5 Easy Ways to (Finally) Start Running

“I’d love to run, but I just hate running!”

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Matt and Erin, with friend and vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke at our booth at DC Vegfest.

Without a doubt, the best part of this weekend, when I got to meet so many of you who stopped by our booth at the DC Vegfest, was getting to really learn what you’re about — what inspires you, what’s going really well for you, and what you’re having problems with.

I like to think of myself as a positive guy, but today, it’s that last part I want to focus on. The problems.

The biggest one: several of you told me you want to be runners, but aren’t. We’ve got to do something about that.

How to fix the problems that keep you from running

If you’d like to be a runner but it’s just not happening, I’ve got some answers to help you get over the five most common obstacles that prevent people from ever starting to run. Here we go.

Problem #1: “The thought of running for even half an hour is overwhelming. I mean, that’s an entire sitcom!”

Solution: Totally. All of us have days when we feel the same way, though for experienced runners it’s more a mental hurdle than a physical one. But if you’re just starting out (maybe you want to run a 5K) and you wonder how you’ll ever train your body to go that long without stopping, here’s what to do.

Get a stopwatch and get yourself outside (or on a treadmill, or wherever else you want to run). Set the watch for half an hour, then start running. Doesn’t have to be fast, just run.

The trick is to keep doing something until the bell rings. Stop when you get tired, but keep walking. When you’re ready to run again, do it, and alternate running and walking until the half hour is up.

If this approach works for you, get a plan (or make one yourself) that gradually increases the length of time that you run, relative to the amount of time you spend walking. Within a few weeks, running for half an hour in the park will be way more fun than watching Parks and Recreation.

Problem #2: “I need to buy _____ before I can run.”

Solution: Running is a neat sport, in that you don’t need all that much stuff to do it. Get just enough clothes to cover your naughty bits and you’re all set. Even shoes are optional, these days.

But if you’d like to start training seriously, you’ll probably want a few things. A watch, a decent pair of shoes, a sports bra if you’re a woman. Socks that won’t give you blisters, a place to record your runs, a water bottle.

Whatever the thing is that you need, don’t let it become your excuse. It’s one thing to keep telling yourself, “I need _____ before I can run,” over and over. It’s another to notice, “I keep telling myself I need _____ before I can run, and yet I never actually do anything about it.”

That excuse is no longer valid. Go get what you need so you can start running.

Problem #3: “Running is boring.”

Solution: Sometimes. Sort of. Especially when you’re talking about 15 or 20 miles. But we’re just talking about a few miles at a time right now, and once you get into the rhythm and get comfortable with running, you’ll probably find what most runners do: the endorphins are completely addictive.

When I was starting out, music was a huge help. Download a few songs you’re ashamed to love — they’re the best for really getting amped up during your run. (At one time or another I’ve had Spice Girls, Hanson, and Kelly Clarkson on my running playlist. So lame, yet so perfect.)

Another idea: If you know how far you’re going to run, use a tool like Gmaps Pedometer to plot a route that actually gets you somewhere. If you’re planning to run three miles, for example, pick a spot a mile and a half away to run to. Starbucks, 7-Eleven, a friend’s house. Even if you’re not going to go in, there’s something cool about running to a place you’ve always driven to.

Problem #4: “I’ll look stupid because I’m out of shape (or because I run funny).”

Solution: This one’s all in your head. Almost no runner is going to judge you for not looking like a runner.

When I drive by someone who is out of shape and struggling really hard to run, it makes me want to run. I want to tell them to keep it up, that it’s awesome that they’re out there getting it done when it’s tough. That feeling of pushing through something, of doing the little things that amount to huge changes, is one almost every runner knows and wishes they could experience more of.

There are runners — some really strong, solid runners — who don’t look like they could run a mile, much less a marathon or an ultra. Sure, we can take a pretty good guess about someone’s ability by looking at their form, but it’s not a judgy thing. Everybody gets it done differently.

If you’re really worried about this, plan your route to be on a quiet trail rather than a busy road until you’re comfortable. But I hope that’s soon, because I’m telling you, nobody cares what you look like. And if you’re running while they’re driving, well, you should be the one smiling to yourself.

Problem #5: “I’d love to run, but I just hate running.”

Solution: Guess what? Almost nobody, the first time they went for a run that wasn’t for some other sport, liked it.

Running is tough. People who enjoy running are those who have done it a lot, those who have gotten used to it and have trained their bodies to do it efficiently and comfortably, without an extreme amount of effort. And for those people, it actually becomes fun.

If you hate running, it’s probably because you’re not yet good at it. If you want to become a runner, you’ve got to accept that the first few runs might not be so much fun.

But your second run will be a little easier than your first. And after a week or two, you’ll start noticing gains.

Your body will change. You might lose a little weight, and your legs will be a little stronger.

And then it will be a little easier. Which leads to more gains, more changes. Soon you’ll look forward to your run; it’ll be your grown-up recess.

And then one day, you’ll realize you’re a runner. That you, the last person on earth who could ever like running, actually like running.

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Comments

  1. Matt,

    Thanks for this post! I’m actually an avid runner who got off training for a half marathon (October 9th, ahh!) because of illness and have put off getting back in my running shoes because, honestly I’m nervous and scared with so much riding on getting some good runs in before the race. This post reminded me that I can’t make excuses, I do love running, and what I love about running is the challenge.

    Best,
    Amanda

    • Are you referring the the Evansville half-marathon?

    • Amanda, I wouldn’t stress too much about getting quality runs in before your race when it’s so close. They’ll certainly be good indicators of your preparedness, but with less than two weeks to go, the focus should be more on rest than trying to build fitness. Good luck in the half! What race is it?

  2. Matt,

    I’ve got the opposite problem. I’m a runner, but would like to start eating better. But like those who wish they were runners and have all these reasons not to, I’ve got similar reasons (aka excuses) why I can’t start eating right – three kids, too busy, would have to cook different meals, etc. etc. Any advice for those of us on this end of the problem?

    Cheers!
    Curtis

    • Curtis, good question. Maybe a future blog post! You may have seen this one I wrote about a pretty simple approach to healthy eating: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/healthy-eating/ There’s not really any getting around the need to cook most of your meals if you want to eat well, so my advice would be to embrace that. There are so many super-healthy meals you can make quickly, cheaply, and in large quantities. It’s a matter of planning more than anything else. Take half an hour on a weekend day to plan meals like this for the week would be my best advice.

    • There are SO MANY resources out there for family-friendly veggie recipes!!!! (Here’s a good kid-friendly one:http://www.vegkitchen.com/kid-friendly-recipes/ ) My big suggestion? Start eating healthy one day a week, and keep your routine the rest of the week. Once you get used to the rhythm of making the healthy stuff, it’s really easy to look at old recipes and realize you can make them better.
      Start with “meatless Mondays”- even if you start with healthy vegetarian pizza or something to ease the family into it- and work your way up. My husband loves his steak, but is lactose intolerant and I’m vegetarian. We end up eating vegan more often than not, and, while I’m still learning, it can really be pretty cool looking at a bunch of “rabbit food” and realizing that it turns into an awesome dinner. Avocados are AWESOME for random experimental veggie recipes!!!
      Hope I’ve helped.

  3. What I love best about this post is that all 5 of these were something I said 2 years ago. Now, I’m a runner and love it. My best advice, suck it up, give it a try, you might actually like it :)

  4. I really recommend some type of “couch to 5 K” program for people who are starting out. Rather than attempting to run 30 minutes from the beginning, you start to run in increments, alternating with walking. If you have a “smart phone”, you can get this program for free on your phone and listen to your music and the program will interrupt momentarily to tell you when to walk/run/cool down. I was *never* a runner, until I did this program. Then I did the program with another person who also was never an athlete. Now I’ve done a couple half marathons! I know many people who have had success. Basically by the end of the 9 week program, you can run for 35 minutes straight.

    • Barry Combess says:

      I did the “Couch to 5k” program and LOVED it! It is the best way to get started without getting burned out or over doing it which can lead to injuries.

    • My husband and I just recently did the Couch to 5K program too. It’s 9 weeks but if you need to take longer you just repeat a week till you’ve got it down. It worked for us! We just completed our first 5K. We did it together and finished together.

      We’d prepared on flat outdoor paths and indoor tracks so when we chose a hilly 5K I was worried. But we did it. And I pushed our son in a jogging stroller!

      The program helped give us a solid beginning and ending with mini-goals along the way. Adding headphones with music helped a lot too.

  5. Matt,
    Great ideas for getting people over the hurdles to start running =) I do especially like the first piece of advice you give about setting your watch/timer for 30 minutes and then just going. It doesn’t really matter how long those running intervals last in the beginning (because they will likely be short), as long as you keep at it. With consistency, anyone can become a runner. I have read countless stories about people who could barely walk a mile, but would run for a block. Then that block became two, then three until they were running for 30 minutes.

    And this was also something I’ve needed to read. I am training for my first half marathon in November and am coming back from a minor injury. This has given me the extra push! Thanks!

  6. RunnerBrett says:

    When I started running two years ago I made two commitments:

    1. No matter how I felt when I came home if it was my designated running day, I had to get out the door and run.
    2. The weather was not a factor in my decision to run.

    Hence, I’ve run in the rain, snow, pummeling hail, heat, dark, bright sun–you get the idea.

    RESULTS
    1. Whenever I went out for a run feeling tired and poopy I ALWAYS came back with a “I Can’t wait until the next time I run attitude.”
    2. Some of my most fun and memorable runs were in the rain, snow, pummeling hail, heat, dark, bright sun–you get the idea.

    I’m now 59 years old. I’ve run 3 marathons this year and have two more scheduled. I’ve run countless half marathons AND I’m vegan too.

    Now, shut up and run (And have fun :-)

    • Barry Combess says:

      RunnerBrett you rock! I just started running seven months ago, (I’m 56) and won third place in my first 5k. My daughter runs every other day with me and she runs half marathons. I’m still thinking about that. I quit eating meat right from the beginning of my training and have never looked back. Now I will shut up and run.

  7. I’ve been saying to myself for about a year now that I want to start running. I tried walking at first – around the more quiet streets of my neighborhood, but got harassed by some of the men that ‘hang out’ in the neighborhood. I see other people (women) running on the busy streets, and wonder if they get harassed too. That’s my excuse anyway – I’ve been doing P90X inside the house, but I really want to get out in the open air. I feel like I need to bring a weapon with me and/or run on busier streets in order to feel safe.

    • What kind of men harass someone walking in the streets of a quiet neighborhood?

      • Matt, more than you might think, sadly.
        Natalie, get a small fold up knife or one of those little mace keychain things if it makes you feel safer. Don’t let those jerks dictate your behavior, and the more public the area, the less likely anyone will act on their stupidity. Just my experience.

  8. Great tips for getting started, but I think the best thing a person can do is just put on shoes and head out the door – without thinking about it. I think when a person starts running they shouldn’t overthink it too much, rather, just go for it. I made (and continue to make at times) that mistake. Overthink something and you get uptight about it, worrying whether everything you do is right or wrong. When you don’t think, but do, things seem to flow better. Some of my best runs have occurred when I didn’t let myself think about what I was doing until a couple miles down the road. I have had a completely unthinking, sign-up-now-ask-questions-later type of year and I have had some of the best – and worst – running of my life this year. It’s been great!

    • Definitely. If you can not overthink it, that’s best. These solutions assume you already are overthinking it, by thinking about the problems I listed!

      • lol – good point. I suppose it’s akin to my mother always telling me don’t worry. If you are going to worry, you are going to worry. Experience is what allows us to shut off the worry (or overthinking, in this case). I guess the best thing a person can have if they tend to overthink things is a friend who runs. Or a running club. Other people have a way of taking your mind off of your excuses. :)

  9. Great solutions! One little tip – If you’re a more well endowed woman, you might want to get 2, or even 3, sports bras to wear at once. Trust me. Most of the sports bras you find in stores aren’t going to properly contain those of us who exceed a C cup. Happy running,yall!

    • yes, good tip! If you don’t, you could get a stiff back or tight neck. I ran this past week and had forgotten all of my ‘equipment’ and was sorry afterward.

  10. Agree with everything here. The best advice is just to get out the door and not worry about distance or speed. Run for 5 minutes. Up it to 7 minutes next week, or 10, or 15. Or run to the end of your street. Next week go a block further, etc.
    My other tip is to put it on paper. I find if I’ve got a schedule to follow, it’s much easier to get out of bed for that run in the morning if that run is on that piece of paper stuck to the fridge.

  11. Jon Weisblatt says:

    One thing I will do to check in with myself is see how I’ve been approaching things, ie have I been saying “I need to go for a run” or “I want to go for a run.” So much is in the ‘tude and mental approach. Treat each day you are healthy as a gift ” I am so lucky to be able to run today.” When I need an asskicking I think of my running buddy who has been fighting ovarian cancer the last 4 years and ehat she goes through almost daily. Then a 5k jog seems like a pretty small hill to climb.

    • Jon this is so true. I get in that mode too sometimes, where I “have” to go for a run instead of realizing that I’m lucky to be healthy enough that I “get” to go for a run whenever I want. Great attitude.

  12. Ryan Wachter says:

    I see in the background of your photo NMA running singlets. How do I get my hands on one!?!?!?!

  13. “There are runners — some really strong, solid runners — who don’t look like they could run a mile, much less a marathon or an ultra”.
    Thanks for this. I’m training for a half-marathon these days and, even though I can now run 5 miles effortlessly(and when I started I could hardly do 1 mile without panting like crazy), I’m slightly overweight with big hips and thighs (I blame my Mediterranean genes :p) so this bit was a big boost to my self-confidence.

    • Awesome, Jenny! Which half marathon are you training for?

      • I had to move and change countries recently, so my running plans have changed abruptly and my schedule has been affected… Right now all I know is that I’ll try to run a 10k at the end of October that is organized by Cancer Research UK and then go on to half-marathon training and try to find a race that fits my schedule. Maybe an anorthodox approach, but I had to adjust to the new circumstances (I’m living in UK now as you can probably tell from the above!).

  14. your added bonus totally sold me on the rebel running guide, i love nerd fitness and nma!

  15. Great suggestions, Matt, thank you. I just finished the Couch to 5K program and could use some extra prompting to keep motivated, especially on those tough run days, like today. My husband and I are actually considering the Rebel Running program to help get even more trained for running. Always look forward to reading, and sharing, your posts :)

  16. Thanks for this post…I’ve been thinking about adding in more running to my workout regime and then I read your post. Your bonus sold me on this – I am purchasing the RRG now as a birthday gift for myself!

    Mahalo!!!!

    Kimi

  17. Ariela Myers says:

    I love #4- very inspiring, especially because I’m one of those “doesn’t look like a runner” people, and I really have to work at it to get it done!

  18. When will the Green NMA T-shirt be available for sales?

    Would love to get my hand on one :)

    Hope it comes in technical version.

  19. This is a great post and I’ll definitely be sending people over here to check it out!

  20. Hi Matt, great post!!! I completely agree with and loved your pieces of advice. If you asked me a year ago if I was a runner I would have laughed and said “definitely not” but over the last year I have really dedicated myself and tonight I finished 5 miles in my best time yet. And the best part? It was awesome. I had a great time and loved every minute… well maybe not every minute. Running will probably always be tough but every run is easier and more fun than the last. Now I just can’t wait til my first 10K on 10/10!!

  21. Great post, Matt! As a runner, I am always super inspired when people who have never considered themselves to be runners start going! I’m going to recommend RRG to some friends.

  22. Valley Veggie says:

    Do you have to buy the deluxe version to get the nutrition stuff from you, or can I buy the bare-bones version instead?

  23. Hey, this looks perfect for me so I bought a copy. Just need to know where to forward the screen print of my receipt so I can get the extra goodies. I can’t find an email address for you here. (it’s entirely possible it’s right there in front of my face).

    ps – LOVE your site!

  24. As someone who had never ran a mile until about 5 years ago, this rings true. I love the Couch to 5k program because it gave me incremental goals to achieve, so I felt accomplishment along the way instead of feeling overwhelmed. I just wanted to run a 5k also… I didn’t expect that years later I would have just ran my third half marathon in 2 years. :-) My body is in much better shape, but my mind has also changed. I’m more open to new possibilities, and all because I put the excuses aside, made a plan, and put in the work.

    P.S. – Those new green shirts look great!

  25. Awesome post! Number five really got to me – so much so that I am going to try running again. I’ve always hated it, but I realize I’ve never really given it the chance to grow on me and become a better runner first. I will finally give it that chance.

  26. Love the green shirt in the picture, can’t wait until they are available through your store!

  27. Hey matt-
    Would love to hear your thoughts sometime on running in the heat/cold. Here in Austin, TX it’s pushing past 100 degrees for much of the year and that make long runs hard unless you get up at 5am (yawn).

  28. Matt,
    I’m trying to do a routine that is 4 run/2 walk for 30 minutes because I have had foot and knee problems this summer, I don’t know what you could say to the people who aren’t running becuase of physical limitations. I’ve read evolution running and chi running to try to help with my problems but it’s kind of hard as I don’t know if I’m doing it right and can’t afford a coach or clinic right now. Then on top of my other problems my calf really bothered me after my last run so I can’t seem to win. I don’t want to go any shorter. It’s hard to believe a year ago I was doing 1 hour trail runs. I’m really considering one of those dual cho pat straps as I saw good reviews on Amazon, maybe someone who reads your column could tell me what they think. I know it’s just a bandage and I am trying to strenthen my quads again but in the meantime so I can at least do some running I would like to see if that will work. If you have advice on injuries I would love to hear them.

  29. Thanks for this posting… #4 really hit the spot with me. I’ve been unable to get back into running since surgery in my left knee (both lateral and medial meniscus) at the end of February. I’ve had the green light for months now, but coupled with being overweight, I worry that I’m look beyond freaky trying to run again, or really mess up my knee again :-/

  30. Jessica J. says:

    When it came to tip #3 I knew that was my problem. Treadmills are not for everyone. I learned to run on the street and absorb the views as I run and started to really enjoy it. My only concern will be handling the cold when the winter comes.

  31. here’s some encouragement to run:
    it’s a (lengthy) write-up of my first ultramarathon (50 miles in 10 hours and 57 minutes) a few weeks back. it was one of the best days of my life!
    in response to the article:
    #1: half hour? try 11 hours! it’s challenging and fun!
    #2: shoes and water bottles. that’s it!
    #3: trails are fun and trail runners are wonderful!
    #4: trees don’t care what you look like!
    #5: check out chi running

    http://yroc.posterous.com/ultramarathon-1-50-miles-in-wisconsin

  32. Matt,
    You don’t mention the duration…30 minutes but how many times a week. My guess that those of us just starting out may have some soreness/stiffness a day or so after. What about stretching?
    Brian

  33. Sara Stanton says:

    I really love this post! I have been that person you talk about, always wanting to be a runner. I have been steadily working my way up to it, being careful not to re-injure my knees and ankles. Being a working wife/mother of three active boys the treadmill helps me on my days I am not at their soccer practice where I run during their practice. I run a little further, a little longer each week and I am surprised how much my endurance is improving. I too have a play list I will not admit to listening to for motivation but will admit that I first starting running while watching Glee! Bad? Maybe but while I watched and walked I decided to run every time they preformed a number. I wasn’t watching the time or the distance on the treadmill, just listening and actually running! I have been keeping up my workouts for an entire month now which is a huge accomplishment for me. I look forward to the day I can officially call myself a runner! Thanks!

  34. I needed to read this. I broke my fibula almost a year ago and have been scared to start running. I have never liked running, but always wanted to, and have decided that it’s time to stop making excuses. I gave up meat a month ago and thanks to some of the recipes listed on the site I am making healthy switches in my meals. So, after reading this blog entry I have decided that I will start a running program and hopefully be able to run a 3 or 5k in the spring. Thank you so much for creating this blog – I find myself on here every day looking at recipes and just learning new and healthier ways to live. Thank you!!!

  35. Hi, about a year ago I was a couch potato, a smoker and completely out of shape. I have NEVER been a runner, even as a kid. Now I’m running in 5k’s and working up to 10k’s. When I started running I HATED it and to be honest, it took me a while to actually start enjoying running but I’m so glad I stuck with it. I recently had a medical check up and passed with ridiculously good numbers.
    When I started I felt dumb, chugging along and panting after 10 minutes. I got discouraged. I didn’t think I could do it. But I kept at it and gradually got better. Believe me, if I can do it ANYONE can do it. Please don’t be discouraged if you’re starting out. Keep at it and you will be glad you did!

    • Also, I’d like to second some of the comments that mention the couch to 5k program. That’s what I did and it worked great!

  36. What would you suggest for someone like myself, whose shins are screaming after I jog or run for any short length of time (i.e., more than just “racing” my 5-year-old). That’s been one of my main reasons for not running, that and the potential wear-and-tear on my knees that I’d like to avoid.

  37. Ok so I freely admit I’m not a runner. Ran track in high school, but only relays….and I’ll be 45 in a couple months so needless to say high school was a LONG time ago!
    Crazy me decided to do a triathlon this September ( don’t swim very well either)…
    Ive frequented our site quite a bit over the past 8 months since switching to a vegan diet, your recipes are great! I love your email updates, very inspiring and encouraging.
    I am gonna pick up a copy of the rebel running guide to get me going, any extra nutrition tips would be greatly appreciated!

  38. Just a week ago started the couch to 5K program. I have always felt it would feel “freeing” to run but just procrastinated until now. I find that it’s hard for me to start my run but once I’m out I’m so glad I did! Then next thing I know I’m done and I feel great. It so amazes me how fast the body adapts to what we put it up to as long as it’s not over done and it’s paced. I know I’m just a baby at the running thing and just starting out but I have improved a tiny bit and know if I just keep consistent with it I will be able to reach my goal of a half marathon! So i’ll keep reading ur site and info to keep me motivated and moving forward getting better each time! Thanx for ur info…I love it!

  39. So does anyone have advice for someone who can’t even run 30minutes.? More like, I can run 1 minute and then I have to walk. I look, physically, on the thin side and like I would be in shape, but that is an awful indicator, clearly. Help!

  40. Can’t email you back help me!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] that’s it. I was ready to give up altogether on running when I came across this quote over at No Meat Athlete: If you hate running, it’s probably because you’re not yet good at it. If you want to [...]

  2. [...] of 14  Exercises for the Terminally Busy. Or Matt Frazier from the No Meat Athlete’s easy guide to start running. He has great guides to running your first half and full marathon as well if your ready to go [...]

  3. [...] you started running this year and you haven’t yet trained through a winter, don’t let the cold weather [...]

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