First off, walking is your friend. You should NEVER be ashamed to walk. No matter how fast people around you are running, know that you are lapping all the people who are sitting on the couch watching tv. I'm a pretty active woman, but I just couldn't figure out why I got so exhausted so quickly. It was because I wasn't pacing myself. I first started off by running 5 minutes, walking 2 minutes, running 4 minutes, walking 2 minutes down to running 1 minute and then walking 2 minutes to cool down. That's it. And running for those time period was difficult for me. But I forced myself to slow down and jog slowly during the running parts, and walk it off during my breaks. It's much easier to convince yourself to run for 5 minutes before a break than 30 minutes. If that's too hard, alternate walking for 2 minutes and running for 2 minutes. And when you are "running", go slow enough so you aren't gasping for breath. This may not seem as freeing as sprinting at top speed, but you will be able to maintain the exercise longer.
A good way to pace yourself is whether you could say a sentence or not while you are jogging. If you have to gasp between every word, you are going too fast! You will automatically assume you aren't cut out for running and give up entirely. Make sure you go slow! I don't care if you look stupid. You are progressing, and that's all that counts. You can't measure your success against other people. Be proud of the small accomplishments, like when you can run a little bit longer between each walk break.
Another important thing to realize about running is that not every run will leave you feeling great. There will be some you will just have to power through, and that's ok. I have some tips that I've picked up so far to help make your run as enjoyable as possible.
- Eat well- This may not apply to everyone, but I tend to run better when I've been eating healthy all day. Think cereal, oatmeal, salads, pastas, lean proteins, etc. However, I do operate under the 80/20 rule (try to eat healthy 80% of the time, and indulge 20%) so you don't have to be perfect.
- Get the right gear- It's important to get good shoes and socks for you run, not to mention shirts and shorts that will prevent chafing. When I first started running, I kept getting blisters on my feet and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. I changed from normal cotton socks to Nike dri fit socks (Fabric was 58% nylon/41% polyester/1% spandex). It made all the difference.
- Drink a lot of water during the day. This prevents you from drinking a ton of water during your run and feeling it slosh in your stomach. Not exactly a good feeling. Plus drinking water during the day will help you have more energy and help wash away toxins. It also forces you to get up and go to the bathroom during the work day.
- Don't run too fast - see above.
- Stretch before and AFTER. It helps make you less sore, plus it just feels good to give yourself a good stretch.
- Don't run right after you eat. Similar to drinking a ton of water while running, the food will weigh you down and make your stomach upset. I usually try to wait an hour or two after eating a big meal before I start running.
Training for a specific event can help motivate you to push yourself to go further and faster. If you are new to running, a 5K is a great distance to begin with. It is 3.1 miles, which will take you under an hour even if you power walk the whole thing. There are all kinds of training programs online, but I found some commonalities in them. Usually, you run 3 times a week, with one run as your "long" run and then your other two being between 30-45 minutes of running. You build up your long run by a mile or so until you reach your goal distance. You can do yoga/pilates/any form of strength training to help build up muscle to run better on your non running days, but make sure you have at least a day or two a week where you rest. Every program I've seen online makes you rest one day a week in order to give your body a break. Enjoy it!
All in all, running can be a great cardio exercise if you do it correctly. It burns more calories than just about anything else. Plus it's cheap (you don't need a fancy gym membership for it), portable, and universal. I stuck in some quotes that I found inspiring and applicable to running, in case you need some extra motivation. Now get out there and run!