Running 101: How to Get Started

Words by Heather Gomez

Welcome to our first Coach’s Corner training post! This week Julie and I begin our 10-week 5K training program, and we wanted to share some of the information we’ve been learning as beginner runners. Check out the resources included for guidance and inspiration to get you closer to your running goal!

Q: I’ve never run before, how do I get started? 

There are so many different running programs to choose from in books, at running clubs, and online. Making sure you pick the “right one” can be daunting, but jumping into the sport of running doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. Runner’s World breaks down the process into five basic steps:

1. Start Walking

2. Start Running

3. Run Nonstop

4. Run Longer

5. Run Faster

If you aren’t currently active, the most important step to take is to increase your level of regular physical activity. Don’t discount the health benefits of walking! Incorporating regular walks into your routine will increase your fitness level and prepare you to start running. If you are already active (but not running), start by adding short running intervals into your walks. This is a good strategy to avoid injury and build strength and endurance.

Check out The Starting Line by Runner’s World for more articles and programs about the five-step program for beginners.

Q: What distance should I train for?

You can start training for any distance you like, although expecting to run a marathon next month probably isn’t too realistic. Keep in mind that the longer your goal distance is, the longer it will take to train for it. Most beginner 5k training programs range from six to ten weeks; while marathon training programs can take as many as 18-30 weeks to complete, depending on your base fitness level. Training for long distances also means putting in more mileage per week.

As an example, the beginner marathon training program from Canadian Running Magazine is 16 weeks long but recommends that you should currently be comfortable running 15-20k per week, including an 8k long run, before starting. Be patient with your body and increase the volume of training slowly to prevent injury. Training for a shorter distance first will establish a running foundation that you can continue to build upon.

Q: Where can I find an appropriate training program?

Apps for your phone can make the training process easy, since most will coach you, track your progress, and remind you when to train. Some apps are available for free, and others are a bit more expensive. Here are a few popular apps you can explore:

The options are almost endless, so try searching your App Store or Google to find one that will work best for you!

If you would prefer face-to-face training, consider signing up for a program with your local running club. Running Room offers group training programs for a variety of distances. You can check out all the group and virtual options they offer on the Running Room training program page.

Q: Are there any health conditions should I take into consideration?

If you aren’t currently active, it’s important to make sure your body is ready to take on a new physical challenge! The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has published a form called the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q). It’s a quick checklist that will help you determine whether you should check with your doctor before becoming much more physically active.

If you have any specific concerns not listed in the PAR-Q, or if you’re in doubt at all, make an appointment with your doctor before starting a new program.