Exercising more typically tops the bill as the most popular New Year’s resolution, and one of the best ways to starting running. But while the benefits of getting out and staying fit make it simple to get off the couch and hit the road, starting a running routine that you can keep up consistently is not always as easy.
How to Start Running More This Year
1. Make Running a Habit … Not a Hobby
According to Jo Wilkinson, an experienced British Athletics Coach and a former elite runner, the only way to develop a consistent running routine is simply to run consistently.
“Run at the same time and same days each week,” Wilkinson suggests. “If you're running in the afternoon, don’t sit down when you get in from work. Go out for your run straight away or you are more likely to procrastinate and put it off.
Related: 10 Ways to Get Fitter Than Ever in 2022
“If you work from home and run after work, change into your running clothes in the morning. Then, you don't have the excuse of having to change before you get out the door later. Also, set an alarm on your phone to remind you when you are supposed to be going for a run.”
Establishing these simple actions will help you make running a habit that’s part of your daily or weekly life, she says, rather than a hobby that you pick up when you’ve got some downtime.
2. Begin With the Basics: Your Feet
The next step to starting a running routine that sticks is to minimize your risk of injury. Developing shin splints or spraining an ankle will take you off of your feet and out of your running routine, and neither are uncommon occurrences. According to Yale Medicine, around 50% of runners get hurt each year, and that number can rise when the runners are new to the sport and blissfully unaware of many of their limitations.
“So, get a decent pair of sneakers with cushioning and stability to minimize injury until your legs get stronger,” Wilkinson advises.
Not only will good running shoes offer protection around the areas most likely to be injured, but they can also improve performance by increasing flexibility and speed, therefore reducing your total energy loss.
3. Condition Yourself
Investing in the right running shoes isn’t the only way to avoid injury. A proper conditioning program will lower the risk of injuries and help you perform at your full potential.
Calf raises help to strengthen the calf muscle, which can alleviate the possibility of stress fractures and calf strains when you run. And because the calf muscle is responsible for plantar-flexion of the ankle joint, these exercises can help maintain mobility here.
4. Choose a Training Plan
To keep committed to your run, choose a training plan to commit to from the beginning. This way, you’ll know what your goals are each time you get ready to go for a run. Training plans don’t need to be complex. (In fact, the simpler, the better.)
“Aim to run two to three times per week minimum and — ideally — work up to three to four times to build the best fitness,” Wilkinson, who has represented Great Britain in track, road running, and cross country (and finished in the top 20 of the Elite Women’s London Marathon), says.
If you’re a beginner, she suggests opting for the 10% rule.
“This involves increasing your total weekly distance by approximately 10% each week," the former elite runner says. "It’s simplistic, but a good guide for beginners if they don’t have an experienced coach to guide them.”
5. Build Endurance and Pace
After 6-8 weeks of building basic running fitness, you may wish to consider incorporating mixed-pace running into your schedule, Wilkinson says.
Boston-based running coach Mick Grant, who has trained several Olympic trials qualifiers, national champions, and the United Service Organizations (USO) Boston Marathon charity team, agrees.
“Build a base, learn pace, execute race” is Grant’s motto for running newbies.
“You should gradually build miles for endurance and then add in negative splits, running the second half of your run a little faster than the first half,” he says.
Doing negative splits in training will teach you how to manage your energy so that you can pick up pace in the latter part of a run or race.
Grant, who’s also a co-author of the Youth and Teens Running Encyclopedia, recommends making this work challenging whenever possible, as this will keep you consistently engaged.
“Remember that hills are your friend; Don't ignore your friend!” he says.
6. Have a Goal in Mind
Committing to a regular running routine is a fantastic way to get fit and stay healthy. But if you really want your routine to stick, set a goal by signing up for a race. As every Spartan knows, a fixed race date will maintain your focus and keep you on schedule. And there doesn’t have to be just one date on your calendar. Get outside your comfort zone by adding different distance runs to your 2022 to-do list.
If you are a beginner and your aim is to finish your event, the below timescales — courtesy of Wilkinson — are what should be guiding you to build the necessary endurance to complete races of different distances and difficulties.
- 5K to 10K: minimum training period of 8-10 weeks
- Half-marathon: 12-16 weeks
- Marathons and Ultra races: 20-24 weeks
“If you want to run faster, you will be able to make considerable improvements based on the amount of time that you spend running,” she says.
Wilkinson says that there will be setbacks throughout the training process, but if you want to become a runner for life, then you need to accept them.
“Setbacks are inevitable, even for top runners," she explains. "So, try to keep a positive mindset. If you miss one or two runs, don't let that become an excuse to miss more. Get back into your good habits now — not at the start of next week or next month!”