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Gyms Closing Again? 5 Tips for Getting Back Into Running

Quarantine (round one) was synonymous with a sedentary lifestyle. With gyms being closed, I had a hard time feeling motivated to stay active. One thing that didn’t close, though, was the outdoors. That presented me with the opportunity to get back into running, which I had taken a big break from since finishing up high school sports and undergoing knee surgery.

With gyms closing in most places (again), I figured I’d share some of my best tips for getting into running—or getting back into running if you’ve been on a break.

Start slow

There’s no need to rush—who knows how long the pandemic will drag on for? Hold yourself to low standards in the beginning. Setting the bar low makes it easier to exceed those expectations as you go along. Your goals should grow and change as you improve, but you don’t need to worry about that right off the bat. I’ve found that if I hold myself to too high of standards and I’m not able to meet them, it makes it harder later on.

Practice interval training

If your time off from running has meant time off from cardio in general, it’s important that you don’t push yourself too hard early on. Many beginners like to start by using interval training. The intervals can change and grow as you do—I’d recommend starting with three minutes running, one minute walking. If that feels too easy, you can easily switch up the intervals to fit your current cardio level.

Focus on nutrition

When you’re getting back into working out, it can be easy to forget that your body needs more energy than it would normally. Eating is so hard sometimes, but thinking about food as fuel can change your mindset and help you stay on track. There is no strict meal plan to follow, but you do need to ensure that your body has the energy it needs to help you run. Otherwise, you will have a tough time enjoying it or being successful. I recommend eating about an hour or two before you plan to start. Eating too close to the run might give you cramps, but eating too far away might mean you’ll be hungry, which doesn’t feel good either!

Invest in a good pair of running shoes

There’s nothing worse than trying to start running and realizing that you’re experiencing aches and pains in your joints. This problem is usually caused by wearing an older pair of shoes or shoes not meant for running long distances. I’m personally a fan of Brooks, which I tried for the first time in 6th grade when I was on the cross-country team—I’ve never looked back. As a beginner, you don’t need a fancy pair of running shoes, but you do need a pair that will give you the support you need. I was shocked by how different I felt this fall when I ordered a new pair to replace my older ones. There’s a definite extra spring in your step when your shoes are doing their job.

Shift your mindset

People run for a lot of reasons. It’s not always about (and probably shouldn’t always be about) losing weight or getting in shape. One of the big reasons I was able to get running again was because I wanted to explore my college town. Living here without a car, there’s only so far you can get when you walk. By taking up running, I could cover a lot more ground, and I learned so much about my town in the process. By focusing on my surroundings, not my Fitbit, running became a lot more like a fun little outing than a chore.

It really is that easy. The sooner you stop thinking about running as something you have to do and start thinking about it as something you have the opportunity to do, the sooner you’ll relish the time you spend out there. So, embrace the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, lace up your shoes and get running!

Jenna Spray

Northwestern '23

Jenna is a journalism and legal studies double major at Northwestern University. In her free time, she enjoys binge eating dark chocolate and studying Italian in hopes that she can one day become an honorary Italian citizen. As a washed-up high school athlete, fitness is one of Jenna's passions, and her goal is to encourage more young women to get in the weight room. You can find her curled up in her bed watching Gossip Girl or using the squat rack at your local gym.
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