How to Get off the Couch and Go Running

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: April 28, 2020

Recently, everyone seems to have taken up running. Every day there are more and more people discovering the health benefits of running and taking to the road, track or trail. It’s a great weight loss tool, as well as being beneficial to your mental health by helping to manage stress, depression and anxiety.

Photo by Des Tan on Unsplash


However, getting going can seem daunting. Here are four tips to help you get started.

1. Just Do It 

A certain shoe company may have made this sound like a cliché, but it’s true: when it comes to running, if you want to start you have to just do it. There’s no sport that requires less preparation or equipment. Put on the nearest thing to sportswear you already own (any old T-shirt and shorts will do), and leave the house. Set a small target for your first outing, such as 15 minutes, or to the park at the end of the road. You don’t need to run for the whole period, and if you’re very out of shape you shouldn’t try. Run a few steps, and walk a few. Do the same thing tomorrow, and run a few more steps if you can. The most important thing at this stage is to build the habit of putting on your trainers and leaving the house every day.

2. Build Up Slowly 

Once you’ve got used to the idea that you’re going running, you’ll want to start pushing yourself a little. Every week increase your time or distance by a couple of minutes, or an extra block if you prefer measuring in distance, and try to increase the proportion of that time you spend running. That’s really all there is to it.

If you’re worried that you’re pushing yourself too fast, or not hard enough, you might want to use a pre-made plan. Couch to 5k (C25K) is a popular tool for newbie runners. The idea is that you will go from running just a little in the first week, to running non-stop for 30 minutes (which at a reasonable pace is around 5km) in week 9. The name C25K doesn’t belong to any one company, so you can find a number of websites, podcasts and apps. The free NHS podcast is popular, but you may prefer an app which allows you to play your own music in the background. Nearly everyone finds the program progresses at a good speed, but if it’s too easy or too difficult you can simply skip or repeat a week.

3. Check your gear 

Having said that running doesn’t require any special equipment, once you’ve developed the habit you may want to make some upgrades. The big purchase is shoes. A good shoe can really can make a big difference to your running and reduce your risk of injuries. The best way to find a shoe for you is to go to a specialist running store. They will often have you run on a treadmill in the store so that they can observe your gait and find the best shoe for you. Don’t feel like you have to buy the shoes in-store though; they can often be cheaper online, particularly if you go for a last season model.

Some other items you might want to consider are sweat-wicking clothes (which keep you cooler); an armband or belt to hold your keys and phone; or Bluetooth headphones, which can be more convenient than wired earphones. You’ll often hear the advice that you shouldn’t buy a lot of gear when you’re just getting started. It’s true you don’t need to, but conversely don’t be shy to throw a little money at a problem if you can afford it, and if it will make your runs easier and more comfortable.

4. Find Your Motivation and Keep Going 

Once you can run for a decent distance, you might feel secure in your new running habit. However, this is often the ‘danger zone’, where people get complacent or feel like they have nothing left to aim for. You skip a couple of days, and before you know it you haven’t run in months. It’s important to find something that motivates you to keep going. Keep increasing your distances; some people move from C25K to Bridge to 10K. Or, build in some interval training to increase your pace. If external motivation is important to you, find a running buddy or join a running club. If you want a challenge, sign up for a race. If you’re bored of your route, mix it up and run in the countryside or on the beach.

If you can be aware of what you find motivating, then you can avoid becoming bored or complacent before it happens. And at a certain point, you’ll find yourself putting on your shoes and getting out the door without even thinking about it. Then you’ll know you’ve become a runner.