How to start running: Your first week

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So you decided to start running? If so I congratulate you on this decision, you won’t regret it! If not maybe I can convince you with this post.
To get you started I want to outline in this article what you can and should do in your first week of running to help you get a great start in this wonderful activity. This article is intended for people not doing any physical exercise at all for at least a year. But as always it might also be beneficial to read it if you come from another sport or if you already were running years ago.

Preconditions before you run

For someone completely new to running and endurance sports I recommend that you see a physician to check your cardiovascular system and your heart to make sure you are healthy enough to conduct in regular endurance exercise. Please take this seriously as I want the best for your health and your goal should be to enjoy your newly found hobby for years to come and not suffer any medical issues from it. The best thing would be a full body check at the doctor before you start your running career.

Another topic I want to raise here is weight. Running is a great way to reduce body weight but if you’re overweight and want to reduce fat with running you have to be very careful and start out slowly. Remember that on every step you take when jogging the force hitting your joints is  about 2.4 times your weight! Depending on your situation it might make sense to start with swimming or cycling. These two sports will start training your endurance while it protects your joints. Another thing that you can do is strength training to increase your muscle volume. This will end up in a higher standard metabolic rate than can help you lose weight as well.

Running equipment

One of the great things about running is that you don’t need much equipment to do it. There is so much equipment sold from shoes over heart rate monitors up to special bags. Most of it is very useful depending on your needs but bear in mind that humans started running thousands of years before the shoe was invented. In fact you can just step outside and start running however I suggest that you at least put some pants on since running bare naked is not tolerated in most places 🙂

So what about shoes: For most runners this is the most important piece of equipment and I agree. However if your feet are not used to running shoes and you have a soft ground to run on it might be good for you to start out barefoot because it supports a good stride and strengthens your feet muscles. I promise that I will dig into the whole barefoot running debate later on in this blog, so come back or subscribe to the newsletter if you want more information on that. If you are uncertain and already want to buy a shoe that fits you go to a good sports outlet that offers foot analysis and consulting in order to sell you something good for your own personal biomechanics.

The first run

So you stand right at the doorstep ready for your first run without any idea how to start. Just be aware that the running stride is completely new to your body so it’s wise to go slow. Start out with some fast walking for around 5 to 10 minutes to get your muscles warmed up. If the temperature is very low make sure your warmed up before you start jogging to avoid any strains. If you feel ready start running slowly for about five minutes. Remember you don’t need to break any world records on your first run so going slow is the way to go. Run at a pace that increases your heart rate and makes you breathe a little faster but don’t overdo yourself. After these five minutes stop running and just walk for around two minutes. This will slow down your heart and give you time to catch a breath. If you feel a bit recovered run again for five minutes followed by a two-minute walking break. I suggest that you do this routine for three of four times on your first run.

If you’ve done the above described exercise then congrats, you just did not only your first run but also your first interval training. Interval training is a training routine usually used to get faster. I will definitely write at least one post about that later. So why do I think this is a good idea to start like this and not just run straight for 15 to 20 minutes? Since running is new to your body you should focus to not over-stress it in the beginning. Your body will use the walking breaks to recuperate from this first workload and you can also catch a breath if you started out to fast. Your motivation will benefit from this since feeling good and not overcharged is key on your first runs.

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Recovery is one of the most important things in any training! With the exercise performed you stimulated your body, your cardiovascular system and muscles, and in the time after you let the body recuperate and react to that stimulus. If you train again before your body fully recovered you risk a negative effect usually referred to as over-training. This can be very frustrating so it is crucial to take small steps in the beginning. If you do so you will see solid improvement in your fitness and endurance abilities after a couple of runs.

So what can you do during the recovery phase?

  • – Get enough sleep
    As a rule of thumb try to get half an hour of additional sleep for every hour you were running.
  • – Eat healthy food and drink enough
    Always keep your hydration level up. Drink half a liter of water after your run. The used calories can be replaced by vegetables and fruits in your first week of running. As your mileage increases, bread, pasta and potatoes are good choices.
  • – Stretch
    Stretch your calves, quads, hamstrings and hip muscles for at least 30 seconds each one hour after your run.
  • – Get a massage
    This is optional but massages are great to increase blood flow to your muscles so they get supplied with the needed nutrients.
  • – Wellness
    Also optional but sauna or a whirlpool will relax your muscles and your mind.


Analyze your run

One thing I love and is also beneficial to your progression is reflecting on your training. First and most important is to check how your body reacts to the run. Do you feel any pain anywhere? Are your muscles sore and if so for how long? How did you sleep the night after your run? If you review your runs regularly you will raise your body awareness making you able to decide when you are recovered and ready for the next training session.

As person with a strong IT background it is not surprising that I’m one data loving guy. That also impacted my training as I try to collect as much data as I can. The most important bits of information are the heart rate, distance and time. Gathering this data will enable you to compare your runs and check your progression. This is not just useful if you are training towards a specific goal but also very motivating when you see that your training runs actually have an effect. Most runners nowadays use their smart phone with sport apps like Strava, Runtastic or RunKeeper. These apps will help you track your distance and times as well as connect you with other runners. I strongly recommend you to use a heart rate monitor from day one to not only measure your pulse during training but also compare your resting heart rate. There are a lot of different devices for any budget and also the newer smart watches are able to measure your heart rate.

The rest of the week

You completed your first run and are now fully recovered and ready for more? Great, most people don’t even get that far. So what should be your next step? I suggest you repeat your first run but add one more interval to it. If you did three times five minutes of running followed by two minutes of walking you do this four times now. After that give yourself another two days of recovery. Let’s say your first run was on a Monday and your second on a Wednesday you might do another training session on the weekend. This does not have to be a run to avoid over-stressing your locomotor system. You can go for a fast walk for half an hour or ride your bike or go for a swim.

At the end of your first training week look back at what you accomplished and give yourself a high-five! This now officially allows you to swag in front of your not active friends. After you enjoyed your early achievements I advice you to analyze your runs. Check your training logs or look on Google Maps how far you were running and how long it took you. Set a realistic goal for next week or start dreaming about a race you want to participate in as this will keep your motivation up in the early days.

How to go on from here

So how does it feel to be a runner? I hope you had a good first week of running and are ready to go further. On the second week you can try to cover the same runs and distances as in the first week but run straight and don’t do intervals. If you can achieve this you are already able to run for 20 minutes which is great and more than most other people in the industrialized world can do. When running without a break you can also verify your pace. A good rule for most of your training is to run at a pace where you are still able to have a conversation without being breathless.

How you plan the next weeks depends on what your goals are. If you want to increase the distance you can run straight you also need to increase your training mileage. And if you want to run faster you have to add faster runs to your training. Whatever you want to achieve take it easy and don’t let your enthusiasm take full control over your reasoning. Give your body time to adapt to the new workload. You shouldn’t increase your weekly distance by more than 10% and faster, more intense runs should be not more than 10% of the training volume in the beginning. Also I recommend that every third or fourth training week you just run 50% to 60% of the distance before adding more miles to your runs. Every body is different and yours might be able to handle more so the above stated rules are more a guidance than an exact schedule. Just listen to the signals your body gives you and react appropriately. If you do so running will give you a lot of pleasure, rewarding experiences and a much better fitness level.

I hope I was able to give some useful information to start your running career and I’m looking forward to read about your experiences in the comments section. For even more information please come back to this Blog in the coming weeks and months and subscribe to the newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything:

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Happy running


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