You resolved to log daily physical exercise in 2023 but aren’t quite sure where to start. How about with one foot in front of the other—just around your own block?
The rise in luxury workout equipment has given people more ability to bring the gym to their homes. But running outside remains a nearly cost-free way to break a sweat and reap health benefits, with the ability to do it pretty much anywhere, anytime you like.
Still, starting a running routine can feel intimidating. How long should you run for? How far and fast? Sean Fortune, the owner and coach of Central Park Coaching and Hamptons Coaching, offers tips to give you a running start on setting goals and making tracks to a running routing that suits you.
Get the right running gear
The only special item you really need for running is the right pair of sneakers. Fortune suggests going to a store in-person to get a feel for them. Gubbins Running Ahread has locations in Southampton and East Hampton, and has helped generations of East Enders find the right shoes and fit for their feet and running abilities and habits.
“The right shoe is the one that feels most comfortable while running,” Fortune says. “Don’t choose based on looks, style or color.”
The pro at the running store can serve as a teammate in your shoe-buying process.
“Speak to someone at the store to see if you need a neutral shoe or a stability shoe to help with excessive pronation,” Fortune says. “It’s my experience that most people will do fine with a neutral shoe unless they have extremely flat feet or no arch. In those cases, it may be that they need a neutral shoe with a custom-made orthotic.”
For the cold weather, Fortune says to add a few more items to your shopping list: Running gloves, a hat or headband to keep ears warm, tights or running pants, a warm base layer and a wind and waterproof jacket. It sounds like a lot, but don’t use it as an excuse to push off running until spring.
“Having the right gear will increase your chances of sticking with it,” he says. “Trust me—it will be worth the investment.”
Nice (but not necessary) add-ons
Sneakers and winter gear are the must-haves this time of year, but Fortune says a running-specific watch is a nice-to-have practical accessory, and always recommends it for people who want to become regular runners.
“A GPS running watch will help to motivate you by keeping records of your runs including time, distance, pace, route, heart rate and different personal achievements,” Fortune says. Garmin is the industry leader, he adds, and you can find the brand’s watches at a variety of price points, from second-hand options for under $100 to more than $2,000 for the most cutting-edge options (both Gubbins and Sag Harbor Cycle stocks them).
A second pair of running shoes that are only for races and speed days is another item to consider. “These shoes are traditionally called racing flats or lightweight high-performance trainers,” Fortune says, most of which have a springy, carbon-fiber plate embedded in the sole, which can push a runner forward and improve efficiency and time. “I highly recommend them. They’re pricey but very fun and easy to run in.”
It’s easy to want to run like a bat out of hell (or, at least aspire to the time of the winner of last year’s Shelter Island 10k). Fight the urge. Go easy on yourself at first. Your starting pace will be unique to you.
“A good pace to start is an easy pace, meaning a very easy effort,” Fortune says.
Find a spot where you enjoy running and, if you want to increase the pace, start by focusing on consistency, not speed. “Establish a base foundation of general running fitness without worrying about getting faster,” he offers. “That alone will increase your fitness and help your pace.”
Once you’ve run consistently for six to eight weeks, Fortune suggests adding strides to the end of each run.
“Strides are short, faster bouts of running lasting only 20 to 30 seconds with the emphasis on staying relaxed and smooth while at speed,” Fortune says. “Never strain or go so fast that you can’t start the next stride after one minute of standing rest. By adding in the strides at the end of your run, your pace will begin to drop on normal, easy-effort days.”
This approach also applies to how long and far you go at first.
“The goal should be to simply make it a habit by sticking to a routine—one that is not overly hard or complicated, perhaps, something like every other day with the goal of running a total of 15-20 minutes,” he says.
After about two weeks of your time and pace feeling consistently easy, consider increasing time by five minutes. “Before you know it,” Fortune says, “you’ll be running a 5K non-stop by spring with no problem.”
Recovery is just as important as running. “The importance of recovery can’t be overstated,” Fortune says. “Running is very hard on the body.” Factor in recovery days when creating your running plan.
“As you’re starting out, factor in your recovery rest days in the beginning of each week. I think a rest day every other day is a good place to start for most people,” he says.
A foam roller can help with achy muscles and tendons, and a yoga strap can help with post-run stretches, like hamstring and calf stretches.