If warmer, sunnier spring weather has inspired you to get back into running or to start your first-ever running routine, you may be wondering how long it will take to see results. Whatever your goals are, whether it's for weight loss, cardiovascular health, to get stronger, or for your mental health, we asked NASM-certified trainer and Rio Olympian sprinter, Ashley Natasha Kelly of Aktiv Fitness, to explain when you should expect to see progress.
When Will Breathing Feel Easier When You Start Running?
As you train your cardiovascular system with running, your breathing and heart rate will improve over time. You have to be consistent with your training for your breathing to become easier, Kelly said. She suggested these tips to help with your breathing while running: utilize inhaling through your nose and out through mouth to control breathing patterns. Take full deep breaths by engaging your core: you should breathe deeply into your lunges, not shallow breaths through you cheeks. Lastly, if you're huffing and puffing, then your running pace is probably too fast. She suggests slowing down your pace to a more controlled pace, then work on speeding up and slowing down in intervals during your run. This also helps improve your heart rate and can change the number of calories you burn — high-intensity intervals at a higher heart rate will burn more calories. Within weeks of slowly building your pace, you should notice your breathing feeling easier.
When Will My Legs and Body Feel Stronger From Running?
Again, consistency is key. Kelly explained that there's no definite answer as to when your body and legs will feel stronger because it depends on the number of times you train and how you set up your training. It's important to have a plan and stick to it, and she recommends consulting a trainer if you need help with creating an individual running program for strength. But within a few weeks of running several times a week, your legs should begin to feel stronger.
When Will My Running Endurance Improve?
The same goes for endurance. The more you run and make time for recovery, the stronger you'll get, the easier breathing will feel, and the more endurance you'll have for longer distances. If you have a specific goal in mind, such as a 5K, a half-marathon, or a full marathon, working with a trainer can help you reach your goals safely. You obviously don't want to run five miles in your first week! Injuries are common for new runners who overdo it, and that will put an end to your runs. So remember that slow and steady is key to building your endurance.
When Will Running Hills Feel Easier?
Running hills is a very effective way to engage more parts of the body at once, to work on running mechanics, and to strengthen your posterior muscles, Kelly said. As mentioned above, consistency is essential when improving in your workouts. If you want hills to feel easier, you need to incorporate hill work on your runs — try this 20-minute HIIT workout. You can also make hills feel easier by strength training your lower body with squats and lunges.
When Will I Notice Changes in How Running Affects My Mental Health?
If you're running to clear your mind, Kelly suggested trying breathing techniques like counting your steps, inhaling through your nose and out through mouth, and taking deep breaths. If you want your mind to feel calmer, take runs in beautiful scenery like open trails surrounded by green trees, on the beach, or in the quiet woods. Listening to your favorite music or a funny podcast can also lift your mood and help you destress. The effects of running can improve your mental health in as little as one run! You'll find that as you continue to run regularly, the release of endorphins and the time devoted to self-care can not only help you feel better during the actual run, but can improve your overall mental health when you're not running.
When Will I Notice Changes in My Health From Running?
If you're running to improve your blood pressure, lower your resting heart rate, or improve your sleep, these changes will happen over time, with consistency, and a good program, Kelly said. Early morning runs and workouts have been proven to improve energy during the day and aid in a restful night of sleep. Exercising late in the evening may release endorphins and be counterintuitive to falling asleep after.
When Will I Notice Changes in How My Body Looks From Running?
If your goal of running is to lose weight, look leaner, and have more muscle definition, again, consistency is key. Cardio is an important factor when trying to lose body fat, Kelly explained, and muscle definition is developed with a combination of cardio, resistance training, and diet.
Within two to three weeks of running three to four times a week, strength training three times a week, and leaving days for recovery, you will notice changes in how you look. The scale may not be the best judge as building muscle can actually cause weight gain, so be sure to take weekly progress photos. If you have a specific goal you want to reach, consult a professional fitness trainer so they can help create a unique plan for you.