“May I ask a simple question – how did you start running?”

I got an email in my inbox recently, which prompted me to respond to the question of how I started running. Here’s my updated (and long) response.

I started running as a sort of “what the hell” kind of thing. I figured I’d give it a try. I picked up the Runner’s World Guide to Women’s Running and read through the first few chapters. Then I got my gear. I weighed about 195 lbs at the time, and at that point had been easily able to walk 3 mi or more (and often did on a regular basis.) I don’t think that the answer is putting on shoes and going out – it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. Here’s my
personal list of how to approach starting to run:

  1. Know your current skill level. Can you walk for 30 minutes to an hour at a reasonable pace?
  2. Get fitted for running shoes. Expect to spend $85-100. Go to Super Jock and Jill (near Green Lake) or another running store that specifically fits you for your running shoes. They should sit down with you, watch you take a few strides, and have you try on (and take a brief jog) in 4 or so pairs of shoes. Expect to spend about 30 minutes doing this. You will learn about what type of runner you are, and what kind of support you need when running. Don’t pick a shoe because it’s pretty or popular. Pick the one that feels the best, and gives you the support you need. This can help prevent injury.
  3. Invest in a good sports bra. The Moving Comfort bras are my absolute favorite. I recommend Title Nine for fitting if you don’t know what size you are, which is also near Green Lake.
  4. Get a heart rate monitor, preferably one with a chest strap. I use the Polar F11 Women’s Heart Rate Monitor WatchThis will allow you to keep tabs on your heart rate, and will basically tell you when you’re over-exerting yourself, and when you could step it up a bit. This is your best defense against turning red and having someone call 911. That, and getting to know your own limits.
  5. This is optional, but I truly believe it helps – get fancy tech fabric moisture wicking shorts and shirts. I like the Nike Women’s Pacer Running Shorts and Nike Women’s Short Sleeve Pacer Baselayer Shirt. The tech fabric helps lessen chafing, and keeps you cool and dry.
  6. Browse Runner’s World – don’t bother with a subscription. They have some great training programs and tips to get you started.
  7. Optional: Invest in a cold pack for your knees or other tender areas for your post-jog.
  8. Optional: I love my Nike+ Sport Band. It doesn’t do everything I want the gadget to do, but I love the Nike+ website, and I love the gadget. It’s also a low price for such a nifty tool.
  9. Set a goal. Example, “In 12 weeks, I will go to a 5k walk/run (aka “fun run”)”

Disclaimer: Talk to your doctor about starting any training program. This is what I did, your milage may vary! The method I started with was to do my training in a 30 minute block. For the first week, I did 3-4 days of 10 minutes walking at the fastest pace I felt comfortable, then 2 minutes jogging, 2 minutes walking (alternating) until I reached the 20 minute mark. Then, I spent the last 10 minutes walking. This is an 8 week program that gradually brings you up to jogging the full 30 minutes. Another option is to use your heart rate monitor, and find out what your optimal cardio zone is (the monitor should come with this information). Then you go out and walk/run depending on where you are in the zone. If you need to boost your heart rate, you jog, if you need to lower it, you walk.

I did all my run/walking in the neighborhood I lived in, which at the time was basically flat for Seattle. Now I’m in a more hilly neighborhood, so it’s a little tougher to find a good flat route to start on, but I found one that mostly works. Green Lake has walkers and runners of all fitness levels. It can be crowded and intimidating, but you’re not alone. There are people just like you, some even at lower fitness levels, out there doing their thing, going around the lake. Even the fastest runners had to start somewhere. I would think to myself when I’d get self-conscious, “Oh yeah, I know you d think I’m slow, but I’m awesome, I’m out here doing it!” I’m still a really slow runner, but this blog is a testament to my goals. 🙂