Close-up of a male runner's legs on a cobbled street, wearing black shorts, white compression socks, and grey running shoes.

How to Become a Runner: 5 Rules to Make it Stick This New Year’s

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“I want to become a runner!” This frequent aspiration goes hand-in-hand with other common resolutions for New Year’s, like exercising more and losing weight. 

Yet, like most resolutions, the pursuit of becoming a runner is often riddled with failure. 

Research shows that less than 1 in 10 Americans achieve the New Year’s resolutions they make. 23% of people give up by the end of the first week and 43% throw in the towel by the end of January. In short, about half stick with it through the first month.

But this isn’t intended to be a motivating pep talk or a few quick tips and words of encouragement. These are widely accepted ‘rules’ that should be taken seriously if you truly want to teach yourself how to become a runner.

Becoming a Runner is 100% Mindset

A male triathlete in a vibrant racing suit running on a city street with traffic cones lining the course and urban buildings in the background.

Becoming a runner takes more than just motivation and a good pair of running shoes. It requires a lifestyle shift that’s driven by how you perceive yourself and how you structure your day. 

It’s a journey that’s significantly more mental than it is physical. Sure, you may encounter injuries or physical roadblocks. But long-term success relies on having the discipline and mental fortitude to remain consistent and committed.  

Take it from someone who went from being an overweight, 230lb high school senior with a desire to change, to competing in the world’s toughest half-Ironman 5 years later at a race weight of 160lbs.

My goals evolved from body composition to pushing my boundaries. But during that journey, I realized there are some hard and fast rules to making it stick as a self-proclaimed “runner.” 

5 Rules to Make it Stick as a Runner

These rules are about creating the mindset, tools, and systems in your life to yield lasting habits and enduring change. Before long, you’ll be addicted to the feeling that running provides, as it has a positive downstream effect that benefits all aspects of your life.

1. Start Small and Progress Gradually

Silhouette of a male runner jogging along a scenic waterfront path at sunset with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

Injury is one of the most frequently reported reasons why newbie runners become sidelined. Running is a high-impact activity that requires gradual adaptation of the ligaments and joints. So if you’re just getting started, it’s critical you ease into your running sessions and allow ample time for recovery.

Beginners should progress slowly, initially aiming for 20-minute runs, three days a week, and then gradually increasing the frequency and duration. Start with run-walk intervals (5 minutes run, 5 minutes walk) and keep the miles gentle and easy, as to prevent injury and overexertion.

Equally important is to learn proper running form. Books like Chi Running and POSE Method changed my life as a runner and how I optimized my stride to be less heavy and more efficient. It also doesn’t hurt to video record yourself running to self-analyze your pitfalls or hire a running coach who can help you polish your form and develop a plan.

Beginner runners should generally ease into finding their bearings. A low-impact shuffle stride is a simple technique to remain efficient and build gradually. Don’t worry if you’re pace is 14-minute miles. Start slow and be grateful your body can run healthy. You’ll progress rapidly in just weeks of sticking with it.

2. Consistency Over Intensity

A male runner in winter gear, including a green beanie and gloves, running on a snow-covered landscape with footprints marking his trail.

The key to becoming a seasoned runner isn’t found in how fast or how far you can run in a single session. It’s about how consistently you lace up and get yourself out the door. Establishing a routine is essential for your success. Whether it’s early morning jogs or after-work runs, find a time that works for you and stick to it.

Consistency also means being realistic and flexible with your running schedule. Some days you might not feel up to a full run – and that’s okay. On those days, even a short, brisk walk or a light jog is better than doing nothing. Consistency is about showing up for yourself, day in and day out, even when the motivation isn’t at its peak. 

Over time, this consistent effort not only builds physical endurance but also strengthens your mental resolve, making running an integral part of your lifestyle.

In the same vein, tracking your runs can be incredibly rewarding and motivating. Use an app like Strava, MapMyRun, or a journal to monitor your progress. Seeing how far you’ve come over weeks and months is a powerful motivator and reinforces the habit. Consistency, coupled with a record of your journey, creates a compelling narrative of your commitment and progress.

3. Set Realistic, Achievable Goals

Goals are the roadmap of your running journey. Without them, it’s easy to lose direction and motivation. Start by setting achievable, specific goals. This could be anything from running a certain distance without stopping, improving your pace, or completing a 5K race. 

Whatever your goal, make sure it’s realistic and tailored to your current fitness level. It’s easy for people to say “I want to run a marathon.” But keep in mind that the average marathon time is about 4 and a half hours, which is a long time to be running. But if that’s your goal, and you’re a beginner to running, give yourself enough time to build that level of fitness without overdoing it.

But setting goals is only half the battle. The next step is to create a plan to achieve them. Break down your primary goal into smaller, incremental milestones, or ‘training blocks.’ Celebrate each small victory along the way as these mini-triumphs keep the momentum going. 

For example, if your goal is to run a 10K, start by aiming to run a 5K without breaks, then gradually increase your distance week by week.

Your goals don’t always have to be specific to running. Perhaps your main goal is to lose 20 lbs, and running is merely a conduit to making it happen. In this case, you don’t have to attach so much meaning to running itself, but rather being consistent in keeping active.

4. Establish a Recovery Routine

 

One of my first coaches and mentors emphasized the need to have a recovery routine. In doing so, he pushed me to have a movement practice outside the realm of running, such as yoga, mobility training, or some other non-running activity to keep me balanced. 

Today, I invest at least 15 minutes every night in doing mobility work. This involves doing certain yoga poses, hip opening exercises, and other movements to keep my joints and musculature healthy and supple. 

In addition to my mobility work, I prioritize recovery through proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep. These are vital pillars of performance, and they’re perfect examples of how becoming a runner also means becoming a more conscious individual in various aspects of life. 

Simply put, I don’t want to waste my hard work training by eating a box of donuts and drinking a bunch of beer afterward. I want to ensure I am getting the nourishment and self-care my body needs to recover and get back to training stronger than ever before.

A big part of recovery is being able to listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel pain beyond the usual muscle soreness, take it seriously. Rest and recovery are just as important as the runs themselves. Ignoring pain can lead to serious injuries, setting you back in your running journey.

5. Find Your Running Community

Finally, never underestimate the power of a supportive community. Running may seem like a solitary activity, but being part of a running group or community can be incredibly motivating. Local running clubs and in-person events are ideal. But if you don’t have the local community around you, online communities can work too. 

My Strava is a wonderful platform that offers a blend of social media and community through different groups I am in and with the friends I’m connected with. It helps keep me motivated to go the extra mile because I know my friends will see my activity after I’m done.

A community offers more than just company. It can be a source of valuable advice, encouragement, and friendly competition. Participating in group runs or local races can introduce a fun and social aspect to your running. Plus, it’s always helpful to share experiences and tips with others who understand the runner’s journey.

Being accountable to a group or a running buddy can significantly boost your commitment. It’s easier to skip a run when you’re only answerable to yourself, but knowing that others are counting on you can be a powerful motivator.

Resolve to Become a Runner this New Year

The meaning of the word resolution is quite literally “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” Your decision is a commitment to yourself that, deep down, you owe to yourself. 

It’s a short life, so it’s crucial to remain committed to the better version of yourself. 

How you identify as a runner is an open book, and you’re the author. You don’t have to be the fastest, nor do you have to run the longest distances. How you define success is up to you. 

Author Bio

Tyler Tafelsky is an avid vegan nutrition blogger and elite amateur cyclist who competes on the professional level. As the founder and head of content for blogs like VeganProteinPowder.reviews and BetterTriathlete.com, Tyler shares in-depth knowledge on topics related to plant-powered recovery, athletic performance, and the science of endurance sports.  

Hi, I’m Valerie!

I'm an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200), offering guidance to high achievers in aligning their lifestyle with well-being through daily wellness and self-care routines, promoting balance and harmony. Join me at Wellness Bum for tips on living well, and consider subscribing to my newsletter or booking a coaching session.