A Beginners Guide To Running
How To Start Running
Running is beautifully simple. It is cheap and one of the best ways of getting fitter and healthier. It is completely natural and you can do it where you want, when you want, with whom you want and with the minimal amount of equipment required. While it does you good, it actually feels good, too. Runners buzz with adrenaline!
There are millions of people in towns and in the country worldwide so you won’t be alone and it’ll improve your health and make you feel great.
Here are some of the top-line benefits:
Running will Burn Calories - Running is the simplest and most effective way to burn up calories. This helps you lose weight (or allows you extra treats!)
Running will change your Body Shape - Regular running reduces your fat percentage and tones your muscle. So, you look and feel better.
Your Heart Size will Increase - Your heart gets bigger and more efficient (not to mention more healthy) in response to regular training.
Running improves your Blood Pressure - Your blood pressure will start to drop within a few weeks of training. That’s healthy!
Running improves Blood Cholesterol - Your total levels should drop and the ratio of good to bad cholesterol (HDL/LDL) improves with regular training. That is good news!
Running gives you better Bone Density - The impact of running makes your bones more dense (this does not happen in non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming), which becomes more important the older you get. Stronger bones are better bones.
Stress Busting - Regular running has been proven to lower stress levels. Who wants to be stressed-out?
Sleep Soundly - Regular exercise can improve sleep habits and reduce anxiety. Which is another worry off your mind.
Improved self-esteem - Confidence and self-esteem have been shown to improve in response to regular running, most likely in response to the above health benefits. You can feel better about your raised self-esteem too.
Achievement - You will improve if you start training, whatever your age. Aside of the health benefits, this gives a great sense of achievement as you improve your running ability and fitness. You are still you - just better!
Running will Change Your Life - Use running to meet new people and to strike up friendships. Let it take you to new environments; different districts, woods, cities and even countries. Running will give you a new outlook on life.
Starting to Run
Beginning to run can be a little daunting, especially when you don’t really know how to go about starting. Here are some straightforward pointers to help you get off to the best possible start.
How do I start to run?
When starting to run, try not to be too ambitious in the beginning. You'll start motivated and you will want to jog around the block as fast as your legs will carry you. If you are not careful, you will burn up all your energy and enthusiasm with a few early over-exuberant efforts.
Begin your life of running free by going for a walk! You’ve heard of walking before you can run right? Well, if you are not used to running, begin with walking then ease in to a run.
Here’s how to do it
Begin with three walks a week of different distances.
Use the short walk to ease in to running.
Start with 15mins of fast walking. Introduce just 30sec of slow jogging every 5min. Always start and finish with walking so put the 30sec in the middle of each 5min. You may need to slow the pace of the walking between these three 30sec runs - that is fine. Do not worry about how fast the running stints are, start as slowly as you wish. Your pace will improve as you get fitter.
Once 30sec is manageable, step up to 45sec in each 5min walking block. Build-up in 15sec steps until you are up to 90sec in each 5min.
At this point, switch to one minute of walking followed by a minute of running.
Reaching this stage will not be a simple progression. You may find you take far longer to get used to one progression than others. You may seem ‘stuck’ at one level for a while and at other times your progress might seem quite quick. The key is to be patient and to listen to your body. It may be necessary to take a step back at some points. Don’t be afraid to do this. If you are ill don’t train. If you miss training through illness or other reasons take as long building back to where you were as you missed. So if you missed a week take a week to get back into it.
Once you are alternating a minute of walking with a minutes running you can start putting those 15sec jogging stints into another walk each week.
Gradually by lengthening the stints you are running for and shortening the walking breaks you will reach a point where you can run the whole of what was your 15min walk. You will probably find that to make it last 15min you have to go further. That means you are getting fitter and burning more calories each time you do it as you are covering more distance.
From here on you can gradually increase the distance of this run and gradually turn another walk into a run.
As you get fitter you will reap the advantages of being able to run further. Your muscles, including your heart and lungs, get stronger. You are also able to do more work in any given period of time. You may have started with a 15min walk but you reach a stage when you can run for that 15min period and you may be covering twice the distance – you are doing more than twice the work without spending any longer exercising! Running that far in 15min when you started out with your exercise programme would have been impossible.
Don’t be afraid to walk before you can run. Don’t feel the need to batter your body into submission. Always work at a level you can sustain and then step it up once you become comfortable with this.
Sticking to the task
There will be times when it is tough to keep going. There are always plenty of 'reasons' not to run today, or temptations to do it tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. Here are our top 10 tips to staying motivated:
- Put your training in your diary. Set a reminder/alarm on your organiser if necessary. You won’t break an appointment at a specific time and place. A vague intention to do something is never likely to happen.
- Creep towards it. So you don’t feel like training. But just put your kit on anyway and get your gym/training bag out in case you change your mind. Now it’s all there you might as well just go, right?
- Do a short session. Don’t fancy a 30min walk/run? Do 15min instead. Better to do something than nothing and after 10min you often change your mind.
- You tell yourself, “So what? It’s only one session.” But one missed session turns into two, two becomes a habit. Before you know it all your hard work to date is wasted, your clothes don’t fit, you’re out of breath walking upstairs and when you look in the mirror it looks like you’ve been super-sized. Just because of ‘one session’. May be you should do it!
- Meet someone.Like putting a session in a diary, you are far more likely to train if you are going to meet someone. Even if it is that you usually both go to the same gym class the semi-commitment to that person makes you more likely to go. So find a training partner.
- Have a training schedule. If the schedule on the fridge says 20min jog and it is there in black and white, you are going to do it. It removes the thinking about what to do and whether to do it.
- Be accountable. It may mean having a coach. But just telling your husband/wife/colleague/friend that you are going to do certain training sessions means they are likely to ask whether you did them or how they went. That accountability is great. If you did it they’ll be impressed, if not they won’t be!
- Keep a training diary. This allows you to be accountable to yourself. It can also mean that you can see if it is reasonable that you feel drained. If you have done a lot of hard work then it is time for an easier session.
- Have a goal. If you have a specific reason for training in general and for what you are trying to achieve with any given session then when the doubts creep in you have an answer to your own negative thoughts.
- Miss the session. If you are feeling ill or injured DO miss the session. You could do yourself real harm by training forcing you to miss far more training. The bad experience will make it far harder to get into good habits again. It is important to know when NOT to train.
Above all, train SMART
When you ‘get the legs’, i.e. are able to run non-stop for a distance two or three times a week, you might want to think about running longer. Setting yourself some realistic goals is the key to staying motivated. Think about what you want to achieve. Your goals should be SMART:
Specific - Be specific about what you want to achieve. Turn ‘I want to be fitter’ into ‘I want to be able to run three miles without feeling exhausted’. You should be able to see whether you have achieved you goal or not. Don’t throw in the towel if you fail for one day. Accept it, revise your goals (see below) and move on.
Measurable - Being specific is a big step towards having measurable goals. Measurable means being able to see whether you have done what you set out to achieve. But also you will see how close you have got. You may not be up to three miles but if you are at 2.5 miles that is not absolute failure! You can see that you have moved towards your goal and what more you need to do.
Adjustable - You may intend going to run three times a week. A crisis at work or home may mean this becomes unrealistic. Don’t throw your hands up and say ‘I’ve failed!’ Be flexible. Adapt to take into account changing circumstances. You may be getting fitter more quickly or more slowly than you expected. Adjust goals accordingly. It’s the smart thing to do.
Realistic - There’s nothing more demoralising than setting yourself goals that are either too easy or too difficult. You either achieve them early and have nothing more to aim at or realise they are never going to happen! Set a goal or series of goals that you can achieve but are challenging. But remember the previous point. Adjust your goals rather than sticking with ones that become inappropriate.
Time-Based - The best way of setting goals is to have a series of them. You should set some short, medium and long-term goals. In particular, focus on daily and weekly goals to give you motivation to get out there every time. Your short term goals should be stepping stones towards longer terms goals. For example, going for a run three times this week will take you towards your goal of being able to run a 10k race perhaps.
If you want to have a training schedule that matches the SMART system then see our training programmes and coaching section.
Check out our full SMART article here.
Food and Drink
One thing is for sure, you may feel more hungry when starting to run. Remember though, if you are running to lose weight, don’t increase your calorie intake too drastically. You will burn about 100kcals for every mile run so eating more “because I’ve run today”, will just mean you’ll put more weight on. Just change your eating habits.
Check out our top tips to a healthier diet
Ways to a healthier diet:
- Eating five to nine portions of fruit and vegetables every day
- Go for wholegrains when you eat grains
- Choose lean meats
- Try to get your fats from plants or fish rather than animals
- Choose healthy food preparation methods, i.e. don’t fry.
- Don’t panic if you do eat something unhealthy
- Don’t diet – change your eating habits.
For our full article, see here.
However, it is vital that you drink enough fluids. Follow these steps to stay hydrated and healthy.
- Aim to drink approximately 2 litres of water each day. For a more accurate guide you should drink 30-35ml of water each day for each kilo you weigh. (So 70kg means 70 x 35ml = 2450ml = 2.5l)
- After exercise drink a litre of water for each kilo of weight you have lost. (Almost all the weight you lose is due to water loss)
- Don’t worry too much about sodium/salt replacement as this is likely to happen through your regular eating
- Tea can count as part of your fluid intake as if you are used to drinking it tea is unlikely to have a diuretic effect (to make you pee more). But aim to base your hydration around water
- If you are exercising for 30min or less it is probably not necessary to drink while exercising
- If exercising for more than 30min aim to drink 150ml to 200ml each 15-20min.
- Get used to drinking while exercising. Practise makes perfect. Many people find a half empty bottle is easier to drink from than a full one while running. It can also help to hold the water in your mouth before swallowing rather than trying to do everything at the same time and gulping down air with the fluid.
- If you’ve entered a race as a goal, check out our race day hydration article.
For more information about hydration, check out the full article here.
What do I need to run?
The beautiful thing about running is that you need very little. A t-shirt, pair of short and a good pair of shoes - we can certainly help you there! Have a look at our guide to buying shoes and also look all the reviews. We hope we've written them in a user friendly manner and that they're easy to understand.
If you're new to running, buying the right basics can be a bit of a minefield. Please don't feel pressurised in to buying the latest and often, most expensive kit when you're starting out. Just pick up a few basic pieces and you'll be good to go.
It's important not to skimp on a decent pair of shoes. If you skimp you will feel the consequences!
Proper running shoes are a 'must have' item. Running shoes have been designed to give the right amount of cushioning, support and flexibility for running.
Good fit is important. There should be a fingers-width of space between your big toe and the front of the shoe. Otherwise you may end up with your toes hitting the end of the shoe. Black toe nails are no fun!
Clothing that is made for running not only looks better, it feels more comfortable and allows you to train more effectively.
Lightweight, breathable fabrics mean you can look and feel the part.
You can get away with wearing old cotton T-shirts for a run. But if you want to feel comfortable and look good buy specialist running wear. Proper running kit will draw sweat moisture (yep, that means sweat) away from your body so you stay dry and comfortable whereas cotton absorbs moisture making it heavy and uncomfortable.
At night time make sure you are visible. Wear white, light colours and/or kit with reflective strips/tabs on. You can buy reflective running bands some of which have lights on for added visibility.
If you know you will feel good and look good when you run, that makes you far more likely to go out and train.
Here's a checklist of what clothing you should consider:
Shorts and underwear - Specialist running shorts are lightweight and have built-in briefs. Men's and women's briefs are cut differently. If you don't have a specialist pair of shorts, don't worry, wear supportive underwear under a normal pair of shorts. Women should wear a sports bra for comfort and support.
Tops - Choose light and comfortable kit. Stay cool in warm weather by wearing a lightweight T-shirt or vest. In cold weather, warmer layers including a long-sleeved T-shirt and even a weather proof jacket can keep you warm and comfortable. It is better to wear lots of thinner layers in cold weather than fewer thicker ones.
Socks - Good running socks will help keep your feet dry, will not bunch at the toe and will prevent rubbing in the key areas reducing the risk of blisters. You'll be much more comfortable.
Tights– Again, technical fabric tights are much better than an old pair of jogging bottoms. They’re lightweight, will wick moisture away and it doesn’t matter if they get wet as they’ll remain light.
Those little extras…
You’ve got everything you need above but the sports stores are full of little extra ‘must haves’ that might tempt you. The special water bottle, backpack, gadgets for your mobile phone (useful!) etc. You don’t need this kit but it is nice to have as a treat. We say – that’s what birthdays and Christmas is for, right?!
If you are feeling flush though, the world of the GPS watch awaits you. The prices have come down dramatically over recent years and a GPS watch. You’ll be able to track and store your routes as well as a host of other great features such as measuring your heart rate – very important when starting out. Check out our article on using your heart rate as a fitness tool. Click here.
We hope this has been useful and will get you on the road to a long and happy running career. Take your time to check out some of the articles on the site and also have a look at our coaching section.