With more and more people contacting me about wanting to start working out, I thought it might be a good idea to give a brief overview of how I started, and what worked for me. I am always anxious when new people want to get in on the exercise game, because although just jumping in head first is the way to really get going, a little bit of planning can help avoid injuries early on. Nothing would be worse then finally getting motivated to shred the pounds, and get hurt the first week from over doing it.
1. Read up on proper technique
One of the most fundamental ways to improve your workout and avoid injury is using proper technique. Every physical activity has very specific forms that you should be utilizing. This is one of those areas where high school physical education could have played a substantial roll in shaping positive adult habits, but instead it chose to focus more on crab soccer or ultimate frisbee (though I love frisbee).
Proper technique will keep your body safer from injury, and you will get more out of your workouts. Take the time and google around if you are trying to do a particular exercise.
2. Get some sort of routine
Setting yourself into some sort of routine can really help you stay on track. The key though is to also remain flexible. If you miss one night of exercise, make it 100% necessary to get to the next scheduled exercise. It is really easy to fall off the wagon after you miss just one or two workouts. Avoid that by getting right back on the wagon immediately.
3. Find a friend to communicate with
For some people exercise is a solo adventure. That is totally ok! However, I can't tell you how motivating and valuable having a friend, or in my case my wife, to talk with after I workout. I can talk about my frustrations, what I am proud of. Having someone to bounce your thoughts and feelings off is fantastic, even if you want to leave the actual workout part to yourself.
4. Listen to your body
Owch, did you feel that twinge in your knee, or that sharp pain in your foot? If you did, then slow down or start walking all together. Cutting a workout short and walking is sometimes the best possible thing you could do. Yeah, you will feel upset that you couldn't go out and do what you want, but you'll be substantially happier knowing that you can actually go out the next day or the day after and still run.
For recurring issues, ask questions about them. Post a comment, call a doctor, do whatever to get the information you need. I am no medical expert, and only you know how you feel.
5. Slow down!
I know, you are finally off the couch and ready to go. Don't fall into the trap of "too much, too soon". ESPECIALLY if you are switching to minimalist or barefoot running. You can get seriously hurt very easily by over doing it. The most frustrating thing for me about exercise is being patient, and letting my strengths develop over time. When I first started running, I felt like I could do more, go further. I could have, but then I'd have been seriously laid up for a few days, instead of taking it slightly easier and being able to go every other day. Sometimes less really is more.
For those of you who really are looking for more of a set in stone plan to start running, there are many great programs that you can follow. Personally I like my adhoc style of just going out and having fun, but if you need more structure, that is ok.
Run and walk your way to 1.624 kilometers or one mile. You can start by running for two minutes, and walking for one. As you feel stronger start slowly adding more time into the running segments, maybe running for 2 and one-half minutes, and walking for one. Slowly build your way up to one mile.
When you can fully run a mile start alternating playing with how fast you can run, and how much further you can run. The key to your "speed" days though is to start your run at your normal speed and then when you get towards the last leg slowly increase how fast you run. You'll be surprised at what you can push out at the very end.
Note: This is kind of just a very basic guide of what worked for me. There are plenty of better guides and actual regimens to follow, but I feel like most of them are too constricting, and too punishing if you miss days. The key is to really just go out and do it, and before you know it you'll run your first mile, and never look back.