gait properly evaluated by store specialists. They can help you find the shoe most comfortable for your foot and are likely willing to give you a few helpful running tips as well.
Having a good pair of socks on your feet is equally important. Brooks recommends looking for a moisture-wicking pair that will reduce blisters. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of products designed to help you get the most out of training, whether you’re out on the trails or recovering at home.
Hoka One One Clifton 7 ($129.95; zappos.com)
Brooks Ghost 13 ($129.95; zappos.com)
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 ($120; nike.com)
Nike’s durable and lightweight Pegasus 37 is perfect for everyday use, with mesh fabric that allows your feet to breathe easily and not overheat.
Saucony Bolt Performance Comfort Fit No-Show Socks, 6-Pack (starting at $12.99; amazon.com)
These Saucony socks are loved for their cushion, to help shield your feet from hard impacts while running, and their moisture-wicking fabric and ventilation.
Rockay Accelerate Anti-Blister Running Socks (starting at $23; amazon.com)
Promising to be anti-blister and sweat-wicking, these Rockay socks are made from 100% recycled materials and guaranteed for life.
Athleta Distance Laser Cap ($34; athelta.gap.com)
Wearing a hat is an easy way to shield your face and eyes from the sun. This Athleta cap is UV-resistant and rated with a 50+ UPF.
Gadiemkensd UPF 50+ Outdoor Hat ($13.99, originally $15; amazon.com)
This affordable hat has a reflective brim, perfect for running at the crack of dawn or in the dimming daylight at dusk.
Thinksport Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($17.63, originally $23.99; amazon.com)
For overall sun protection, every runner should wear sunscreen. This Thinksport sunscreen promises a non-oily and easy application that will keep you protected from radiation without a heavy feeling on the skin.
Nathan SpeedDraw Handheld Running Water Bottle ($34.97; amazon.com)
Hydration, both before, after and sometimes even during your run, is key to good performance. This insulated water bottle holds 18 ounces and has a pocket large enough to hold your keys, cash, phone and energy gels.
Tribe Water-Resistant Cell Phone Armband ($14.98; amazon.com)
Able to fit most iPhone and Galaxy models, this arm band has more than 28,000 reviews on Amazon, and has a slot not only for your phone but your keys and headphones too.
Athleta Everyday Non Medical Masks, 5-Pack ($30; athleta.gap.com)
If you run in a residential area or along crowded running trails, make sure to take a breathable mask with you on your run to protect yourself and others close by. You can check out more face masks for exercise here.
Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick, Unscented ($5.23; amazon.com)
You’ll thank us for this one later. This stick helps prevent chafing so that you can wear your favorite running shorts and shirts comfortably. This Body Glide option is also a popular pick among athletes.
Theragun mini ($199; theragun.com)
If foam rolling isn’t really your thing, this Theragun Mini model can help prevent muscle soreness by promoting blood flow post-run. Underscored’s full review of Theragun’s products can help you find the perfect model for you.
TriggerPoint Foam Massage Ball ($13.49; amazon.com)
Another great option for relieving muscle soreness anywhere is this TriggerPoint massage ball, which lets you target smaller muscles in the chest and legs. You can also use a small, hard ball to recreate this trigger point relief, like this Champion lacrosse ball.
TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller (starting at $30.33, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
This foam roller has a grid pattern designed to mimic the different feelings and pressures of a massage therapist’s hands. If you can find a flat surface to roll out on, check out a more travel-friendly option like The Stick Travel stick.
Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones ($199.95, originally $249.95; amazon.com)
Having a good pair of wireless headphones can prevent you from getting frustrated with wires and might even improve your running form. These Powerbeats Pro were Underscored’s pick for the best wireless earbuds for working out.
Garmin Forerunner 235, GPS Running Watch ($162.07, originally $329.99; amazon.com)
If you like knowing every data point of your training runs, this could be the watch for you. This Garmin watch tracks your heart rate, distance, time and pace and can be synced up to your phone to receive important notifications while on your run. If you’re looking for more information on running watches, check out Underscored’s best running watches guide.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.