Running for Dummies

A friend sent me a Facebook message the other day:

Dude. I want to learn how to run. Turns out? I know nothing about running and I don’t think I could run away from a bear if my life depended on it. That’s patently not good. You learned how to run. How did you learn how to run?

I was touched that she asked me this. I’ve mentioned before – I hate running. Also, I am still about 50 pounds overweight. I am no one’s idea of the ideal runner.




So it meant a lot to me that she thought I could point her in the right direction. I realized that, though I am definitely not an expert or an elite coach, I might be the perfect person to help those who are just getting started. If you are intimidated by the prospect of running, or think you don’t know how, guess what? You can totally do this. God’s honest truth, (at least at the non-competitive level) there is nothing to learn, and anyone who tells you differently is pulling some emperor’s new clothes shit with you. You know walking? Do it faster.


Here are the things about running that I find to be true and helpful:

1. Walk/run intervals. Start with something like Couch-to-5k that slowly introduces more and more bouts of running into a 30 minute walk, or get a watch with an interval timer (I like this one) and start out jogging for 1 minute, then walking for 1 minute, and gradually up it as you get more comfortable (3:1 is comfortable for me for long distances).

2. Good shoes. Go to a running store, have them observe your gait and suggest some shoes.

3. Groups. If you’re going for anything more than like 5 miles, it’s so much better to do it with other people. Find a road runner group or a marathon training program.

4. Pace doesn’t matter. Go slow at first (or forever). It’s all good.



20 thoughts on “Running for Dummies

  1. Going slow was a huge thing for me. Half the reason I hated running for years is that I would never do a slow jog — I would run really fast for a short distance and then feel terrible. “How do people do this for miles?” I would wonder. “There must just be something wrong with me.” And now (with your help!) I’ve worked my way up to sort of reasonable speeds for a noob!

    • You are a better runner than you give yourself credit for! That’s the thing, I think a lot of people go “I’m not good at this” and give up. If you’re not racing for prize money, what does it matter how fast you go? You still burn a ton of calories and get all the health benefits jogging 5mph.

    • pacing is key – was taught to me very early on when i ran long distance track in school. it’s not about how fast you get there (well, in the meets it makes a difference), it’s about listening to your body and being in tune with its pace, not pushing it or slowing it down. i do miss running, but my knees and shins don’t 😉

    • Funny story: Lauren currently doesn’t like P.E. class. They warm up by running and walking around the gym. She complains that it wears her out too much. I pointed out that she could run slower. The girl looked at me like I had three heads. (For reference, she’s pretty fast… almost always outpaced the other kids on the soccer field.) ‘Course, this is also in line with her personality – go big or go home. heh.

      • That IS funny!

        I think maybe the general thought is that running means “going as fast as you can.” They beat that out of us REAL quick in the marathon training program. Gotta keep something in the tank!

      • i read pace doesn’t matter then said pace was key, haha! i love the pic though of how you feel and what you look like – i always imagine i look like ben cross in chariots of fire when i run, much like i envision myself looking like andre agassi when i play tennis – both are probably far from reality!

  2. I can totally relate to this. I hated running before because I always end up catching my breath. End goal before was just to keep running and go on a faster pace. It was not until my friend invited me to go on a group running that I realized that it’s not about running fast but it’s about pacing 🙂 So I also suggest to go and find a group to help you get started and meet new friends.

  3. Not sure why it won’t let me reply to you – maybe wordpress has a thread limit? But here’s what I was going to say:

    Ohhhh. No, I get it – it doesn’t matter the way we typically think it does (you don’t have to run fast). It matters more in the ‘pace yourself’ kind of way.

  4. There is no failure in needing to walk- hey you’re still moving. In fact I just walked the last half mile of my run because 4.5 was way more than I was ready to do.

    • So true. Also, I read that even at elite levels, runners who incorporate quick (30 second) walk intervals every mile or so tend to improve their time. So it’s not even about NEEDING to walk, but working/resting different muscle groups and improving performance. I love intervals!

  5. I’ve loved that graphic about the running since I first saw it–thanks for sharing! This is great advice. When I first started running I did run/walk intervals and gradually ran more and more each time.

    • I know, when I started writing this one I was like “I’ve got to find that!”

      It really makes you feel like a badass when you build up endurance, doesn’t it?

  6. What a great picture, made me laugh because I’m pretty sure that’s me as well. I sure think I’m looking good when running and when people stare I’m always thinking its because they are admiring the form, not because they are wondering if they should call the ambulance now or wait until I drop.

    • Haha! That’s awesome. I’m always worried they’re thinking “what’s that fat girl doing here?” but really, everyone is focused on themselves.

  7. I am the friend who cannot run away from the bear but is looking for leverage in my inevitable confrontation with a bear in Southern California. Gina was entirely helpful in her response. The reason I asked Gina is that she’s not a runner who tumbled out of the womb able to ultramarathon, which I respect but I just can’t relate to that level of runner. And they sure as hell can’t relate to me, either. It’s difficult to write out a compliment about this to you, Gina, because everything sounds like I’m trying to say that your life was less somehow before you embarked on changing it. It wasn’t; it was just a different kind of a life. But that’s the thing I think that I admire about this- your life was a different flavor and then you decided to kind of get crazy with it and see what else you could add to the assortment. Running, as it turns out, was one of the ways that you got from A to B and well, so can I.

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