All right, you’ve all gone out and outfitted yourselves to run comfortably, right? You’ve got the shoes? If you haven’t, just bite the ugly-shoe bullet, and go do it! Then you can move on to the next step.

Step #2: Make a goal and write it down

You need to have a concrete goal, so that you can see and measure your progress, and thus feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. Your goal should be a running goal, not a weight-loss or dieting goal, or a physical appearance goal, or an anger-management goal, or a goal to begin recycling. It should be one that is within your abilities, but hard enough to make you work for it. And you must WRITE IT DOWN! The writing down seems dumb, but in 3 months, when you see how far you’ve come, and you can look back and tally up all the miles you’ve run, you will be so glad you kept track of your goals and accomplishments. It will be worth it. You will also have a handy record that can help you determine when it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes, since the average pair of running shoes lasts about 400-500 miles.

So here we go, beginning runners. If you can walk for 30 minutes at a brisk pace without falling over dead, you should be able to run for 2 minutes. Does that sound so stupid and tiny? It’s not. Running is hard at first, and you need to teach your body how to do it. If 2 minutes sounds intimidating, start with one, or even 30 seconds. You need to start with small distances, so your muscles can learn how it’s done, so your heart and lungs can learn how to cope, and so your mind can learn how to think while you’re running. If you do too much at the beginning, your whole system will overload, and you will never want to do it again. And you will have wasted $100 on those ugly shoes.

I guess we should also discuss what constitutes running. If you are moving forward, and at least one of your feet is always in contact with the ground, you are walking. If you are moving forward, and there are alternating moments when you have one foot on the ground, and then you’re airborne, you are running. It mattereth not how fast you are moving forward. Shuffling is fine, at least for the first few months. Your goal should not be to run fast, but to move forward and get your heart pumping more than it typically does while walking.

Your goal that you write down this week will be a weekly goal. Decide how many days this week you will run, and the duration of each run. You may wish to alternate days of running with days of some other activity, so your muscles can rest and repair themselves. You can tally your goal durations, so you have a total target duration to strive for. For example, my goal for this week is to run for 14 minutes for 6 days, and 28 minutes on the seventh day. I don’t have a rest day planned because I’m trying a new regimen of daily running that I don’t think I can explain and still sound rational. So my goal for the week is 112 total minutes of running. I currently run at a pace of about 11 minutes per mile, so I will have gone about 10 miles this week.

If you skip a day, or do something else, just cross out your running goal for the day and write in what you actually did. I usually keep a tab of running minutes/miles and walking minutes/miles. You can shuffle your days if you go off track, or you can just stay on schedule and not worry about the lost day. The most important thing in getting going is to not skip more than 2 days, and ideally, not more than one. That means that you should be running at least 4 times a week, if you really want to become a runner and enjoy your running.

If you run for your 2 minutes and find that you feel good enough to run 2 more, first walk for a few minutes, then run another 2. After my 2nd and 3rd babies were born, I got back into running very slowly, with 2 minute runs for the first week or so. During the second week, I would run for 2 minutes twice per workout, then the next week, 3 times. This approach may not work for you. You may find it easier to just increase the one run by a minute or two each week. Each time you increase, you will probably feel like it’s pretty hard, but by the time you get to 10 minutes, you will remember thinking how 2 minutes was hard, and you will feel so good about yourself. Then, when you can run for 2 hours, you will laugh at the thought of running for only 2 minutes.

Next, go see:
Step #3: Go Run
Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip