How to start running is a question we’ve been asked a lot. What if I’m a walker, not a runner

How to start running can be an evolution from moving from the couch to the kitchen, to the back yard, to the block, to the marathon. Okay, so you don’t want to run a marathon right now. We get that, but you do want to feel better, right? If you’re in recovery, you need both connect to other people and tools for relapse prevention. This is one of the best tools there is.

Start with what you’re already doing

An escalation of what you’re already doing can also be a way to get connected to the running lifestyle, which is cool, even if you never pick up the pace. Many of our followers are walkers, or hikers. You don’t have to run, but we do like to encourage you to try.

You have to walk before you can run anyway, so think the walk

How to start exercising is a topic we explored last week. But let’s ask another question. Where are your feet leading you right now? Maybe your dog is taking you for walks. Could be you’re also jogging just a little, or dancing with the music. Moving and getting outside are super important tools for Covid 19 self care. And don’t you feel much better every time you get moving and every time you’re outside? The benefits of running are myriad. We can’t even list them all. But here are a few: running lifts your mood with endorphins, and oxygenates your brain. Yes. Your brain needs oxygen, and running is a good way to get it.

An everyday activity can connect you with a larger community

Whether you realize it or not, now that you’ve been walking, jogging or running for a while, you have become part of a much larger community. Many more doors have now opened for you. You now have the option of connecting with like-minded people who will support you in your new habit, and you have several options for how to make this happen.

How to start running: Get connected to embrace the running lifestyle

Join a Club: Did you know that Road Runners Club of America, the largest and oldest organization in the country dedicated to running, has over 1500 member clubs representing more than 200,000 individuals?! And that’s just RRCA member clubs. There are thousands of other informal walking, jogging and running groups all over the country. 

Many are supported by local running stores or other community organizations. Most have a website, or a presence on Facebook or Instagram. There are even sober running clubs in some cities.  And remember, you don’t have to be a good runner to be part of a running club.  Many clubs welcome walkers and beginning runners as well.  If you’re looking to connect with others who value the physical, emotional and mental health benefits of this sport, your options are just a few mouse clicks away.

Sign Up for Races: As of this writing, there are still no large organized in-person races that I’m aware of. But you can still sign up for virtual races. You register and pay the fee, just as you would for an in-person race. You run the distance during the scheduled time, using an app to track your time. Then, you then submit proof of your accomplishment by uploading a screenshot of the app.

You’ll receive a finisher’s medal, a race shirt, and whatever other swag the race organizer offers.  You will have some very tangible reminders of your accomplishment. You’ll also be able to go online and see everyone’s results. Is it as much fun as doing a race with people cheering for you along the sidelines and at the finish? To me, it’s not; but it still feels good to earn a medal, wear the shirt, and know I was part of something bigger than myself. And for those of you who are new to the sport, it’s a great way to ease into participating in a live event. Hopefully, we’ll start having some of those in 2021.

Connect While at Rest: There are numerous magazines about running. Runner’s World is the largest; and there are walking magazines as well. Those are great options for learning more about your new sport and staying motivated. You can also find a wide variety of online groups for walkers and runners. Thus, even when you aren’t actually running either with a club or in a race, you can still build relationships with and learn from those who share your passion.  

With your new lifestyle, you now have a whole new community waiting to welcome you. You earned it. Go enjoy it.


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Leslie Gold

Leslie Gold, Founder and Executive Director of Strides in Recovery Leslie is an RRCA-certified running coach who specializes in training the newly sober. As a volunteer at a residential addiction treatment program, she has coached hundreds of people in early recovery across the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon, more than any other coach in the country. Years later, many of the participants still credit the group training and life lessons learned as critical to their long-term sobriety. Inspired by these success stories and numerous testimonials about the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits of training for a challenging endurance event with the support of a team, Leslie started Strides in Recovery. The mission of this non-profit is threefold: 1) Bring running/walking-based relapse prevention programs to more recovery communities 2) Strengthen and grow the community of sober runners/walkers 3) Educate addiction treatment providers about the healing power of goal-oriented group training Prior to starting Strides in Recovery in 2018, Leslie spent three decades leading clinical and financial performance improvement projects, implementing decision support solutions, and generating analytics for hospitals and health systems across the US. She holds an MBA from UCLA and a BA from the University of Virginia. She regularly runs 40-50+ miles/week and has joyfully completed a 50K, 9 marathons, and numerous shorter distance events. She is also an avid cyclist.

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