How to start running

June 24, 2024
woman running. Have you wanted to start running? Colorado is a great place to get started by using these tips.
Running is affordable, and it’s a great way to stay healthy and explore your area. Learn how to start running today. Photo: Getty Images.

Do you ever look longingly at people out jogging around your neighborhood or runners speeding past you on a trail?

Do you yearn to start running or resume a long-lost habit?

Now is the perfect time to try running. Anyone of any age can take up running, and once you get going, you’ll enjoy seeing places outside you probably never thought you’d view, sleeping better at night and feeling a sense of accomplishment that can get you through life’s rougher moments. You may even find a new community.

Learn tips on how you can start running.

Why is running such a great form of physical activity?

  • Running is affordable — You don’t need to join a gym, and a new pair of running shoes is all you’ll need to get going.
  • Running is a great way to see your city, town or area — You’ll discover parks, natural areas and get a closer look at your neighborhoods. You can enjoy changes during all seasons like seeing flowers bloom in the spring and holiday lights sparkling in December.
  • Running is a great way to bond with your dog
  • Running is a great a way to help with your mental health — Running combines the physical benefits of exertion with the mental therapy of being outside.
  • Running gets you involved in the community It gives you a chance to run in big holiday races and small charitable events, as well as joining running groups and making new friends.

How do I start running?

  • Run a short distance — Just around the block or around your favorite park is a good start.
  • Take walk breaks.
  • Set attainable goals that will push you but not too much — Try to run for one minute without stopping, then a couple, then keep pushing that up for a couple weeks until you can run a mile.

The last time I tried to run I hated it. Why would this time be any different?

You may have hated running because you were running too hard.

This is a mistake that most new runners make, so don’t feel bad. Running too hard is such a common mistake that many veterans make it too.

Most of your runs — more than 75% of them — should be easy. Easy, in this case, means running slowly enough that you can hold a conversation with someone, or you’re barely breathing hard. You shouldn’t be panting, gasping or choking.

Beginners may feel as if they are gasping all the time, so run really slowly, and take breaks to walk. Yes, walking is great too and allows you to catch your breath. Keep at it. In just a couple of weeks into your run routine, you’ll be able to maintain a pace that allows you to run without gasping for air.

Do I need to join a gym?

Some people like running indoors. So, if you like working out at a gym, that’s fine. But one of the many benefits of running is that you can do it anywhere. Even spending as little as 15 minutes exercising outdoors has enormous benefits. If you already belong to a gym, work on strength training, but leave the treadmill for rainy days.

Where should I run?

Looking for somewhere to run? Check out these accessible trains and natural areas in Colorado. Or, these hikes with dogs have some easier running trails.
It’s fine to run around the neighborhood at first, but it’s ideal to go to a park or, even better, a natural area with trails. This will get you off of concrete sidewalks and onto soft surfaces, which will be easier on your body. Plus, you might experience a fun, healthy bonus of seeing some wildlife and listening to birds. Soft surfaces are one of the best ways to prevent aches and pains and engage your brain as well as your body. Google “Natural areas near me” or “Best places to run near me” and see what pops up.

I’m nervous about going alone. Do you recommend joining a running club or running with a friend?

Although attacks from people or wildlife are rare, it’s wise to be safe. Here are ways to stay safe while running outdoors:

  • Ask a friend to start running with you.
  • Search for online walking or running groups in your area.
  • Try contacting your local recreation center or health department to see if they have any groups.
  • Another option for finding running buddies is to check with your local running store. Be sure to join a group where you’ll find runners who are also beginners. Runners generally try to be welcoming and encouraging, but beware of the “all paces welcome” slogan. Ask the leader if it’s common for anyone to be left behind. Beginners tend to be slower than these groups and being left behind is discouraging.

All of these efforts to find running partners may seem intimidating, so if you want to run alone, have a loved one track your location through your phone and try to run in well-lit, populated areas during daylight without headphones. This description fits many of the more popular parks in any area.

You can bring a whistle, something sharp on your keyring and, better yet, your dog, who would love to get outside with you.

One last tip: be fierce and pay attention. Run or walk with your head up, with a confident stride, and look aware of your surroundings. This alone can discourage anyone or any animals from messing with you.

If you do encounter wildlife or suspicious people, help other runners in the community by reporting any issues to police or wildlife officials.

How many times a week and minutes of running should I do?

Running three times a week is enough, and see how it goes. You can run for a certain time, say, 20 minutes, or a distance, say a couple miles. Walk as much as you need to, especially at first. Eventually you may want to push yourself to do a run where you don’t walk, but for now, start easy and give yourself some grace. Running isn’t easy.

When should I run?

There are actually many great benefits to heat training, but running in 98-degree temperatures is not only miserable, it can be dangerous. Colorado has beautiful cool mornings that feel like spring even in the middle of July. So get up early and start your day off with a great run. It will energize you all day.

Or, if you’re a night owl, it usually cools off after 7 p.m. and you can take advantage of evening light to squeeze in a run.

How do I train for a race?

You can talk to a friend, search online for training plans or do a long run once a week. If you want to complete a half marathon, for instance, logic dictates that you can run a little longer every weekend until you reach, say,10 miles.

Don’t overdo it. Ideally, you’ll want to increase your long run by just one mile each week.

If you want to train like an expert, you can run hills if you know you’ll be attempting a hilly course, such as the Bolder Boulder 10K, or run downhill if you’re running a “fast” race.

The best way to train for a race is by running. It sounds simple, but consistent running is better than any plan, coach or workout. (Learn about great 5Ks and other runs in Colorado.)

What shoes do I need to buy?

Getting high quality running shoes is absolutely essential. Running is a relatively affordable sport, but you’ll want to invest in the best shoes you can afford. The best way to find the right shoes is to go to a running or specialty shoe store. Ask for help, and get fitted. In the ideal world, a good service person will offer to watch you run and recommend a shoe based on your gait. The best stores have excellent return policies. Some will allow you to try a shoe, and if you go out and run and find the shoe doesn’t work, they’ll allow you to exchange or return the shoe. It’s worth paying more up front to be sure you get the right shoe.

High quality shoes are not cheap. Asking for last year’s models and finding deals online can help, but it makes a lot of sense to spend a bit more on your shoes and support your local running store. It’s a good investment in your city, your running community and the many races and local charities they likely support.

The good news? You likely only need a couple pairs every six months or so, even if you run 30 miles a week. After you run, change out your running shoes to ensure they last longer.

Try not to fall for gimmicks, marketing campaigns and fancy colors. Go for comfort for your foot and your gait. Most people find that a particular brand works for them, and they can stick with their favorite shoe over the long run.

How can I stay motivated to keep running?

As Han Solo says, well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? The more you run, the more you’ll get hooked on running. Here are some ideas for staying motivated:

  • Find a friend — If your alarm goes off at 5 a.m., you’ll groan and grumble, but if you know someone is waiting for you, you’ll get there and once you get going, you’ll be glad you went for a run.
  • Set a goal, and write it down — Running, more than any other sport, offers chances to see what you can do. There are races of all distances, even marathons and beyond, and you can try to set a personal record (or PR as runners say) in all of them and then break it. There are an infinite number of time goals, distance goals and goals you can make up yourself, such as beating that goofy guy who dresses up in the turkey outfit every year in your favorite Thanksgiving race.
  • Take pride in your progress — For new runners, working up to the point where you can run your first 5K without stopping is a huge accomplishment. Once you reach that level of fitness, chances are you’ll want to keep working and keep running.
  • Pay attention to how you feel, not how you look —It’s possible that you’ll be able to once again fit into that Metallica concert T-shirt from high school, but instead, take note of how much more energy you have in the afternoon, or how that 50th e-mail from your boss doesn’t seem quite as annoying, or how much better you sleep at night. Weight loss is only one of the many possible benefits from running. Enjoy all of them.

About the author

Dan England has worked for Colorado media for 25 years, including 20 at the Greeley Tribune. He's won more than 100 state and national awards, including Best of Show from the Colorado Press Association in 2015. Dan loves to write about the outdoors, as they are not just a job but an adventure. He has completed more than 20 marathons and 20 ultramarathons in addition to climbing more than 200 peaks, including all the 14ers in Colorado and Mount Rainier in Washington. He is a running coach, specializing in ultramarathons, and is certified by the UESCA. Dan is married to Valerie Vampola, a professional singer, and has three children, Jayden and twin girls, Andie and Allie, and a heeler, Pepper, who ran her first trail marathon last year in western Kansas.