And all your commonly asked questions answered
New runners tend to have a lot of questions when they’re just getting started.
What type of shoes should I wear? How far should I run? Do I need a watch?
I had a ton of questions. Fortunately, I’ve been able to answer a lot of these through practice and experience. A lot of my friends ask me similar questions at the start of their journey, so I put together a list of answers to the most commonly asked questions I’ve seen over the years.
1. How do I get started?
If you are new to running, be sure to slowly ease into it.
You need to give your body time to acclimate to the time on your feet and the stress it puts on your joints, bones, and ligaments.
Start by walking briskly for 15–20 minutes, 3x per week. After a week or two, then start lightly jogging. From there you can slowly move into running.
One key technique is the walk/run, which is varying between walking and running throughout a workout. For example, a 5-minute walk followed by a 2-minute run, repeated 1–3 times. This is a great way to not overstress your body while it’s acclimating to the new form of exercise.
2. How fast should I run?
Start by running, or walking, at a pace that you’d be able to hold a conversation at. At first, this could mean a slow walk (it did for me) or a light jog. Regardless, starting this way allows your body to adapt to the time on your feet and the additional stress put on your bones, muscles, and ligaments.
If you are consistent, you will naturally progress to being able to move faster while still being able to hold a conversation. For example, when I started, my ‘conversation pace’ was about 10 minutes/mile (a brisk walk). After two years of consistent practice, that same conversation pace is 7:30 minutes/mile.
3. How far should I run?
That depends on where you are in your running career. For the most part, I’d say to start with short distances and slowly build up.
Don’t do too much too soon. Give your body time to adapt to the new stresses that running puts on it.
All in all, you want to start with shorter runs and slowly build your endurance and ability to run farther/faster. For example, start by walking for a couple of weeks as noted above. Then for 3 weeks, run 1/2 a mile, 3x a week. Then for 2 weeks, run 1 mile, 3x a week. And then continue to slowly increase your mileage in this way. It will seem too slow/short at first, but it gives your body time to acclimate and prevent injuries.
4. What should I eat?
I think we all generally know how to eat healthily, but the trick is finding the discipline to stick to it.
Stick to the foods that you know to be healthy. Fruits and veggies. Lean protein sources like chicken, ground beef (97/3 if possible), fish, etc. Whole grains and legumes. And at all costs, avoid fast food and highly processed foods like candy and potato chips.
In terms of what to eat while running, for anything under 4–5 miles, you don’t need to bring nutrition with you on the run. Don’t get caught up thinking you need gels or powders — those are really only needed on longer distances.
Focus on staying hydrated (shoot for a gallon a day) and eating healthy and you should be good to go for most runs when you’re getting started.
5. How should I track my runs?
1. Map It
If you don’t have a smartwatch and opt for leaving your phone at home, you can easily use Google Maps, MapMyRun, or Onthegomap.com to create and review your running routes.
2. Phone App
There are a ton of apps that allow you to track your runs — giving you real-time data like time, distance, current pace, and average pace. Additionally, they’ll store your run history so you can go back and review previous runs to compare your performance over time.
To name a few:
MapMyRun (mobile app version)
Apple Activity App
Nike Run Club
Lastly, if you don’t want to bring your phone, most of the apps listed above also sync directly with smartwatches and allow you to run phone-free. There are a ton of options for running watches, but some of the main brands are:
6. Do I need a watch?
No, you don’t need a watch to get started. I recommend starting without one as it allows you to get in tune with your body and how it feels. Oftentimes, I become a slave to my watch and the pace it’s showing me rather than listening to my body and how it feels.
7. What shoes should I wear?
The one thing I’d absolutely recommend is getting a shoe based on your foot type. Each foot type is different, and as such, needs a different type of support. Some feet lean in (pronation), out (supination), or stay neutral. As such, you’ll want to get shoes based on your archetype. There are two main ways to do this:
1. Online Quiz: Go to any of the major running shoe websites (Asics, Saucony, Hoka, New Balance, Altra, etc.). They’ll usually have a foot type quiz and then recommend specific shoes based on what they determined your foot type is.
2. Fitting: This is the preferred option, and for obvious reasons. It’s going to be the most accurate. Go to any running store and they’ll fit you correctly based on the way your foot arches.
8. I’m getting soreness/slight pain in my _______, what should I do?
This one is always tricky. As a preface, it’s your body and you’re going to know it the best. Listen to what it’s telling you. If something just seems not normal, take some time off. Don’t push it. An injury will set you back way farther than a few days of rest will.
That said, when you’re getting started, it’s normal to be a little sore. Running is new and your body simply isn’t used to it. Give your body time to adapt to the new added stress.
The key part is just taking the running slow at first (see #1) and giving your body time to adjust to the wear and tear and stress that running will put on it.
9. What’s heart rate training?
Heart rate training is a great way to train more efficiently and reduce the risk of injury in the process. By training at different heart rate zones (1–5), you’re able to easily identify workout intensities that will produce a variety of results.
For example, HR Zone 1 is an easy effort specific to recovery. Zone 2 is most effective for building aerobic endurance. And Zones 4 and 5 will help increase speed and anaerobic performance.
If you want an in-depth guide to heart rate training, check out the comprehensive guide to HR training!
10. Do I need to track my heart rate?
Short answer — no. If you are just getting started, focus on running at a pace where you could comfortably have a conversation with someone.
That said, to be able to run longer and faster, you have to build your aerobic endurance. And the best place to do this is in HR zone 2, which is usually around 60–70% of your maximum heart rate. Generally speaking, this is a pace at which you can comfortably hold a conversation, but as you progress as a runner, a heart rate monitor might be a good idea.
11. What should I use to track my heart rate?
There are three main types of heart rate monitors:
Wrist-Based (Smart Watch): This could be an Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin, or any of the other various smartwatches that record heart rate.
Chest Strap: This is a wireless chest strap that detects your HR electronically and sends the data back to a wristwatch-style receiver. This option is the gold standard for the most accurate of the three options.
Arm Band: This option would be a small elastic band you put around your arm. While not as accurate as a chest strap, still effective in tracking HR.