Thinking About Running? Here are 5 Tips From Jess Smith to Help You Get Off the Couch and Out the Door!

A big thanks to Jess Smith for being the first guest writer of the Run Bloggers Unite! movement. If you’d like to to join the movement, I’d love to partner with you!
But without further ado, please enjoy Jess’s awesome addition to my blog, and please check out my guest post on my evolution from non-runner to (annoying?) runner, with some of my tips to help you get started as well, over on her blog.

I’ve spent the last 2 years turning myself from an overweight couch potato into a runner.


Pretty Impressive, Eh?

The question I get asked most often is “How did you start?”

I guess going from being able to jog slowly for about 5 minutes to running a half marathon in less than a year gives me some kind of authority to answer this question.

While keeping in mind that I’m still a fairly new runner, and my previous running experience was limited to a grand 17:00 minute mile in high school, know that I’m not an authority on all things running – these are just some things that worked for me!

  • Don’t start running if you don’t like running.

Sounds weird, right?

My first piece of advice on how to start running is…don’t run.  Well, that is, don’t run if you hate running.  I hated running (or at least, that’s what I thought).

If you’re a couch potato, like I was, I suggest that your first step into fitness should be to find an exercise you actually enjoy. For me, it was Zumba. When I first started my fitness journey, I did Zumba 2-3 days a week, combined with 2-3 days of strength training. Zumba is fun, low-impact, and a great workout!  Maybe for you it is walking, hiking, swimming, or step aerobics.

My point is: if you hate running right now, and consider yourself out of shape, don’t start out your fitness journey doing something you hate. That being said, don’t give up on running either. Go out every so often and try it – the better shape you get into, the easier it will become.

One day, you might just find yourself liking it!

  • Pick a plan.

Once you feel like you’ve gotten your level of fitness up, or if you know you’ll like running, the best way to get started is to pick a plan.

I think the best starting distance to strive for is a 5K (3.1 miles). If you do a Google search for “beginner 5K plans” you’ll find over 2 million results.

That’s a tad overwhelming! So here are some plan suggestions:

The Couch to 5K – this is a classic plan, super popular, and there are apps for both iPhone and Android that do the thinking for you!

Another Mother Runner 5K Finish It – I came across this plan recently when I started listening to the “Another Mother Runner” podcasts.  This plan is great because it’s tailored to beginner runners and offers workouts that are “mandatory” and “skip it if you need to”.  These are great for busy lives!

Hal Higdon 5K Novice – I’m currently using a Hal Higdon plan to train for my 2nd half marathon. I like his plans because he provides a lot of information and doesn’t rush things.

Or you could do what I did when I started – run until you think you’re going to pass out, keep going about 5 more seconds, then walk until you recover – repeat.  Pick a marker to run to – a light post, mailbox, sign, etc.  Run to that marker one day, run a little father the next, and keep going until you can run without stopping for about 30 minutes.

  • Find an accountability partner.

This can be a real life person or someone on Twitter or Facebook.

The thing that kept me going at the beginning, when running was really, really hard, was my running partners. In fact, they still keep me going! We don’t always run together, but we text each other every week with a plan for our weekly workouts. We swap mile times and sign up for races together.

I met these friends when we all signed up to train for a race together through our gym. You can find training partners at your gym, through local running groups, or maybe in your neighborhood.

There are also great communities online! One of my personal favorites is the RunChat community on Twitter. If you search for #runchat – you’ll find hundreds of posts from other runners who are Tweeting about their latest runs or asking questions and providing support.

  • Sign up for a race.

This is hands-down the best way to get motivated.

I always have another race on my calendar – it forces me to keep running.  I recommend finding a local 5K this fall and registering!  You can find races listed at US Road Running and Running in the USA.

Fun races like The Color Run, that are untimed, can also be a great start.  However, they are typically really crowded and can be a bit chaotic.

  • Don’t get too overwhelmed.

At its core – running is a simple sport. Go to a good running store (aka not a big box sports store, but a small local place) and get fitted for a good pair of shoes (1/2 size larger than your normal size) – then go out and run. It’s that easy. But, if you start reading a lot about running, you’ll find all kinds of information about pace, compression socks, split times, speed work runs, types of fuel, and on and on.

Don’t get bogged down with that stuff yet.

Get your shoes, pick a training plan, sign up for a race – and get started.

What are you waiting for?

Jess is an elementary teacher in Pennsylvania, currently training for her second 1/2 marathon. Follow her journey as she continues to transform her health on her blog at and on twitter @jessicasmith626.
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  1. […] people who have never run a race before in their lives are pros when it comes to training plans. The Couch to 5k program is one of […]

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