This is something that I get asked a lot on social media, and also see posted in a lot of beginner runner and fitness groups that I am a part of. People often seem unsure on how to start out running, or what they need to keep in mind.
If you prefer to listen / watch, please find the YouTube video below:
Running doesn’t have to be expensive (shh, don’t tell my husband!). Essentially, all you really need is a decent pair of running shoes. The extras such as sweat wicking clothing, GPS watch, running belts, etc, are also nice to have, but aren’t crucial at the beginning point of your journey. Running in old or unsuitable shoes can lead to injury. Not to mention that they may be uncomfortable and not offer the right support. First starting out with anything new can already feel uncomfortable, so why make it worse for yourself as a beginner runner? Play it safe and get some decent shoes!
Now, “decent shoes” doesn’t have to equate to expensive shoes. You can pick up an older model or sale pair, but it’s important to invest in a new pair. You may have an old pair lying around, however if they have been used for a lot of walking then the support may not be the best.
I started with a pair of Nike Air Max’s; however, they were heavy, clunky and just not great for running in. After a trip to my local sports shop, I had invested in a new pair of trainers. They only cost me around £30 and I picked them more on looks than anything else. Unfortunately, I found that these didn’t have enough cushioning for me, so I had to exchange them for a different model.
Everyone is different so a shoe that suits me may not be suited to your feet and running style. If you are flat footed then you may need custom orthotic insoles (Chris uses these) or support shoes. I’d never had issues before so I just opted to buy a pair of neutral running shoes that I liked the look of and that were in my budget price range. If you have had injuries or know you have high / low arches, you may want to opt for a gait analysis at a local running shop, or at least talk to a professional. Failing that, make sure you purchase from somewhere that has a good returns policy; Nike.com allows you to try out shoes and return them within 30 days.
Follow A Plan
A good plan can help keep you progressing and give you something to aim for. It can also help take the guess work out of what you should be doing each run. It’s important to follow a plan that matches your fitness level. Typical beginner runner plans or couch to 5k plans use walk intervals to build fitness and allow body to adjust. They should increase the running intervals slightly each week with no big jumps in mileage or time.
I currently have a free beginner runner plan available on the Black Dog Fitness website; the aim is to get you running for 30 minutes non-stop in 9 weeks using 3 runs a week which range from 30-40 minutes per session. It also comes with a printable log to help you keep track of your runs, so feel free to check that out if you are in need of a beginner runner plan.
People starting out by running too fast is probably the biggest and most common mistake that I see. When you are looking to build stamina, and especially when first starting out, it’s important to slow the pace down. You may feel slow already, but trust me, go even slower than you think you need to! The aim at this point is just to cover distance and build up the time you spend on your feet running.
Running too fast will build up lactic acid which makes running feel a lot tougher and doesn’t help to build stamina. Not to mention that it also puts more stress onto the body and can cause shin splints. When I first started out, I’d end up going too fast and really struggling; it made the experience feel a lot worse than it should have. When I learnt to slow down, I could run for further than I thought with less effort. Granted, sometimes I could probably have quick walked faster than I was running, but I was still making progress!
If you train with a heart rate monitor, your “easy” run pace should equate to zone 2. If you don’t use a heart rate monitor, then it’s a pace that you can comfortably hold a conversation.
Don’t Skip Rest Days
Rest days are important at any level; however, they are crucial when you are first starting out as your body needs time to adapt to the new stress that you are putting it under. Running is a high impact sport and doing too much too soon can lead to injury; and remember, you can’t improve if you’re injured! You may feel like you could add in another run or run 3 days in a row, but as a beginner runner
especially, this could have a knock-on effect on your next session.
Not to mention, you don’t want the novelty to wear off too soon! Avoid the burnout by being patient and following a plan. Give your body time to recover. Remember, patience is the key!
So, as I just mentioned above, patience is key, but that can make it a bit discouraging when you just want to be able to run 5k or for 30 minutes, or whatever your goal is. Trust me, I’ve been there, but keep at it! At times, you may feel like you aren’t progressing as quick as you would like or expected; just believe in the plan, stay consistent and you will get there. As long as you can hand on heart say that you have been consistent, then you will have made progress. Try to log your runs (time taken, distance, how you felt before, during and afterwards) so that you can compare your runs. You may not notice the improvements along the way, but if you sit and actually look back then you’ll be able to see changes. You may have lost weight or inches, be able to run further or faster, feel better running at the same pace, etc. Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Find An Event
This may sound daunting, especially if you are at the very stages of starting out on your running journey, but stick with me! Finding a local event can help to keep you motivated and the accountability to stay consistent as you have a goal to work towards. Parkrun’s are great as they happen every Saturday and are free. They are basically free, timed 5k events which take place at 9am UK time and are run by volunteers. What makes them great, besides being free and weekly, is that you get a real community spirit atmosphere of people cheering you on and just running with others. It gives you a chance to meet like-minded people, or just have the boost of running around other people to push you on.
Parkrun was my first experience as a running event. I had only expected a handful of people to attend, but to my surprise there were more than 300! I’d only been running for a week or two when I attempted my first Parkrun. It took me over 46 minutes to finish, and I was last as I struggled to keep up with an 81-year-old, but I enjoyed the experience still. Everyone was so supportive! There are also “tail walkers” who walk at the back to ensure that no-one is left struggling alone. Sometimes there are also walkers who take part, people show up with their dogs or pushchairs too! It really is an all-inclusive event and they are a great way to dip your toe into events.
Embrace The Bad Runs
I wish I could say that running is always fun and productive, but unfortunately, it’s not! You will have runs where you feel great and can see the progress that you have made. Then there will be runs where you want to quit 5 minutes in. Even now, I still have bad runs, or times when I just don’t look forward to lacing up my trainers. Stick with it and embrace the bad runs. Nothing worth doing is going to be easy! Try to use the bad runs to remind yourself why you set your goal in the first place and what you want to achieve. Even a bad run is better than no run and you are lapping everyone who is at home on the couch!
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
This one can be tough, not just as a beginner runner, especially if you have running friends or social media. It’s important to remember that we all had to start somewhere. Sure, there are talented runners out there, but there are also plenty of other runners, like myself, who aren’t naturally gifted and have had to put a lot of work in. We are all at different stages in our journey, and your progress is personal. I couldn’t run for 30 seconds when I first started, despite being able to walk for miles. I had to accept that my fitness was worse than I thought, but that just spurred me on to improve. Be proud of what you achieve, regardless of what others are doing. You don’t have to reach your goal to be proud, be proud every step of the way!
Running can be a great hobby as it improves your mental and physical fitness, and allows you to challenge yourself. It does have its ups and downs though, especially as a beginner runner! If I had to give two main pieces of advice; stay consistent and be patient! I know these can be easier said than done, but to see progress, they are essential. Find your reason why, set a goal, find a plan, stay consistent, be patient, remember why you started, track your progress!
Please feel free to share your progress and tips below.
Also, if there are any topics you would like me to cover in the future, please let me know!