This is all you need:
- Comfortable running shoes
- Supportive bra (if applicable)
- Half an hour every other day (NOT every day)
- Running is different than walking. Yes, walking can be good exercise, blah blah blah. The difference is that with running, there is that marvelous fraction of a second when you break free of the earth's gravity and are floating in air. Then you come crashing back down. You cannot cheat on this, unlike with walking, which easily becomes ambling for most folks.
- Everyone makes the same mistake when starting out: going too fast. When you start, you need to go SLOWLY. So slowly that you could probably walk faster. So slowly that you will feel humiliated if you see anyone you know.
- Do not worry about (or even calculate) your speed or distance. Measure yourself only by time.
(As for stretching, meh. It's never really been shown to do much. I do a few yoga-type stretches and some ITB stretches (especially #3) beforehand, but if I'm in a real rush, I skip them.)
You will need to figure out if you're a morning runner, an evening runner, or a fortunate bi. I have never been able to run in the early morning, which is too bad, because it means double showering on weekdays. My favorite time to run is about 4 pm. During the week I have to go at 6 pm or so, but as long as I have a snack beforehand, I manage.
The following are NOT good excuses for not running:
- I don't have time. Me neither. But I do it anyway.
- I'm not athletic. Why do you think you have to start slower than an arthritic sloth? In fact, former athletes probably can't use this program. They can't wrap their minds around the concept of no longer being competitive.
- My boobs are too big. Strap those puppies down. I admit I'm not the best qualified to comment on this, but some of my best friends are well-endowed runners, and they manage with industrial-strength bras. When I went running with a new and impressive lactation rack, I found the double-bra method effective.
- The baby cries in the running stroller. So does mine. Sometimes I bribe him with candy; sometimes I leave him home with his father; sometimes I let him cry. But I still run.
- I'm too fat. If you can walk, you can probably run. Not as fast or as far, but you're not measuring speed and distance anyway. And don't worry about what people might think (unless you live in L.A.). When I see someone of large proportions out running, I want to cheer them on.
- It's too hot/cold/rainy/snowy. Oh, suck it up. (Also suck on an inhaler if you have asthma like I do.)
- I can't afford the equipment. Really, the shoes and bra are all you need, and they don't have to cost a lot of money. You don't even need a jogging stroller; I used a regular stroller when I first started running again and just ran on smooth pavement. Babies like to be jostled anyway.
- I'm too depressed/headachy/chronically under the weather. Running will fix all that!
- Joggers are dorky. Oh, like you're so hip? I've seen you going to the store for Ben & Jerry's wearing those droopy pants and that stained t-shirt.
- I have a bad knee/hip/foot/back. As long as running does not actually make you hurt more, it should be fine to do it. I have found that as long as I only run every other day, I remain injury-free.
- I'm pregnant. Some people can keep running when they're with child. I was not one of them.
- My neighborhood is too dangerous. Can you drive somewhere? Can you get a running buddy?
- I hate running. If you give the above regimen a real try — say for two solid months — and you still hate it, ok. But if you just think you hate it, it's probably because you've always tried to run too hard and fast.
(Update 2012: For more, here are all the running posts, or check the sidebar to the right for "Running FAQs/Maggot Files")