Becoming a runner can be a daunting task, especially for those who have never been inclined to do so before. It can seem almost impossible to know where to begin.

In actuality, becoming a runner is pretty far from impossible. Starting out, you only really need a few things: a decent pair of shoes and about 30 minutes of free time three to five days a week.

As with any exercise program , consult your physician before beginning your training.

Feet first

While there are all kinds of gadgets, shorts and shirts you can buy, the most important purchase you will make for your workouts is a good pair of running shoes. Ideally, it’s good to go to a specialty running store where you can get your feet properly measured and fitted, and talk to the employees about your goals and abilities.

If that’s not an option, find a brand you are familiar with and shoes that feel comfortable. While the most expensive shoes may not always be the best, neither are the cheapest. Less expensive shoes typically don’t provide the same support or have the durability of those in the middle or high end of the price range.

Consult your budget before making this purchase, but also realize you can get at least 300 miles or more out of your shoes. They’ll also make a big difference in the early success of your new adventure.

Getting started

Most experts agree: it’s not the miles you run but the minutes that are important. Don’t take off like you are being chased by a pack of wild dogs – conserve your energy. However, you also need to challenge yourself; when you can’t run, walk briskly.

One good measure of your pace is the talk test. If you can hold a conversation while running you are at a good pace. At least once a week, challenge yourself. Go for a shorter run but at a faster pace. This helps build your fitness and cardiovascular development.

Setting a realistic goal will help motivate you better than just opening the front door and taking off — there are a number of free training plans online. Simply type in “free running plans for beginners” in an Internet search and find the one that’s right for you.

Another good motivator is signing up for a 5k. Give yourself several months to prepare and set realistic expectations. Take a moment to congratulate yourself after crossing the finish line of your first 5k, then sign up for another one next month.

Why does it hurt?

It’s true, you will be sore. Especially at first. But don’t let that discourage you. Also, it’s important to recognize the difference between soreness and pain. Give your body six weeks or so to get acclimated to running. Know that it’s going to zap your body, but also know that it’s going to get better the more you do it.

Listen to your body. If the discomfort you are feeling goes beyond regular soreness, take a day off. Running through pain can make things worse.

If you are having sharp pain in your shin, hip, the iliotibial band in your knee or any other area of the body that’s beyond soreness, apply ice to the affected area, elevate it if possible and use an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. Once the pain subsides, ease back into your routine. If the pain comes back, see your physician.

Fuel your workouts

One of the great perks of running is burning calories ― about 100 per mile depending on your pace. Around two hours before you run, try to eat a little protein and some complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, steamed wild rice, fat-free milk or an apple. Somewhere between 200 and 400 calories, depending on your intake for the day, should be enough to fuel your run. This will help prepare your body for the strain and give you a boost of energy.

You should also drink about 20 ounces of water two hours before you run. Drinking while you run is good too (every 20 minutes), but this pre-hydration should sustain you through an hour-long run.