How to get started running + 5 tips to become a saint

Last week we asked the Catholic Women Run Instagram community for some questions. One good one that we got was, “How do you get started running after about 6 years of NOT exercising?”

Since we’re all about making sure people know and believe that they CAN be runners (and saints), we thought we’d share our answer in a blog post. Because it’s much longer than we could fit in a few characters on social media.

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Just Commit

Don’t go all in and swear you’ll run six days a week if you’ve never run before. Create a schedule and stick to it. Since you’re just kicking off your exercise habit, we suggest you start just by walking. And yes, walkers are totally welcome in the Catholic Women Run community!

Just like running, walking is one of the least expensive and most convenient ways to get healthy and happy. Walking is the most effective way to develop the fitness you need to start running comfortably—without getting hurt. This form of exercise puts your legs and arms through the same general range of motion as running, but without the same impact on your bones and joints.

Make sure you walk briskly, and not like you’re taking a leisurely stroll through your favorite store. Begin with a 15-minute walk. Feeling good? The next day, do it again. If you’re feeling strong, add five or 10 more minutes. Work up to 35 minutes by the end of the week.

Saintly Tip #1: In the same way, you gotta commit to become a saint! We’re all called to it, but some people throw their hands up in the air and say it’s just too difficult. Yes, it’s hard, but if you start small like with your running, then you can work up to it. Eventually, small holy habits will make up a big holy life. Create a schedule of what you’ll do to become a saint. Maybe begin with 5 minutes of prayer. Then 10. Then 15. Maybe eventually you can work up to a whole hour!

Make the time

Establish a workout routine that blends well into the rhythm of your daily life. What times of day are most convenient to work out? It might be different for each day, so just note that. Make walking a non-negotiable at that time on that day. Make sure you build in some time around events so your day isn’t jam packed. If a morning run means you’re speeding to work and stressed about being late, the workout will start to feel like punishment. And we don’t want that!

Saintly Tip #2: There are so many options to ensure that Jesus Christ is the foundation of your life. Say your morning prayers. Attend daily Mass. Read a spiritual book. Pray the Rosary. Go to Holy Hour. Even if you incorporate just one at a time, you’ll will become much holier.

Make whatever spiritual practice you choose a non-negotiable and stick with it until you’re ready to move on to adopting the next spiritual practice. Just like with running, make sure you don’t try to squeeze the spiritual practice in when you know you’ll be stressed about being late to something else. Yes, prayer should be the priority. But we’re flawed human beings, and if we don’t start a habit by enjoying it, we’ll never do it. Denying that won’t make it any less true.

Set a goal

For newbies and seasoned runners alike, it’s crucial to set goals. Giving workouts a purpose—whether it’s to lose weight or finish that first race—makes them more valuable than running mindlessly (or walking mindlessly, in this case). Goals keep you consistent.

Perhaps start with goals related to distance and time. Then track your progress. Write down details about how long and how far you went on each walk. You’ll draw confidence from seeing all of your workouts add up. And you’ll be able to set new goals once you see how much you've already accomplished!

Saintly Tip #3: Goals related to becoming a saint in heaven should always depend on God’s will above your own. That’s a difficult thing to do sometimes, especially if God’s will is for you to do something you DON’T want to do.

That’s where grace comes in. If you think you are going to make goals to become a saint and make it to Heaven of your own effort, you have already failed. It through His free gifts to you that you will become more holy.

Thankfully, the Catholic Church provides progress tracking in the form of the examination of conscience and confession. Instead of just saying these practices out loud, write them down and you’ll be able to remember how much you’ve grown out of a certain vice (even if it was replaced by another one).

Gear up

As the cliché goes, you only need shoes to start running. That means there’s a lot of pressure on finding the perfect pair! Resist the temptation to just wear any old pair of shoes for your workouts. Worn-out or ill-fitting shoes are one of the most common causes of injury.

Once you have the shoes, you’ll want to add a few other pieces of gear to make your sweat sessions more comfy. Check out our post on running shoes and clothes if you need some help!

If you feel pain, you’ll want to take a break. Which means the most important factor in becoming a consistent runner is becoming a healthy one.

Saintly Tip #4: What sort of gear do you need to become a saint? Simple. The Bible (read it). The Holy Eucharist (receive it often). Prayer (do it, do it, do it).

Build a support system

Enlist a girlfriend for your first walk. Tell your family what you’re planning on doing and ask them to cheer you on. Start a lunchtime walking group at your office. Research shows that connecting with others—whether it’s a person, an online forum, or a workout group—increases your chances of sticking with an exercise routine.

Saintly Tip #5: We don’t become fully ourselves by being isolated. We must engage as full members of our community. While building community is something that the Catholic Church has some problems with (I speak as a convert from Protestant denominations where community was super important), I do think things are getting better.

Surely there’s a bible study or small group at your parish. If not, ask about starting one. Or you can always go online to communities like Blessed Is She. Even though these are online, often you can find people living in your own city and schedule a meet up! And of course, you can join the Catholic Women Run Facebook community for support for all things Catholic AND running.

And speaking of support systems, have you asked for the intercession of any saints lately? Building community here on earth in pursuit of sainthood is great, but don’t forget about the people who have gone before us in that endeavor!

I hope that answered your question @graceinatx! Once you’re comfortable with walking, feel free to ask us how to move up to running. (Spoiler: our suggestion will probably have something to do with intervals.)

Johnna’s passion for health and fitness is reflected in her academic and professional career, as well as in her running hobby. She has an MA in Anthropology (her thesis was on the biological and psychological stress response of Southern women with tattoos) and an MBA in Nonprofit Management (her capstone focused on creating a toolkit for a successful food ministry in Los Angeles). Johnna is a RRCA certified running coach, and a six-time half marathon and two-time marathon finisher who became Catholic during the 2017 Easter Vigil. You can connect with Johnna on Instagram and her website.