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Running can be intimidating. Here's how to get started


Maybe being more physically active is one of your New Year's resolutions, and a popular choice is to start running more. You don't really need equipment or a gym membership. You just get out, and you go. But running can be intimidating. Maybe you've been told you're not a runner, or you think you don't have the right body for it.

MARTINUS EVANS: And what I'm here to tell people is that you can run in the body that you have now, and you can do it with just something as simple as running for 15 seconds and walking for a minute. It's really about just getting your heart rate up.

KELLY: Martinus Evans is a runner and author of the book "Slow AF Run Club: The Ultimate Guide For Anyone Who Wants To Run." NPR Life Kit host Marielle Segarra spoke with Evans to get his best advice for anyone who wants to get into running.

MARIELLE SEGARRA, BYLINE: What are some of the things that people might do to help their mindset as they start on this journey?

EVANS: You know, one of the things that a lot of people struggle with is their inner critic. A lot of people who come to me - it's Martinus, I'm not a runner, and the voice that's in my head is telling me I'm not a runner, and I'm just afraid to move forward. So one of the things that I found beneficial is to name that inner critic because most of the time, that inner critic and that inner voice is in your voice. So it's like you telling you that you don't deserve to do X, Y and Z. So my inner critic's name is Otis (ph). And like, my critic's like, you're fat. You don't need to do this. You need to lose weight first. And I'm like, go sit down. I don't need that.

SEGARRA: And then what about affirmations? You have so many helpful ones in the book.

EVANS: You know, my favorite one is no struggle, no progress, right? This is something that I have tattooed on my wrist. And then there's other things, like one step at a time. Stay in the mile that you are in right now. You know, we can do hard things. I think just telling yourself these mantras helps you rhythmically, but it also keeps you in line to continue to move forward.

SEGARRA: What kind of gear does somebody need before they go out to run?

EVANS: Not much. So the first thing that I always recommend new runners - definitely pick up a new pair of running shoes. Go to a running specialty store. And the word that I have in the book is called gait analysis or shoe fit, right? So if you go into one of these specialty running stores and you say, hey, I need a gait analysis, or, hey, I need a shoe fit, and they look at you like you have three heads growing out the side of your neck, that's not the place for you. And then the last thing I usually like to tell the people that I coach is don't wear cotton underwear, or, like, don't wear cotton anything. Don't wear cotton socks. You'll get blisters, and you'll start to get chafe in places where it would be extremely painful.

SEGARRA: And then once you have your gear, you go out for a jog, your first run. If you've never really run before, what do you do when you - do you just start jogging? Like, how long should you go for?

EVANS: So if you're going on your first run, you're going to go walk. You're going to walk for five minutes. This is where I tell people to, like, just do a full body scan. You know, are there parts in your body that's tight? You know, are these things that you might need to stretch out before you go run? Get those things out the way. How are you feeling mentally? Maybe you need to readjust your mindset and your mental attitude, right? And then after those five minutes, you're going to pick up the pace. You're going to pick up the pace until you're at - you're running at a pace where you're able to have a conversation with somebody, and you're going to do that for 15 seconds. And then after 15 seconds, you're going to stop, and you're going to walk for a minute.

And you're going to feel like, whoa, that wasn't hard, and I think I can do more. That's great. You're going to continue to do those 15 seconds of running and then walking for a minute. Do that for 30 minutes, and then you're done for the day. After the 30 minutes, you're going to do a walk just to cool down. And during that time give your body grace and gratitude. And then after that, you're going to repeat that cycle for another two days a week. And now you're in a running program.

SEGARRA: And then how do you ramp it up after that?

EVANS: So, you know, every two weeks you check in with yourself. If you feel like the 15 seconds is still hard, you know, you keep it at that pace. If you feel like the walking section - like, you're recovering faster, shorten the walk. You know, move it from a minute to 45 seconds and try that out. A lot of people have tuned out of their bodies, and by practicing it this way, you're able to start to get into those habits of understanding where your body is in this space, in this world and how you're actually feeling about your body.

SEGARRA: If you've never really run before, how do you find your form?

EVANS: We do have general guidelines when it comes to form. So, like, hand placement - right? - you want to make sure that your hands are loosely closed. Imagine a pebble inside of your hand. And you want that pebble to move freely, but you don't want that pebble to fall out your hands. Another thing is, is that don't look down. You wouldn't believe how many people look down at their feet when they're running. You want to look at the horizon, and you want to look as you're scanning the horizon anywhere between 6 to 8 feet in front of you. Next, let's talk about breathing. So, you know, you want to do belly breathing. You want to make sure, like, those breaths are getting down, and you're really moving that diaphragm. And one of the ways or one of the exercises that you can do to, like, test this out is literally just put your hand on your belly as you breathe and see if your belly is actually moving as you're breathing.

SEGARRA: Let's say that you just started running, and you've been doing it for a month - how do you decide if this is something that you like enough to stick with it, like if running is your thing or maybe if you'd rather try some other form of cardio?

EVANS: I think the thing is, is that you'll start to notice of - like, it's just starting to get easier. It's the workout is not affecting you like it was. Like, are you not as tired? Are you not as sore? And, you know, you're just like, oh, OK, yeah, like, I'm running. Keep going.


EVANS: Why stop then? If it's one of the things of like, yo, I can't do this. This is horrible. What I usually tell people is take a day off. Take two off and see how that makes you feel, and then try it again. And if you take a day or two off and you try it again, and it's still not getting better, yeah, let's think about other sports. You know, the goal with my mission is to let people know that you can be active in the body that you are right now, and it doesn't have to be under the guise of weight loss. Movement and regular physical activity is so beneficial.

KELLY: That was Martinus Evans speaking with NPR's Marielle Segarra. Life Kit wants to help you make and keep your New Year's resolution. You can check out Life Kit's Resolution Planner. Choose areas of life that you would like to focus on, and the tool will guide you to some of Life Kit's best tips on the topic. You can find it at npr.org/newyear.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Marielle Segarra
Marielle Segarra is a reporter and the host of NPR's Life Kit, the award-winning podcast and radio show that shares trustworthy, nonjudgmental tips that help listeners navigate their lives.