Side view of a woman running in Central Park, New York City, New York, USA
The rain and cold temps may not be doing much now to help matters, but it'll be spring soon enough, and the warm breeze and blooming trees could inspire some new thoughts about running outdoors.
For newcomers intimated by the idea, here are a few words of assurance from longtime runners in New York City:
"Here's the thing about running: we ALL ran when we were young and we can ALL run now (barring, of course, physical disabilities). In some circles there is a bit of elitism with running but those are few and far between. The running community at large is very welcoming and encouraging. I would sugget becoming involved on a site like Dailymile. This will not only get you in touch with runners from across the world but also from around the corner."
"Take it slow. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or set your goals too high. Pick a 5K or 4-mile race (even if it’s four or five months down the road), and commit yourself to crossing the finish line. You don’t have to be the first person across the line -- all that matters is that you get there! And most importantly, do it for yourself. Don’t worry about impressing anyone or proving anything. Have fun."
"I know this is tough when you're feeling unsure, but the first step is the critical one. Once you're running, you'll realize there are plenty of people at your pace and level of fitness. Start slow. Slower than you want to. So slow that you'll feel pissed off and ready to jump three levels ahead. Build very gradually and don't push yourself. If you're really just starting out after a period of inactivity, it is ridiculously easy to strain or stress your body in ways that will lead to injury. Injury means no running (and there's nothing worse than that!).
If you need shoes, go to a specialty shop. There are several REALLY good options in NYC now. Find a store that will evaluate your running and prescribe the right shoe for your needs. It takes a little time, but anything less threatens your health and comfort.
After that, consider joining your local running group or club. Inwood Hill Runners is my local club and it's an inclusive and social group. The internet makes tracking down groups in your area easy. Running with people increases the likelihood that you'll keep running, and it may very well increase the please you get from it.
"Don’t be shy. Join a Twitter group or reach out to one of the local running stores to find out when a group run is taking place. You don’t have to have the coolest gear or best sneakers to get started. A lot of the runners out there love giving advice and helping new people gt into the swing of things. They could also follow some of our running blogs and reach out to us via email."
Take a MetroCard so you can get home if you find yourself unable to continue for any reason.
Go early when there aren't too many people out yet and the traffic isn't bad.
Run against the flow of traffic on the streets.
Run with a sense of what you can handle.
Stick to running paths and parks so you don't have to compete with cars and trucks. "Plus, who really wants to hear horns honking all the time?!"
Know where water foundations are. "They're all over the city but sometimes they're a bit hidden. Also, know that many water foundations get turned off in the winter but you still need hydration -- so find a way to carry hydration that works for you."
Try new routes to keep it interesting. "Even running a route backwards works."
Stay safe. "Most parks and popular running areas in the city are well-lit when it gets dark; still, try to run where there are other people running near you."
Women running alone when it's dark should "seriously consider pepper spray."
Be responsible. "There are thousands of runners on the roads, paths and trails out there. Many of us do not really seem to realize that we have responsibilities to the other runners, cyclists and pedestrians with whom we're sharing resources."
Many thanks to Brandon, Christopher, Jonathan and Lisa for pitching in with their tips on getting started. Stay tuned to Go Healthy for more from these and other New York City-based runners.