So You Want to be a Runner? How to Start, Really!

There are lots of good reasons to take up running, really there are, and we’ll get into that. There’s also a lot of BS crap like all you need are shoes and it feels like floating etc. The cooler spring weather is the perfect time to turn your dreams into reality. So what do you really need and how do you finally try running.

Why Running?

Why run? Its actually a really good question and there is a lot of crap out there that says it’s the only real exercise and the worst one you can do, neither are even close to true. Let’s start with why you should and I’m going to start off with a dirty secret us runners don’t like to confront. You reach the maximum benefits of running in only 3 thirty minute runs a week in a lot of ways. If your running more than that it’s not for your health it’s because you like it. Increases in longevity, reductions in disease and the metal health benefits reach their highest levels in only 90 minutes a week and your pace doesn’t really matter. Now it stays flat a LONG time after that, one not so amazing study says at least 32 km/week the much better heart study ongoing for years puts that number closer to 55 km per week before it starts to do you harm. But there is consensus in the scientific literature that being a consistant  runner adds about 6 years to your life, that’s an extra 7% BTW. That means you are running 140 km to 230 km a month before there might be a slight decrease from optimum. But at around 12 km per week or 52 km per month your getting maximum benefit.

Did you know that the average Canadian spends the last ten years of their life with a significantly reduced quality of life due to disease? The best known way to shorten this period is to be physically active during the majority of your adult life. That means on average getting 30 minutes of moderate too vigorous physical activity 3 – 5 times a week. Less than 10% of the population reports that they do this but when you strap an activity tracker on those people less than half are meeting the guidelines they claim to. That means somewhere between 3 and 4% of the population meets the minimum guidelines for physical activity! On average those people spend less than 2 years with significant declines at the and of their lives. If you don’t want to be bed-ridden and house bound for the last 10 years of your life, you have to get out of it now!

So all of this to say it’s a really efficient way to exercise and greatly improve your health and lifespan. Sure you can get the same benefits doing other things but probably not that fast. You don’t need to join a gym, pay fees or need a whole lot of equipment (probably, scroll on). Walking, rowing, joining a team, Yoga, well a lot of things will get you there in the long run too. You can sneak a 30 minute run in on you lunch hour and still have half of it left. I like to double dress when I squeeze in a run or get mostly naked in the backseat sometimes too. Look for running pants that can double as dress pants, or tights worn underneath, a solid shirt you can put a blazer over, all you need is a quick shoe change, maybe some dry shampoo and your back in the boardroom or classroom in no time!

But doesn’t it kill your knees? Maybe, maybe not. Long term runners have higher bone density and fewer knee problems in old age than non runners so there is that. But it does hurt a lot more than your knees too! Running injuries can affect your hips, ankles and feet but mostly it really is your knees. The average runner can expect and injury about every 1000 km or 100 hours depending on the study. Interestingly those numbers are strikingly close to each other. A typical slow runner pace is about 7:30 per km, so the 100 hours estimate is about 25 hours off of the 1000 km. This would be twice a year for out of commission for a 90 minute a week runner. Typically worst case you’ll be couched for 6 weeks but usually it’s less.

All you need is a good pair of kicks right?

In a word, no. This summer I decided to make a cute bin to hold my running stuff since it was strewn all about the house. The bin came out way huge and it was immediately full so… All totalled I have about $1700 in running gear, trust me that’s a shock to me too. Now I probably spent less than $250 on all of it but holy crap. I buy a lot of stuff on eBay or on sale in person, my mom usually gets me a pair of kicks a year as a present, most of my clothes are thrifted and if not are presents from honey. I am constantly buying new headphones though, and braces are an ongoing thing. So what do you need to start?

What I need to run vs What I have, not just a pair of kicks!

Running shoes: These don’t have to be fancy but they do need to be newish. If you have a pair of runners that have been kicking around for years that won’t work since the cushioning is probably gone and this will lead to shin splints and other injuries. The common advice is to go to a specialty running store and get fitted by a professional which isn’t bad advice but… You could also pick out a pair yourself from a respected brand that feel good and fit your budget. Maybe hold off for the special store price and until you know what your looking for or your current ones are giving you problems. One of the things they look at is the wear on you old pair so that could help.

Technical shirt, pants/shorts and/or sports bra: Basically cotton is not your friend. It doesn’t have to be Nike, new or even match. This Women’s Short Sleeve Running Shirt Mesh Black M its a nice one that’s highly reviewed at 14.99. It’s 90% polyester and 10% spandex which is a nice mix and the starch means it will hold up well and be comfortable. Plus you can layer it under regular clothes if your trying to sneak in a run. Same idea with these Women’s Ankle Legging Black Size L. But you can probably find another runner’s cast of race shirt at the used clothing store but it probably won’t be quite so cute, pants can be harder to track down but it’s worth a try. Sports bars are more personal but the saying runs true that they should never have their 1st birthday, I’m told anyway. I’m built in such a way that I might not really need one. But get a good one the bigger the girls are, the more it matters.

Tunes and and earphones: I’m going to say this is necessity so.. Earphones! You probably already have some there are many styles that might work. I favour the in ear style like these blue in ear buds but there are a few options, the ones that come with iPhones are pretty useless and bounce out almost immedietly.

That’s pretty much all you really NEED for sure but there are a few other things that would be really, really nice to have. If your going to run at dusk or in the dark you’ll need something reflective. (NOTE: it’s only in editing this that I thought to add dawn, since that ain’t my style!) I really like adding this Reflective Ribbon to my running gear. I’ve also made reflective headbands and a set of ankle reflectors with it. Also if your running at night you will need a headlamp. I’ve honestly tried many different styles and none of them are that comfortable. Recently honey brought me a touque with an led light in it which is great for a certain time of year but one the weather warms up it’s back to the headlamp. It’s also important that you hydrate while you run, it also makes it a lot more pleasant, a lesson I learned later than you would think possible . It is true that you can just hold any old bottle but especially as you start out it’s nice not to have any sort of irritating extras to think about. I favour wearing a hydration belt with a comfortable wide strap to hold my water. Look for one with a pocket for your phone when you aren’t wearing a coat and don’t have pockets. This Hydration Running Belt is pretty inexpensive, decently rated and similar to the one I like to run with. Other than that just get started and see where it takes you. If a need arises then get something to deal with it then.

What to expect

When you start running is f-ing terrible! Same as after a long break. Even a bad run now inspires flash backs.  I was winded with in 100 m and I like to tell people I literally couldn’t run from one lamp post to the next, because its true. I also hated all the songs on my iPod all of a sudden, everything I was wearing was riding up, slipping down or chaffing me. All I could think was “OMG I’m so out of shape!”. But I wasn’t really, I’d always been a semi-dedicated biker and avid swimmer. So rest assured that’s normal!  It was always feeling too hot or cold out for running, the sun, wind and well weather generally seemed to be directed at me personally. Also you’ll probably get shin splints and it turns out no one will have sympathy for you, ice, rest a little and run through it as best you can. It just means you aren’t a seasoned runner yet. The high degree of these minor annoyances does fade over time, so it doesn’t last forever.

But then there was the other side too, almost every run I actually ran for more of it. I walked shorter distances in between for recovery and the most motivating thing was I could see I was getting faster.  My sister got me a nano about a year after I got more serious so I could use what is now the Nke+ Running app. I was taking a minute off my kilometre time every month! Every 5k was my fastest so far. Every moth I had my longest or furthest run ever! I got trophies, and reached new colour milestones on the app too so I would recommend downloading one, very motivating.

As for the elusive runner’s high, yeah it’s a thing. At the start you’ll just be happy your not running anymore and that might be a more powerful feeling truthfully. I’m not always convinced that it’s real but if I’m in a bad mood honey will often suggest (strongly) that maybe I should go for a run! I didn’t use it when I started but I’ve done the program with a few others, download a couch to 5k plan. Its a revolutionary ‘start running plan’, with a somewhat insulting name, that’s delivered via smartphone app! The run bursts are very short and gradually build. I was setting goals on my first run like go 1 km, this is more like 30 seconds to start, much more realistic.

So how do you start, really?

I think the key is to commit to a certain extent. Commit to 2 (or three) runs a week of 4 km (3ish miles) until you reach 100 km. Don’t worry about your pace or anything else just get out there. That means 25 runs total, if you don’t like it by then and want to stop, then stop. I also recommend downloading a running app that tracks and progress. I’ve heard strata and map my run might be better but I use Nike Run Club. In your first 25 runs you will move from yellow to orange colour and collect a number of trophies and personal records which is motivating! With in this period you will probably have at least a few good/great runs where you feel powerful and fast. 100 km is not really enough to make you love running but by the end it should be less than totally terrible and should you decide to continue you’ll be well on your way to that floating feeling culminating in a runners high.

So what advice would you add if you had a friend that wanted to try out running in 2017?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: