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How to start running (and stick with it for life)

Maybe you’ve seen them striding past your office window in the morning, or congregating in packs at the park in the evening. Maybe your coworker likes to dash out for a quick jog at lunchtime, or maybe you saw a flyer for a local race and it left you wondering.

Running. Most people will tell you it’s the easiest sport because all you need is a pair of sneakers and you’re on your way. While that’s true for the most part, there’s also a layer of mystery surrounding the sport that keeps many non-runners from taking the leap.

The health benefits alone are enough to nudge you to start. A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine finds that running even just once a week is good for your health and can help you live longer. The analysis of 14 studies and more than 232,000 participants found that running appears to lower the risk of death from all causes by as much as 27%.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to try running, or even if you’ve tried it before and hated it, here’s how to get started so you can truly become a runner for life.

Start slowly

Snail runners Your first few runs should feel slow. Very slow. (Photo: Sergey Lavrentev/Shutterstock)

Most newbie runners tie their laces and take off down the street expecting to sprint the miles away. Reality catches up to them by the end of the block, or even the driveway. “Go slow enough that you could hold a conversation while you run,” advises running coach and 15-time marathoner Holly Gantman. “If you can’t talk, you’re going too fast.”

Plan to run/walk

Woman running in a park Practice alternating between running and walking until you no longer need the walk breaks. (Photo: lzf/Shutterstock)

“Add walking into your run or add running into your walks,” Gantman says. Many new runners feel discouraged if they need to walk for a few seconds during their runs. But this is how most runners get started. Pick an object in the distance and plan to walk when you get there. Once you’re walking, pick another object where you’ll start to run again. The next time you go out for run, try to run a little farther and walk a little less. Before you know it, you’ll be able to string those running segments together for several miles.

Make a schedule

Runner's training plan The internet is loaded with training plans to take you through the initial stages of learning how to run. (Photo: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock)

Even if you don’t plan to culminate your training with a race, it’s a good idea to follow a beginner’s running plan to keep you motivated and on track. “Without such a schedule, a new runner risks increasing their training load too rapidly beyond what the body can adapt to, which of course will result in injury and disappointment,” advises running coach Kyle Kranz.

Find a buddy

Running group If you can’t find a running group in your area, try sending out a post on social media to see if any of your friends (or friends of friends) would be interested. (Photo: Rido/Shutterstock)

“Finding friends to run with is, I believe, key to making running a lifelong hobby,” Kranz says. It may feel intimidating at first, but just remember that everyone started somewhere, and most runners are more than happy to help a new runner get a footing in the sport. Check out local running stores or fitness centers to see if there are any running groups in your area, or solo runners interested in pairing up.

Get some good shoes

Ruby red running shoes Good running shoes are like Dorothy’s ruby slippers — put them on and watch the magic happen. (Photo: Veles Studio/Shutterstock)

If your feet hurt, you’re not going to want to run. So make sure you have some sneaks with at least a little cushion to get you started. Once you start running more regularly, head to a running store and get fitted for a pair of kicks that matches your running needs and style.


Woman running Don’t overthink it. Just lace up your shoes and go for a run. (Photo: Martin Novak/Shutterstock)

Dimity McDowell — co-author of “Run Like A Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity” and one of the bloggers/podcasters behind the Another Mother Runner community — has a perfect motto for runners of all experience levels: “Don’t Think: Just Go.”

Have a great run!

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in October 2017.

How to start running (and stick with it for life)

Running doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here’s how to become a runner for life.