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You Can Become a Runner

With the right training, even beginning joggers can get ready to go for the gold

Step 4. Dress for success

Though clothes do not make the runner, there is no substitute for the right running shoe, Maharam tells WebMD. "There should be about a thumbnail's length between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Without this much space, you can lose your toe nails," he cautions. Your best bet is to go to a specialty shop to buy running-specific shoes because the staff will better trained at fitting them. Replace your running shoes every 350 to 500 miles because they lose shock absorption and other protective qualities with use. What's more, "make sure you choose synthetic socks," Maharam says. "Unlike cotton, synthetic material wicks away moisture and fluid; preventing blisters and the wearing away of your feet."

Step 5. Train to train

"Most people start running with a health or fitness goal in mind such as losing weight or being healthier rather than a specific race," says master's champion runner and coach Gordon Bakoulis, author of How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon. "You should really be doing a base of 10 to 20 miles a week before you start training for your first long run." Once you have established a baseline, then training can begin. Remember that the amount of time it takes to train for a race depends on the distance as well as your fitness level, she says. In general, marathon training can take anywhere from six months to a year.

Step 6: Slow and steady ... finishes the race.

"For building up distance, the 10% rule works best," says Bakoulis. "Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% over the week before. This helps to prevent the injuries that occur when you run too much or increase your weekly training program too quickly."

Here's how it works: Let's say you now run 10 miles a week, run 11 miles the next week, then 12, and so on. "Within 8-10 weeks, you will be running 20 miles a week, and what's more, this gradual increase will help you grow stronger and fitter as a runner," says Bakoulis, who has completed 26 marathons. "The 10% rule is good to follow no matter what type of race you are gearing up to run. It's tried and true."

Step 7. Feel the need for speed?

Speed training involves intervals of running at faster-than-training speed, Bakoulis says. "Training pace is a conversation pace -- meaning that you can hold a conversation while doing it," she explains. "Don't introduce speed training until you can run 20 to 30 minutes at a conversation pace," she says. Remember, "if your goal is just to finish whatever race you have set your sights on, speed training is not necessary," Bakoulis says. However, "if the goal is to maximize performance, then speed training is important." Speed training gets your body used to racing conditions. Many road runner clubs offer speed-work classes, or you can do it yourself by sprinting the stretches and jogging the curves at your local high school once a week during training.

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