Running can have numerous benefits to both physical and mental wellness, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Although it can be intimidating trying to take on a new activity, running can be adapted to your fitness level and comfort so that you can start practicing it as a strategy for mental wellness without feeling overwhelmed. We hope this blog helps you get started running as a beginner.
If you are just getting started with running, there are several ways you can start incorporating running into your life that will make it a fun and challenging experience rather than an unattainable habit. If you approach running with a positive attitude and open mind, you can reap countless emotional and physical benefits and can gain a new coping mechanism for life’s stressors.
Helpful Tips To Start Running As A Beginner
- Determine a location where you feel comfortable and safe.
- Make a plan for when you will go.
- Decide how far (e.g. one mile) or how long (e.g. 30 minutes) you will run for.
- Set attainable goals for yourself that are not based on your physical appearance.
- Fuel your body before and after with water and nutritious food.
The key to picking up a new habit like running is preparing before you start, both mentally and physically. Plan out your run and take steps to make sure you are comfortable with the plan and feel ready to execute it. Make sure you are well hydrated and have stretched beforehand to avoid injury. Remember that you are in control of how you run, and there is no rule book on how you should do it.
It’s important to remember that running is adaptable and what works for someone else might not work for you. Experiment with different locations and paces to see what makes you feel the best. Figure out whether you like to listen to music while you run or prefer the quiet. Maybe you like running alone or want to find a friend to run with you for motivation and company. There is no right or wrong, just different methods for different people and goals.
Ensure Running As A Beginner Improves Mental Wellness
While running can be a great tool for improving and maintaining mental wellness (we wrote a blog that covers this, you can find it here), it is important to recognize it could just as easily hinder your mental health progress if you aren’t staying aware of the ways you are engaging with the activity mentally and physically. Let’s talk about some ways you can make sure running is improving your mental wellness rather than harming it.
1. Don’t Run for Appearances
Like I said earlier, the goals you make should not be aimed at your physical appearance. It can be easy to associate exercise with its effects on your appearance, but this can be a detrimental way to view physical activity. When we associate running with its impacts on the way we look, we diminish its impact on the way we feel.
While there may be changes to your physical appearance as a result of running, that should never be your goal. Instead, focus on the way running changes your mood, stress, and energy levels. You may even notice physical side effects that aren’t related to the way you look, like feeling stronger and gaining endurance. Focusing on these aspects rather than appearances will help you appreciate your body rather than critique it.
2. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
There is a reason “comparison is the thief of joy” is such a common statement. If you are comparing yourself and your progress to that of others, you might end up feeling disappointed with yourself instead of celebrating where you are at. Running is an individual experience with individual results. The only thing you should use to measure your progress is yourself. Notice how your endurance, strength, and physical and mental wellness is increasing. That is more valuable than how your own progress might measure up against someone else’s.
3. Be Patient with Yourself and Take Rest Days
It takes time to improve as a runner. The only way you’ll be able to reach your running goals is by accepting that it will take time and that you need to care for your body. Rest days are just as important as exercise days. Your muscles need time to recover after exercise in order to get stronger and decrease soreness. Plus, they feel good! Some days it is nice to just rest and care for your body in other ways.
Some days you might run slower or might not make it as far as you did on previous ones, and that is normal. Your performance depends on many factors, including what you ate, how much you slept, and how hydrated you are. It is important to listen to your body and recognize that some days you won’t perform as well as other days, but regardless, you will still benefit from running.
Get Going With Running As A Beginner
While doing the work to prepare beforehand is important, eventually you just need to get started and learn through trial and error, experimenting with what feels best to you. Plus you can check out some apps that can help you track your runs, or even talk you through running workouts that will improve your endurance! I encourage you to make a plan and get going so you can start to feel the emotional and physical benefits of running.
And a friendly reminder, be sure to get cleared by your doctor before you start any new running program.
If you feel your mental wellness could benefit from working with a counselor, we have a team of highly trained counselors that serve central and north Alabama communities. Contact us today to get started!
This article was written by a member of our administrative team, Maggie North. Learn more about Maggie here.