You’ve been meaning to focus on your New Year’s resolution to exercise more since, like, yesterday. Don’t let the calendar fool you — regardless of what month it is, it’s not too late. It also isn’t necessary to purchase a gym membership or find a fitness class; you can lace up your sneakers and get started with a beginner’s running plan tomorrow, even if you’re a lifelong couch potato.
“The hardest part is getting started, taking that first step, but is so very worth it,” said Sean Fortune, founder of Central Park Coaching and Hamptons Coaching. “It is literally a life-changer. Not many things in life are as guaranteed as the way running can improve your life.”
To help you get off on the right foot, we spoke with Fortune about the benefits of running, getting started correctly, and ways to prevent injury. He also provided expert tips for putting together a beginner’s running plan with your lifestyle in mind.
The benefits of running
The research is clear: Running has a bevy of physical and mental benefits.
A few that Fortune points out include heart health, glucose, and insulin regulation, decreased bad cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and better circulation. Mentally, running causes the body to release endorphins, which act as mood-boosters, reducing depression and stress.
There’s also another benefit for your wallet: It’s free and accessible.
“[Running] can be done at any time, in any climate, with no additional gear or cost,” Fortune said. “It is also a very efficient exercise for those of us who are time crushed. As little as 10-15 minutes of light jogging regularly will help your physical and mental health.”
How to safely begin a running plan
Running is accessible to people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels, but everyone needs to take precautions to prevent injuries, particularly when starting any exercise program.
Fortune suggested starting slow.
“One way to frame that for yourself is to plan to stop your run before you’re forced to due to fatigue,” he said. “Know you could’ve done more if you wanted to, and/or utilize the run/walk approach as you’re getting used to running regularly. The body is very vulnerable at this time, so don’t rush doing too much too soon.”
For example, you may start by running two minutes and walking two minutes for a total of 20 minutes, or whatever version of that works for you.
Fortune also suggested stretching, foam rolling, self-massaging tight muscles, listening to your body and stopping if something doesn’t feel right, eating a healthy diet, and sleeping well.
“Make the recovery just as important as the run,” he said.
What to do if you miss a workout
You may map out a running plan but wind up missing a session because you have to work late or didn’t feel up to it.
“It’s normal, and it’s OK,” Fortune said. “Just reset.”
Making running social, such as by finding a workout buddy or group, can help you stay accountable, he said.
Customizing a beginner’s running plan
Even if you’re just starting as a runner, everyone’s needs and abilities will be different based on fitness level and lifestyle. People who work 70-hour weeks may not have the time to commit to running an hour per day, five days per week.
“Running is highly personalized, and it’s not ideal for a one-size-fits-all,” Fortune said. “Craft some periodization into the weekly/monthly structure of your running. Be honest with yourself and your lifestyle about how much time you can commit to running and the recovery.”
Fortune suggested finding a coach to help you, but if you want to DIY, try Fortune’s basic steps when crafting your personal beginner’s running plan:
- Use three to four-week cycles. Slowly build up and have a “down” week where you “do less running and access how things are going.”
- Make adjustments based on how you feel and begin another three to four-week cycle.
- Have a goal in mind. “It doesn’t have to be an event like a 5k or marathon, though that is helpful,” Fortune said. “It can be something as simple as finishing your regular route without stopping. Or running your fastest mile. Or conquering that big hill that you have to walk each time. Once you meet that goal, then immediately make a new one.”
Running is beneficial to your mind and body, and so accessible. If you’re a beginner, be sure to build up slowly and work towards a goal. Don’t push your body beyond what it’s ready for, and include recovery in your routine. Consistent stretching, eating, and sleeping well prevent injuries so you can keep up the routine. It’s OK if you fall off the wagon — get back on. Grab a workout buddy and keep a goal in mind to stay motivated and crush your resolutions at any time of the year.
Disclaimer: BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.
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