How to start running
New to running? Don't worry - we've got the answers. Welcome to our beginners running guide!
Starting to run and getting the right information can be a bit daunting but don’t worry, at shoeguide.run, we are here to help. We hope you’ll find the following information a benefit as you begin your running journey.
The first thing to say is CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve taken the first step of wanting to run and that is often the hardest. Now to get started…
You will find out that running is beautifully simple, and it is cheap. As it is weight bearing (unlike swimming for example), it is one of the best ways of getting fitter. One of the great things about running is that it is totally flexible – you can do it on your own, with friends, when and where you want. You see the benefits of running relatively quickly but you’ll feel the benefits almost immediately - running is great for your mental health and you’ll be fizzing with enthusiasm post run and it also makes you happy - fact!!
There millions of people around the world running and all have taken their first running steps at some time so you’re not alone. Let’s get going!
Running is great for you – here are some of the key benefits
Running is the best bang for buck! – let’s face it, we want all the benefits but without spending an age on our fitness. Research has shown that just a 15-30min jog helps to fire-up our metabolism and Burn Calories. Running is the simplest and most effective way to burn up calories. This helps leads to you losing weight and importantly, body fat which will lead to a change in…
Body Shape – Running regularly will reduce your body fat percentage and tones your muscles so you will start to look better.
De-stress – Running is proven to lower stress levels so run and stay chilled!
You will sleep more soundly – Frequent exercise should improve you sleeping habits. Better sleep reduces anxiety – win win!
Your Blood Pressure will drop - Blood pressure begins to drop in only a few weeks of running and that’s a good thing!
Your Heart will Increase in Size - Your heart gets bigger so will pump more blood per beat making it more efficient, and healthier!
Running improves Blood Cholesterol – Overall cholesterol levels should drop and the ratio of good to bad cholesterol (HDL/LDL) improves with regular training.
Your Bone Density improves –The impact of running makes your bones denser which is important the older you get – strong bones are good bones!
Feel Proud – Starting to run is an achievement. Feel good about it. You will be running further and maybe faster in no time so be sure to celebrate that fact daily. You’ll still be you, just maybe a better version of you!
Running improves self-esteem – Research has proven that running improves confidence and self-esteem. This is largely due to the feeling healthier, fitter and looking better.
Running is Life Changing - Use running to take you to new environments - run in the country, through the city and through new cities when you are on holiday! But please use your new-found sport to new people – we’re a friendly bunch! Go to the local Parkrun and meet new people, find a local running partner and strike up new friendships. The friendships we’ve made is probably the best thing to come out of running for us and we hope it will for you.
Running will give you a new outlook on life – enjoy the ride!
OK, let’s run!
Starting out can be a bit daunting especially when you don’t really know what you will need and how to actually get going. Don’t worry, here are some simple tips:
How do I start to run?
One thing is for sure – you’re not going to be able to go to the park and start running laps like you’re Mo Farah and that is absolutely fine. You may not be able to run for two minutes without stopping, again, perfectly fine. One thing to understand from the start is that you will improve but it will take some time.
So, try not to be too ambitious and do not start to run as fast as your legs will carry you – you won’t last long and you’ll soon become de-motivated.
We suggest, beginning your running life by going walk and introduce some jogging within the walk. The reason we say this is that you need to ease your legs in to getting used to the different motion and impacts. Your muscles and joints need easing in to running, so start slowly. See below…
Here’s how to get going
We have devised an amazing walking and running programme with the help of one of the world’s best running coaches, Alan Storey. Check out our Training Tab from the Home Page of our website. Just follow the instructions and your bespoke training programme will be sent to you via email. The programme is entirely flexible and built around you so if you find the programme too easy of too hard, or you’ve had a busy week and not managed to get out at all, just go back to the Training Programme, adjust the information and it’ll send you a new programme. It’s that simple and it’ll get you from a couch potato to jogging a 5k in no time at all!
BUT, if you want some general information now, here’s what we would suggest…
Start by walking three times a week for 15minutes and include some timed jogs. You might want to get yourself a cheap sports watch (you can get them on Amazon for about £10) or use your phone to time yourself.
Start with 15mins of fast walking. Introduce just 30 seconds of slow jogging every 5min. Always start and finish with walking so put the 30 second jog in the middle of each 5-minute walk. You may need to slow the pace of the walking between these three 30 second 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 30 seconds is manageable, step up to 45 seconds in each 5-minute walking block. Build-up in 15 second steps until you are up to 90 seconds in each 5-minute block.
Do not push it! You may need to stick to the 15 or 30 or 45 second jogging session for at least a week before it becomes comfortable. Only move up when it is comfortable for you.
At this point, switch to one minute of walking followed by a minute of running.
Do not panic if this is actually harder than it sounds. Be patient and listen to your body. It may be necessary to take a step back at some point; it is perfectly normal to have the odd bad day or days so don’t worry and if you are ill, certainly don’t train. If you miss training through illness or other reasons, don’t worry – take a step back and spend a week or two building back up, e.g. go back to 30 seconds of running and build back up.
Once you are able to run for a minute on, minute off, introduce the 30seconds jogging to the second walk in your week. Continue through the process as before until you get to a minute on, minute off. Once there, introduce the 30 seconds jog to your third walk of the week. You will end up run/walking three times a week, so you’ve come a long way – be sure to congratulate yourself.
Once comfortable with minute on minute off, gradually lengthen the running stints and shorten the walking breaks. Before you know it, you will reach a point when you’ll be able to jog the whole 15 minutes.
You will start to get fitter and be able to run further. As you get fitter, your muscles, heart and lungs will get stronger and more efficient. 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. Once comfortable, add a couple of minutes on to the 15 minutes. Keep doing it and before you know it, your 15mins might become 20mins, 25mins and so on.
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
Running is meant to be fun (and it is – a lot of fun!) but in order to get to a point where you can go for a run and love every minute of it, you’re going to go through a little hardship and discomfort. There will be times when it is tough to keep going. There will be plenty of 'reasons' not to run today and you can always go tomorrow – right?! Tomorrow never comes. Here are our top 10 tips to staying motivated:
- Find a training partner. Is there someone at work you can run with at lunchtime? Can you run with someone local to you after work? Like putting a session in a diary, you are far more likely to train if you are going to meet someone. Most people won’t want to let their friends down so make it a commitment to meet at a specific time and place – and turn up!
- Do a short session. That’s the brilliant thing about running – it’s a great bang for your buck, remember. You don’t fancy that 30 min jog? Run harder for 15mins 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’. Don’t lose all the good work you’ve already put it – it’s easily lost.
- 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 out of what you’ve got to do so you can just get on with it.
- Be accountable. 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, and you’ll feel good about telling them how your run went!
- Keep a training diary. Filling it in will make you feel good and keep you motivated. Add details like how you felt on the run, weather conditions etc, not just distance and potentially, time it took. Also check your heart rate when you finish your run – if you have not got a heart rate monitor, don’t worry, just count the beats for 15 seconds and x this by 4. Make a note of it. Taking your heart rate is a good habit and it is a good indicator of you perhaps becoming a little run down or an impending illness. You’ll notice that your HR might be slightly elevated on what was meant to be an easy run for example.
- Don’t be afraid to miss a session. If you are feeling ill or have a niggle that feels worse than just an ache, go easy and miss a day. You could do yourself real harm by training forcing you to miss far more training. Knowing when NOT to training is important and a skill you’ll learn. Seasoned runners will tell you that there is nothing more frustrating than having to take time off to recover from an injury – let alone all the physio expense!
- Have a goal. If you have a reason to training, you are much more likely to stick to the task. It might be something simple like you want to run a Parkrun at the end of a month’s training, or it might be something grander like a 10k, half marathon or even a full marathon by this time next year. Set the target and work towards it. Again, register for our training tool on our home page.
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 your goal. Change, ‘I want to be fitter’ into ‘I want to be able to run 5k without feeling exhausted’. Have a plan of how to get there (again, register for our training programme!) and don’t throw in the towel if you have a bad day. Accept it, revise your goals if you need to (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. If you felt comfortable for 4k but the last 1k was a real slog, then that is not absolute failure! You can see how far you’ve come and what more you need to do. The following week might mean you achieve your goal!
Adjustable - You may intend to run three times a week a crisis at home or work may mean this becomes just too unrealistic. That’s not a failure – you just need to adjust and 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 a goal that was always going to be too difficult. Conversely, don’t set a goal that you might be able to achieve in a week. 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 steppingstones 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
All this running is going to make you hungry! It’s not uncommon to feel hungrier when you start to run but remember, 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.
You might actually find that running makes you eat more healthily. You might well get a feeling that is like, “I’ve put the hard work in so I’m now not going to ruin it by eating a sandwich laden with mayonnaise for lunch”. You may well find yourself choosing a healthier option that will give you energy for your evening’s run.
Fluids are essential and it is vital that you drink enough fluids. Not drinking enough massively effects the way you feel on your run and your running performance. 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?
You honestly need very little. A simple tee, a pair of shorts or running tights, some sports socks and of course, a pair of running shoes.
If you're new to running, Just buy some basics and don’t feel pressured in to buying the latest line from the big brands – these can be very expensive!
The one thing it's important not to skimp on a decent pair of shoes. You don’t need the best of the best but if you buy really basic shoes or worst still, shoes that are not specifically designed for running in, 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. When trying them on, there should be a fingers-width of space between your big toe and the front of the shoe when you are standing up. If you don’t have this amount of space, you may end up with your toes hitting the end of the shoe, bruising your toe nail beds and black toe nails are no fun!
Clothing that is made for running will make you feel more comfortable and will help you train more effectively. Sure, you can run in an old cotton tee but the technical fabric tees are much lighter and do not absorb the sweat keeping you dry and comfortable.
During winter months or when just running in the dark, make sure you are visible. Wear white or luminous colours and/or kit with reflective strips/tabs on. You can buy reflective running bands to wear around wrists of ankles, but most running jackets will have some sort of reflectivity on them.
It sounds weird but actually wearing kit that makes you look and feel good also has a psychological effect on you. Nice kit might well make you 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 weatherproof 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 and the prices have come down dramatically over recent years. 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, calorie counting and much, much more. Check out our article on using your heart rate as a fitness tool. Click here.
Sorry! 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 register for our training programmes. It really will take the worry out of starting to run. Good luck!