Running for Beginners: Getting Started Looking to pick up a running habit in 2018? First thing’s first, it’s best not to actually hit the ground running. Everyone starts s¬≠¬≠omewhere, and a good lifestyle change is all about creating a healthy, gradual journey. A little bit of prep goes a long way and sets you up for success. Check out these helpful tips for folks who want to incorporate running or jogging into their fitness routine.

Walk it out. Really—start with walking. Even if you know you can go faster, start slow and steady. This will prevent injury and help you build up your abilities.

Don’t forget your warm up. Dynamic stretching is the key, not the slow, extended stretching recommended long ago (that can actually hurt you!). By doing things like lunges and ankle holds, you get your whole body going—the nervous system, blood flow and oxygenation, muscles and core—all while minimizing risk of injury.

Make sure the shoe fits. Feet swell, so buy your shoes at least one size larger than what’s normal for you. It’s best to go to a store that specializes in running shoes and undergo an evaluation for a customized product specific to your needs.

Get plenty of food and water. For new runners, daily hunger may increase—food is fuel after all. You may need to play around a little bit. Make sure you’re eating enough and often, if not, break down your meals into smaller portions throughout the day. And always get enough protein, because it stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you full! Most importantly: water, water, water!

Running for Beginners: Getting Started

Rest days are crucial. Momentum is great, but rest is important, too. Take days in between your running adventures to rebuild muscle, de-stress joints and bones and allow the immune system to get to work on spots that may need help.

And whatever you do, don’t get discouraged! Getting started can seem really intimidating—the idea of having experienced runners with their earbuds and super gear zoom circles around you at the park isn’t exactly inviting. But stick to your guns at a reasonable pace, listen to your body, and never compare your running journey to another’s. Fitness is about you and what your body needs, and as long as you’re doing your best (safely), success is in the bag.

If you have any injuries or concerns, please be sure to discuss your fitness plans with your doctor.