How to Start Running and Make it Your Daily Healthy Habit

Updated August 24, 2021 by Iulian Ionescu | Read Time min.
how to start running habit

If you ever thought about running, you’re not alone. On the other hand, if you’ve always dreaded running, you are not alone either. Running has a strange relationship with humans, so it feels rather weird to think about a need to start running since our species has been running since the beginning of time. The problem is that our modern-day life has transformed due to technological advances, and now, we don’t need to run. Heck, we don’t even need to walk anymore. Running has become a bizarre commodity, almost like something that you either have or do not have. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Despite what you may have been told, it’s not that difficult to start running and develop a healthy running habit.

Should You Start Running?

There are many scientific research papers and studies that highlight the undeniable benefits of running. However, the more you search in the depths of the dark web, you’ll start finding “proof” to the contrary.

I put proof in the quotes because such evidence is often biased. After all, it only presents a particular problem and doesn’t apply to everyone unless they meet specific criteria.

If you read the studies conducted over many years following runners and non-runners, you’ll eventually conclude that running is great for you, but you need to approach it with care and safety in mind.

For instance, no matter how healthy swimming is, you should never swim inside a shark tank. Similarly, running has its own set of rules you need to understand before you start running.

One of the most critical pieces is to assess your body and overall health. I am not a medical professional, so you should not take my advice as such. Instead, I highly recommend checking in with your doctor before taking up running or any other strenuous physical activity for that matter.

Your primary doctor will take a complete set of tests, evaluate your health, and provide you with some guidelines for your new exercise regimen. It will depend on multiple factors, such as prior injuries, heart condition, joint problems, etc.

Regardless of feeling in the best shape of your life, if you’ve never run before and want to start running, check with your doctor first and get a green light for this type of exercise.

“Running is the quickest endorphin hit I can get. I like to do it really early in the morning, before everyone gets up. It gives me a clear head and sort of resets the clock. It’s like, ‘OK, I got that out of the way. Now I can deal with people.’”Julie Bowen

running jogging bridge

Mental Preparation Before You Start Running

Running is one of the most accessible sports to practice. It doesn’t matter where you are or even what you wear; you can start jogging. It’s as simple as that, on the surface.

However, we are not discussing a simple jog once in a blue moon. Here we focus on how to start running and slowly morphing it into a healthy running habit that might even turn into a lifelong routine.

When you’re talking about habits, you’re talking routines and patterns. There will be a set of things you need to learn and practice for it to be more than just something you do on a whim.

What Are Your Goals?

The very first thing you need to ask yourself is: what are my goals? Why do you want to run? Here are some answers off the top of my head:

  • lose weight
  • improve health
  • compete in races
  • raise funds for a cause
  • have better energy
  • exercise inexpensively

I’m sure you can come up with more. Like with any vision setting, it’s essential to know why you want to do something. That establishes the purpose, and the purpose will serve as powerful motivation down the line.

So, before you take a step, write down why you want to start running. You can have one reason or more. Let your mind flow and write what you feel.

“It makes me feel like I can conquer anything that comes at me. I’m never tapped out. I’m never tired around my two kids. I owe a lot of that to running.”Travis Barker

Motivation for Running

Motivation is a twisty concept often misunderstood. Most people assume that motivation comes first and keeps going for as long as it’s needed. That is only half the truth.

Motivation appears at the start of something new by virtue of that novelty. It’s a feeling you get before you step into something unknown, so long as you’ve set up your goal and you know why you want it.

But, as time goes by, if you don’t keep pushing, motivation will dwindle. The novelty loses its appeal. The lack of immediate results will cast a shadow of doubt over what was once motivating.

That happens a lot with running because creating a running habit is a long process that requires a constant increase in the challenge level.

To mitigate this problem, I highly recommend that anyone contemplating a running habit join a runners group. You can probably find one or more running clubs in any city, and even if there are none in your town, look around. You’ll find something, even if it’s online or as a Facebook group, although I much rather prefer it to be in person.

Having a group of people around you involved in the same task as you could be ten times more motivating than you trying to psych yourself into doing it.

I know that for me, joining the Clifton Roadrunners Club was the difference between me giving up and keeping on.

Being part of a group will be particularly helpful on those off days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed. If your runners’ group organizes a group run followed by breakfast at a diner or bagels in the park, you’ll feel different. Motivation will be there no matter what.

Running Habit

If you’ve read a bit on the science behind creating good habits, you know that what you repeatedly do eventually becomes a habit. However, there’s a lot more to habits than that. One of the critical pieces of any habit is the cue.

When it comes to running, cue becomes very important. As I said above, motivation will start to wither after a while. Your goal is to create the habit before the motivation disappears completely. At that point, you don’t need motivation anymore because the routine has taken its place.

That’s why I recommend that you create your running plan with the habit in mind. That means creating a pattern that works for you, which involves a time of day, the kind of clothing you wear, what you listen to while running, etc.

An example of a pattern could be: run every morning at 7 am for 30 minutes, run Saturday at 8 am for 1 hour, and rest on Sunday. While running, listen to the next chapter in the current audiobook.

That is just an example. The point is to schedule this pattern and make it a priority. Don’t allow running to be something you do once you have time because that defies the purpose.

Instead, be deliberate and define your pattern with intent (more about some standard patterns following).

Physical Preparation for Running

Now that you’ve got your mind right and feel mentally ready to start running let’s look at some of the more practical things you need to do before running your first mile.

“There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighbors you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.”NIKE

running gear for runners

Running Gear for Beginners

Once again, running is easy. You can probably do it today using the gear (clothes and shoes) you have in the house. However, I do recommend doing a handful of investments before you start running. Your shoes will be the most expensive item; everything else will be cheap or optional.

Running Shoes

If you are serious about running and plan to keep going, I highly recommend investing in a pair of good running shoes. Depending on your foot, gait, balance, you may need different types of shoes. That is outside of the scope of this article, but if you want to learn more, I recommend reading this article on the 5 Main Types of Running Shoes to get a gist. The easiest way to deal with this is to look for running shoe stores in your vicinity, such as RoadRunner Sports.

The store will take a blueprint of your foot and analyze how you put your weight as you step, and recommend the type of shoe you need.

Having the right shoe will improve your running, prevent injuries, and lessen your pain.

Running Clothes & A Warning

Although you can run in anything, I recommend getting a few sweat-absorbent shirts and a few cold-protective ones. If you run in all climates, you have to make sure you have the right clothes for the right temperature.

One item I found very useful is a pair of gloves when the weather is frigid. The last thing you want is to have frozen fingers and be two miles away from home.

And here’s the warning I wanted to talk to you about. It’s chafing. Indeed, it’s a thing. Runners know it, but you might not. There will be parts of your body (including your nipples!) that will chafe, and it will hurt like a bitch; excuse my French.

Try different types of clothing and see what works best for you. You can buy some creams to lessen the chaffing, but I wouldn’t worry about that for shorter runs.

If you start going after half-marathons and up, please do yourself a favor and research this issue, especially the nipple protection. I learned it the hard way…

Trackers For Your Run

Although this is optional, I highly recommend having some method of tracking your runs. You can accomplish that with an app, such as Strava, RunKeeper, or Runtastic. In addition, you can also have a wearable device, such as Fitbit, Garmin, or Apple Watch. Most of them offer free plans and premium subscriptions.

These tools will allow you to observe your progress over time and understand your strengths and weaknesses. That will further allow you to adjust your training routine to improve over time.

Besides, most of these apps have a social element, so you can add your friends and family and share the information for even more motivational support.

Other Running Gear You Might Need

Here are a few more things you could get, but they are optional:

  • Keyholder belts are generic belts with a pocket to store keys, credit cards, etc
  • Water bottle holder or belt—self-explanatory, needed for longer runs
  • Electrolyte gel packets
  • Compression socks (long, stretchy socks meant to lessen pain and improve your performance). Read more on compression socks here.
  • Arm sleeves (they work similarly to compression socks but for your arms)
  • Knee straps (if you have problems with your knees)
  • Reflective vest (if you are planning to run at night)
“I feel like when I am running, it not only helps change me physically, it also improves my state of mind.”Derek Hough

running couple jogging

Nutrition While Running

Because running is a sport where every part of your body moves, a lot of energy expenditure takes place while you run. The amount of energy expended, or the calories burned, depends on your gender, body type, the length of your run, and the intensity or average speed during the run.

calories burned running
Source: Advantage Rehab

Given this high-calorie burning, it’s essential to prioritize nutrition while establishing a running habit. Failing to do so might cause you to become too fatigued and thus demotivated.

Depending on your goal for running, you may need to adjust your nutrition as well. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you can combine calorie intake reduction with your running, but you need to be careful and track those calories to make sure you don’t starve yourself.

Something else needs to be considered if you are doing a specific low-carb diet, such as the ketogenic diet, or if you are doing intermittent fasting. Typically, runners should add 20-60 grams of carbs each hour when running for more than 75 minutes. However, if you want to stay true to your ketogenic diet, you won’t be able to do so. Instead, you’ll need to be sure that you are in full ketosis at the time and substitute carb gel packages for special MCT oil packets.

If you want to explore this particular topic more, I recommend reading this guide on running nutrition from Verywell Fit.

Hydration During Your Run

Running generates body heat, and body heat will cause you to sweat. In addition, the outside temperature and the clothes you wear may contribute to additional sweating.

That’s why it’s imperative to stay well hydrated during your run training. Some water or a low-calorie electrolyte drink before a run is great to keep you through a short run.

If you run longer races, I recommend having a bottle or set of bottles on a belt with you and hydrate regularly. You can also use the electrolyte gel packets I discussed above, although not everybody can tolerate them.

Warm-up & Stretch Before You Start Running

It’s never a good idea to stress your body when it’s cold. If you’re running in the morning after waking up, you must warm up your body and stretch.

A warm-up doesn’t have to take long; it could be 5-10 minutes. Use any simple routine that works for you. Make sure you warm up your leg’s joints, glutes, back, and neck.

Stretch before running, but not too much. Focus on your calves, quads, glutes, shoulders, and neck. Why shoulders and neck? Because when you run, you’ll find yourself tensing your upper body. I’ve often wound up with severe neck and shoulder pain after runs. It took me a while to learn how to lower my shoulders and pull them back, which prevents stress from accumulating at the base of the neck while running.

So, better safe than sorry!

“Running is something you can do and be alone in your thoughts, and I like that.”Carole Radziwill

jogging track man running

Easy Routine To Start Running

Before you start counting miles, I recommend you start with minutes. That’s because, in the beginning, it truly doesn’t matter how fast you run or how far. What matters most is to get your body used to running. When you set a time and stick to it, you take away the pressure to do a mile or two or run at a certain pace.

Here’s a potential training routine that will help you get from running just 15 minutes per day to running 60 minutes per day. It takes eight weeks, but you can adapt it or prolong it as needed.

Here is the explanation of the columns in the plan:

  • Warm-up—this part is designed to get your heart rate up and warm up your muscles. It should be steady but not too strenuous. Do a few stretches at the end of the warm-up, primarily focusing on your quads and calves.
  • Run—this is the running portion of the workout. Use a steady pace; it should be fast enough to feel it but not so fast that it leaves you out of breath. You may need to experiment for a few days until you find the right pace. One simple litmus test is this: you should be able to have a comfortable conversation with another person if you were running together.
  • Walk—the walks are designed to give you a bit of a respite between the running sessions. Take deep breaths in and exhale slowly during the walk, allowing your heart rate to calm down. The walks are short enough to not fully cool you off but merely give you time to catch your breath.
  • Repeat—this specifies how many times you should repeat each Run-Walk sequence.
  • Cooldown—you do this at the end of the workout to allow your body to calm down and your heart rate to slow down. After the cooldown, make sure to stretch your legs, lower back, and neck.
  • Days—this tells you how many times per week you should repeat the workout of that week. It’s best to spread the days out and leave a rest day in between, as much as possible. However, if you feel particularly great, you can add one more day to each workout routine.

At the end of eight weeks of consistent training, you should be able to run for 60 minutes without a break. That’s a great place to be, and you’re way far on the way to having a full-fledged running habit in your life.

beginner running plan

As you start with this, I want you to remember that it doesn’t matter how fast you run or how far you get. In the beginning, focus on getting those minutes under your belt. Once you can run for a full 60 minutes, you can switch to more advanced training plans.

It’s crucial to remember that a habit like this takes at least 90 days to set in. So, you need to keep it up for about 90 days until you get in that place where the routine is no longer “push” (as in, push yourself to do it) but a “pull” (as in, it pulls you to do it).

That means that beyond the eight weeks of this plan, you should continue to increase the minutes progressively or move to other forms of run training, such as hill training, speed training, etc. You can also add other types of workouts between your running days, also known as cross-training. For instance, you can do one or more video workouts, such as Morning Meltdown 100.

The point of this article was to get you to start running and develop that process into a routine that sticks with you as a habit. After you get over that part, which is by far the most difficult one, you can begin to think even farther: running your first 5k, then 10k, then a half-marathon, and, eventually, a full marathon.

To get to all of those, though, you must first start running!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

running evening landscape

Run and Keep Running

Once you get into a proper running habit, you’ll find it hard to stop. Especially if you join a runners’ group and begin to attend the joint runs, you’ll find that running has now turned into a social activity. The day you participate in your first race—no matter what length—things will take a whole new dimension.

Eventually, running will no longer be a dream, an idea. It won’t also merely be something you do when you don’t know what else to do for your health. Instead, running will become an integral part of your life and the primary tactic to keep yourself healthy.

Running starts as physical activity but turns quickly into a mental one, into a mind-over-body situation that will then transcend that pure exercise. It will slowly translate into other parts of your life. You’ll find yourself more diligent and perseverant because of running. You’ll take more significant challenges, and you’ll become more self-confident.

So, keep going. Keep running!

Maybe we’ll bump into each other at the next marathon!

Other Resources on How To Start Running

Now, before you go, I have…

3 Questions For You

  1. What is the biggest impediment that prevents you from starting a running habit?
  2. What was the longest distance you’ve ever run in your life?
  3. Do you see yourself committing to running and developing a healthy running habit?

Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!



exercise, fitness, running, wellness

  • 1. Currently the weather (too hot) but that’s really not a good enough reason
    2. 6.5 km
    3. After reading this article, yes. .. it’s very inspiring and informative. Thank you

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