Anyway, this post is about becoming a runner. It was more than a year ago that I became disgusted enough with the way I looked that I set a goal for myself to run the Peachtree Road Race, a 10k race in Atlanta that is one of the largest of its distance in the country. Since that time, I've run regularly ever since and I've even picked up cycling and swimming to fill out my exercise routine. I'm still pretty pudgy around the middle, but I've also lost nearly 40 lbs.
Running is a great way to work yourself into being fit. If that sounds like a horrible hobby to you, I just have to say that you should suck it up and stop being so lazy. Doing something hard and getting through it is a great way to build self esteem and give you sense of pride. I'm not just parroting some cliche. That's something I've learned the hard way. I like myself better since I've started running. It's also one of the cheapest methods out there for getting fit. You probably already have old T-shirts and gym shorts. The only things I wear while running that don't get worn outside of running are my shoes.
And that's my first tip. Spend some money on your shoes. They're important. If you're doing the barefoot thing (and the research there is inconclusive at the moment), that's fine, but be aware that bad shoes are far worse than no shoes. I bought my first pair of good running shoes just to guilt myself into sticking with running long enough to complete my 10k goal. It wasn't until I forgot those shoes at home one day and had to run in my normal walking-around shoes that I realized they made a difference. Shoes that had never bothered me in normal circumstances suddenly prevented me from even running a full mile when I had been doing 2 miles easily in the good running shoes. My legs were killing me. I run in Brooks Adrenalines. I officially retired my first pair this past weekend after my first triathlon. You're supposed to replace your running shoes after every 350 to 500 miles and I passed that sometime last year, but I didn't suck it up and shell out for a new pair until earlier this month. If you're going to pay that kind of money on shoes (I've paid between $80 and $100 for mine), make sure you're getting the right shoe for your feet. Many running specialty stores offer free stride analysis and can match you to a shoe that is designed for your type. Take advantage of their services if you have access to them, but there are web sites out there that can help you figure this out for yourself.
My second piece of advice is to set a goal of public performance and make sure to convince yourself that it would be humiliating not to make that goal. The Peachtree was mine. Last weekend's triathlon was another. Let people know about your goals and your progress toward those goals as well. Peer pressure isn't always bad and fear of shame can be a good motivator. Use it to your advantage.
It's also a really good idea to set progressive performance goals during your training for that event. See how far you can run without walking on your first attempt. Make sure you run at least that far for your first couple of runs and then set your goal a little farther down the road for the next few runs. Make sure you're pushing yourself, but remember not to push yourself too hard. If you're not used to running or being active, you don't want to hurt yourself, but setting progressive goals is a key to making this a habit. The challenges and successes can make this an addictive hobby. You may not like it to start with, but there's a point where this changes from a chore into something you look forward to. I genuinely enjoy running now. At the beginning, it was just a means to an end.
Find a training program and stick with it. Make sure you feel guilty if you have to miss a day. It's way too easy to let skipping a day become a habit. You want to make running the habit, not the skipping. You are a failure if you don't run on your scheduled days. Remember that. A failure. Your family is ashamed of you. In training for the Peachtree, I used Hal Higdon's novice 5k and novice 10k training schedules. The guy seems to be pretty well respected by runners and the training worked well for me. I used a schedule from Ontri.com for my recent triathlon.
If you're running roads, it's probably best not to run with music. It will drown out the environmental noises that you need to pay attention to, like cars. Podcasts, on the other hand, tend not to be walls of sound and from my experience allow you to easily hear cars coming up behind you while helping you keep your mind off of any discomfort from being tired and to keep you from getting bored. Boredom was always one of the main factors that kept me from sticking with this in the past. Now, I often realize that I've zoned out during the run and stopped paying attention to the podcasts as my mind drifts during the runs, but in the beginning they were a great help.
Finally, if you want to get faster, really track your progress, or if you're a stat junkie, get something like Runkeeper, especially if you have a GPS-enabled phone. My progress since adding Runkeeper to my exercise program has been incredible. I improved more in three months this year than I did the entire year last year.