In my profession as a physical therapist, I frequently meet people who say “well, I was never a runner,” or “I wish I could run.” Sometimes, clients mention that they would like to have a regular exercise routine, or they hunger for a reason to exercise, but running seems too big a commitment. It’s an evolution going from “I tried running today” to “being a runner,” a transformation that comes about slowly with each venture out or time on the treadmill. The evolution comes first from dipping your foot in the pool. Running is a fantastic exercise. It is a time-efficient way to burn calories; someone who weighs 130 pounds will burn upward from 550 calories per hour, and even combined walking/jogging burns 350 cal/hour. Running requires minimal equipment, and it’s not dangerous. In a 2017 study, authors proved that recreational runners were at no higher risk for the development of knee arthritis than nonrunners; in fact, they were at lower risk! Most importantly, running offers a community, opportunities to set goals, and occasions to interact with others.
I “was a runner” for many years of my life. I trained and competed in high school and college, and, after stepping away for a few years at the start of my career, I returned to running by competing in road racing. Over the years of raising my family, competition fell to the wayside, and it was hard even to enter a race as a “middle of the packer,” how high-level runners refer to the other 90% of runners. Then some friends and family members asked me to help them train for half-marathon and marathon races. I trained and ran with them- and this renewed my enthusiasm for running. Because there is something extra special about running with a group of people at different levels and with different interests. It’s pretty cool to share the camaraderie and to realize the joy of accomplishing something, even if it’s just to finish a mile or complete a race or tick off your 3x/week goal.
How do you become a runner? You just start!
- A good pair of shoes is important, and now there are many affordable resources. My recommendation is that you start at a true running store or at least a store that will let you take a jog, to find the best fit. Once you get the features for the best shoe/fit, you can bargain hunt online.
- Get some guidance. There are many training programs available online. If you’ve never run or haven’t for a while, I would suggest a program that combines walking and jogging and doesn’t increase total mileage by more than 10% per week. Also, 3 days per week of running is plenty; the frequency will help you avoid overuse injuries and allow time for cross-training and weightlifting, both effective ways to strengthen your running efficiency.
- Join a local running club. Often, they have a wide variety of skills and experiences, and they are always very supportive in welcoming someone new.
- Sign up for a local race. A 5K race is 3.1 miles, a distance that can be completed by many beginners. At a 5K race, you will find a number of walkers and walking/jogging participants. The enthusiasm, support, and social atmosphere are contagious!
Anyone can be a runner! It’s a mindset and an entry into a welcoming, inclusive group of friends you never knew you had!