I'm still trying to keep my head above water with my homework (seriously, how did this semester get away from me so badly?), so today's post is quick and lazy and another answer to an FAQ: How do you start running?
I'll start with the easy answer: Slowly. Seriously, don't try to be Usain Bolt or Kara Goucher right out of the gate. You'll end up injured and/or discouraged. Be willing to make haste slowly, as they say, and the rewards will come when they come. (I know; it sounds depressing. But if you want to run, that's the way it's going to be.)
All the experts will recommend that you get fitted out for running shoes before you start. And if you have any kind of joint issues or other nasties that require special footwear, then I echo that recommendation very strongly. Otherwise... and here's a guilty secret... you can probably wear what you have for the first few weeks. I've stopped running & re-started about half-a-dozen times in the past 20 years, and not once have I bought new running shoes at the beginning. You'll want to go ahead and get some running shoes once you get into in and decide you want to stick with it, probably about a month down the road, but for now, don't saddle yourself with the expense & guilt of having these shiny new shoes. (Conversely, if having the new shoes motivates you to keep at it, then you're better off buying them.)
Also on this note: You don't have to get fancy-schmancy gait analysis, but do go to a store where they will at least watch you run in your shoes and give you recommendations. Your salespeople need to know what they are talking about to keep you from a shoe-related injury.
You can run in whatever you have. If you have chafing issues, get some Body Glide (or Vaseline). If you sweat a lot, drop by a sports store and get a wicking t-shirt. If blisters are a problem, you might want some wicking socks as well. But I went years without buying anything fancy to run in.
Don't worry about it. As a beginner, your goal is to get out on the road regularly: Three times a week, four times-- whatever works for you. You can get to distance later. (In other words, don't announce to your family on day 1 that you are training for a marathon. A better option, if you must have a distance goal, is to Google Couch to 5K and choose your favourite programme.)
Start slow. Use the "talk test": For running, you should be able to chit-chat lightly, but not give an extended discourse. If you can't talk at all, you're working too hard and need to slow down. If you can recite the Declaration of Independence backwards, you can afford to speed up. You should be using your watch at this point just to get the total amount of time that you are out, not to see how fast you are running. Do check your heart rate from time to time, just to be sure you aren't over- or under-doing it. (I'm no expert on heart rate ranges; Google that, too.)
This will be based on a couple of things: 1. How much time you have available, and 2. How you feel after the first week. Twenty to thirty minutes per session is plenty for the first few weeks. If you get home and don't have the energy to talk to your family, shorten it up. You should finish feeling like you could have gone farther.
On my most recent restart (four years ago now-- geez), I used a cycle of run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute. I did 2/1 for three weeks. Then I upped it to 3/1, then 4/1, and so on, doing two weeks at each cycle. I strongly recommend that beginners do something similar. You don't have to start with 2/1; the Galloway method (or maybe it's the Higdon method? IDK) has beginners start by running 15 seconds, then walking a minute. Basically, use your good judgement here and do what works for you.
I'd suggest going out on Day 1 and doing this:
Walk 5 minutes to warm up (think speed walk, not Sunday stroll)
Do some light stretching after your warmup.
Run 1 minute, Walk 1 minute. Repeat 5 times (10 minutes total)
Walk 5 minutes to cool down (this time think Sunday stroll, not speed walk)
Do some light stretching after you're finished. Do not use your workout as an excuse to eat more dinner. (Trust me-- you'll have to up your caloric intake eventually, of course, but do add too much food too soon is to invite aggravation into your life.)
You will be sore the next day, so don't try to run two days in a row. Rest on Day 2 and think it over-- was 1 minute of running too much? Too little? Tweak as needed and then go out again on Day 3.
Maybe you need a race to train for to keep going-- look for a local charity 5K or 10K. Maybe the aforementioned new shoes will do it for you. Maybe you need to recruit a spouse or a kid or a friend to do it with you. Whatever it takes to keep going out every day, find it & do it.
When you do decide that you're ready to start training for a race, do a Google search for free training plans or try Runner's World Smart Coach. I usually use RW, but I've been known to try the odd other plan, too.
Congratulations! You're a runner!