How To: Get Started With Running Cheaply and Quickly

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but just in case you weren’t aware – I’m a runner. No, not a sprinter. That’s for pansies. Just kidding. Kind of. I run long distances. During all my junior high and high school years, I’ve been a member of the cross country team. In HS, races are 3.1 miles (5K). Day-to-day runs were in the neighborhood of 4-8 miles.

What’s this have to do with personal finance you ask? Well, I want people to be aware that it’s possible to exercise without breaking the bank. Many sports and forms of exercise are a constant drain on one’s finances. Golf requires clubs to be bought. Gyms have membership fees. Baseball needs bats and gloves.

Running however, in my opinion, is a much cheaper (if not frugal) sport to “play”.

To start running, you need:

  • a pair of decent running shoes
  • a plan

The shoes don’t need to be ridiculously expensive. I require motion control shoes because my feet naturally roll in, which can lead to injuries. They usually cost about $80-$100. If you’re more genetically gifted, you should be fine in a cheaper neutral running shoe. Thanks to the Internet, you can usually fine deals from stores like Zappos.com and Runningwarehouse.com

Other than shoes, you honestly don’t need to buy anything else.

The following is a list of things that are nice, but by no means necessary:

Digital watch – You will probably want to pick up one of these once you start increasing distances and want to measure your (hopeful) decrease in time. Also useful for races.

Moisture-wicking tops/bottoms/socks (Nike Dri-FIT, Under Armour, etc.) – I read a lot of articles on the Internet that say moisture-wicking clothes are a necessity, but I disagree. I own a few shirts made from these materials and it is no doubt nice to have, especially on long runs (about 6+ miles or an hour). However, I run most of the time wearing plain cotton t-shirts and they are only bothersome are extremely hot and humid days.

Sunglasses – Glare is annoying anytime, but more so when running. However, it’s not unbearable. Only purchase nice running sunglasses once you know you’re serious. The Oakley brand is popular with many runners, but they do come at pretty steep cost.

Hydration packs – These devices allow you to carry water on your body so you always have liquids available. But, few runners will need to drink anything while running unless they’re pushing past an hour to hour and a half. Save this for when you’re marathon training.

Protein gels – Some swear by them, but these aren’t a magical run fast pill. Best during serious training – after hard workouts to maximize recovery.

Heart rate monitor - Great for stat junkies, but definitely an unneeded luxury for beginners.

All of these are optional and you likely won’t even understand why more experienced runners purchase them – until you become experienced yourself, of course.

The Plan

There are numerous running schedules available online. A popular one for beginning runners is the Couch to 5k program. It sounds just like what it is – it gets you from the couch to running 5 thousand kilometers. It does this in about 2 months and provides a very gradual guide.

If you’re not much for structure, you can make up your workouts as you go. Be careful though, many new and enthusiastic runners have dived into the deep end and tried to run 10 miles on their first day. Take it slow. Just like with personal finance, success will come with time.

Running is one of the best forms of exercise around – it’s healthy and fun to do. You’ll most likely even recoup what you do spend in the form of health and social benefits.

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