How Fast or Slow Should I Run?
The trick is to find your “Goldilocks pace”—the one that’s just right. Here’s how.
When you first start exercising, you want to work hard enough that you’re boosting your fitness, strength, and endurance but not so fast that you get hurt. (Doing too much too soon is a very common cause of injury.)
But how do you know how fast or slow to go? Follow these tips:
Measure minutes, not miles. Don’t worry about your pace or miles covered when you’re just starting out. The first step is to focus on building overall fitness—and to make exercise a habit. The main health benefits, from lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension, result from the time you consistently spend elevating your heart rate. It doesn’t matter how many miles you cover while you’re out.
Make it brisk. If you’re walking, your cadence should feel quick. You should be able to hold a conversation. If you can sing, you’re likely going too slow. If you are huffing and puffing, you’re going too fast.
Start slow. No matter how far or how long you plan to go, start out slowly to warm up and gradually raise your heart rate. That will make the workout feel easier sooner. You want to go into the workout with the idea that you’ll finish strong. If you finish feeling gassed, you’re going to be demoralized and it’s going to be that much more difficult to get out for your next workout. One of the most common mistakes newer runners make is going out too fast.
Tune in to your body. Once you hit a pace that feels comfortable, tune in to how your body feels. How hard are you breathing? How quickly are your legs turning over? How do your leg muscles feel? Getting a sense of how your comfortable pace feels will help you lock into it on every run.
Run relaxed. When you first start out, it’s common to clench up muscles that aren’t involved in running. And that can sap the strength you need for a good workout. So when the going gets tough, do a body scan: Unknit your brow, unclench your jaw, keep your hands relaxed (imagine holding a piece of paper between your thumb and pointer finger), and don’t forget to breathe. You’ll be amazed at how much easier the workout feels!