Day one things feel simple enough, you throw on a pair of shoes (any pair will do right?) and walk out in to the crisp air, head held high and envisioning yourself gliding down the sidewalk as cars pass. Who needs a how to start running for beginners guide, everyone knows how to run you think!
Roughly 100 feet in you begin to realize your brain and legs don’t seem to be connected. By the end of the second block you’d like to clutch your knees, but don’t because the neighbors are waving hello.
Many of the people you look at today who run ultramarathons or Boston Qualifying times have a similar day 1 story. The only difference is they didn’t let day 1 define them, they let it motivate them to make day 2 better.
Are you ready to finally get your run on? Today we’re going to cover everything you need to know for how to start running so that it feels less intimidating, to prevent injuries and ensure you keep coming back!
9 Guidelines for How to Start Running
Stop worrying about being unfit to start running. Start shifting your mindset and thinking about a long term plan, knowing that every single workout you show up for is making you fitter and allowing you to run farther.
Running isn’t about speed
Running isn’t about PR’s
Running isn’t about how far you go
So whether you are worried about starting running when you’re over 50 or starting running when you’re overweight, trust me these tips apply to us all! I have done additional tips and details on both of those topics at the links above, but you can start right here and have what you need as well!!
Running is a process and one that you will enjoy more by allowing yourself to go on a journey.
You don’t have to run 3 miles on day one, you just have to put one foot in front of the other and then do it again tomorrow.
Now that we understand my philosophy on running, here are a few more tips to help you on the journey!
But honestly, just keep it simple to start!
1. Embrace Walking
Wait is my first how to run tip is actually not to run? Yes.
When you’re starting out, always walk before you run. Literally warm up to every run with at least a half mile of walking. We have seen many ways that walking improves our running! So get it out of your head that you can’t walk. You SHOULD be walking.
Once you’re in a consistent pattern of walking 2-3 days per week and hopefully working on power walking (roughly 15 minute miles), then it’s time to look at run-walk intervals.
The Galloway Method of run/walk will allow you to increase your endurance and train the body without the stress. It’s a method many people use for life to run some seriously fast races. It’s going to give you set intervals of running and walking to use for the duration of your workout.
Overtime you’ll decrease the walk breaks and increase the running.
2. You Need to Slow Down
Stop trying to go so far or so fast on day one…or day 30 for that matter!
- When you find you can’t breathe while running, time to slow down.
- When you find you just can’t break a distance barrier, slow down.
- When running sounds like something awful to do, slow down.
- Eventually this all leads to speeding up, but you need a base first.
- If you finish every run with a ton of muscle soreness, you’re doing too much.
This isn’t just a new runner tip. Runner’s everywhere focus on making 80% of their total mileage EASY. And easy isn’t about pace, it’s about how the body is reacting to the intensity of your run.
For example, I often train at a 10 minute pace, but can run an 8 minute pace for a half marathon or a 6:30 in a 5k. Easy runs are designed to build your base, and going too fast just breaks you down.
Try out the talk test to see if you are going easy enough.
3. Focus on Your Hips, Glutes and Core ASAP
Nearly every common running injury that I’ve come across in research, working with athletes or in my own 27,000+ miles has stemmed from weak hips. Which is a long way of saying you have to cross train.
- Core and abs are not the same thing.
- A strong core means better endurance, better strength and a pain free back.
- A strong core also means better posture, which can instantly make you look leaner.
Your core, hips and glutes help to maintain alignment of your knees, ankles and hips.
Most of long time runners wish, someone had said on day 1 if you just include a few moves every week, you’ll keep yourself from being sidelined and yup, get faster too!
Which is exactly why I created the 30 Day Core Challenge. 10 minutes a day that are going to make you faster and prevent injuries…it doesn’t get easier!
Why Your Core Matters So Much?
“Weakness in your glutes can cause different running injuries such as IT band syndrome, or knee pain like patellofemoral syndrome and patellar tendonitis (runner’s knee),” says physical therapist John Gallucci, Jr.
Another less scientific way to look at it is this: every muscle is part of a chain and a weakness or tightness in one part flows all the way through!
In other words, tight calf muscles pull down on the knee and inactive glutes mean less strength to hold your knee in proper alignment each time you hit the ground.
- Reduced knee and IT Band pain
- Reduced back pain
- Improved speed
- Improved power on hills
4. Have and Follow a Plan
Winging it can be fine for just getting yourself to start showing up. But once you are ready to make some progress then it’s time to have a plan.
Tons of options for free online running plans that will get you started, just make sure it’s created by a running coach with experience helping new runners. They are going to know how to safely increase your mileage and help you create a running routine.
- Assume that you’ll be running 2-3 days per week to start
- Weekly mileage may start around 5 miles, it’s going to depend on your current workout routine
- Incorporate at least 2 days of strength training
- Be open to low impact cross training like swimming or biking to increase your cardio
- Don’t skip your rest days (great time to make sure you foam roll!)
- By sticking to a plan you’ll avoid a super common new runner injury of shin splints
Easy place to start is with this Couch to 5K Training Program! It’s beginner friendly, starting with walking and slowly progressing each week to ensure your body has time to adapt.
The key as noted above is actually following the plan. Don’t add, don’t subtract. They are designed to progress you safely to the goal.
How long should you run as a beginner?
This is going to depend on a lot of the factors mentioned above. If you are doing a run/walk method you might start out at 20 to 30 minutes. If you are trying to run straight through then 10 minutes of running may be plenty!
Again that’s why you need to plan to spend time walking.
5. Seek out Run Friends
Many people are afraid to join a running group because they might be the slowest person there. As someone who has moved a lot and tested out a lot of groups, I can tell you there are always walkers, there are always super stars and everyone is welcoming.
If you happen upon an unfriendly group, high tail it out of there and find another one. Nothing will keep you showing up for runs like having friends or even acquaintance who expect you to be there.
And when you can’t find them in person, embrace social media. We have over 500 runners in our Virtual Run Club and the support there is BEYOND incredible!
One runner decided to use the group for his weekly check in because he just couldn’t stay on track. As a result he recently finished his first half marathon injury free and so proud.
6. Never Skip the Warm Up
Stop with the pre-run static stretching from school days! Numerous studies have shown that elongating the muscle prior to running reduces the ability of the muscle to create a forceful contraction, which is what you need to push off the ground.
Instead, try a dynamic warmup. I can 100% guarantee this alone is going to make your run feel better.
Logically it makes sense that a body primed is going to move more efficiently and feel less stiff. But science even points to how it prevents injuries by warming up tendons, ligaments and joints.
- Do some leg swings front to back and side to side
- Throw in a few of those core moves I mentioned to activate a bunch of muscles
- A good rule of thumb is 5-10 minutes on your warm up, which can and should include some walking
Then spend some time doing yoga or any static stretch after you finish your run. It’s a great time to reflect on how far you’ve come and allow your body to cool down from the raised heart rate.
7. Don’t Sweat the Perfect Running Gear
Listen just start. I don’t care if you have the right stuff.
Day 1 is just about showing up. Day 2 is about showing up again.
Eventually, you’re going to want to feel a bit better on those runs and you can slowly start adding to your running gear wardrobe. But you don’t need everything on day 1.
I ran in mesh shorts and cotton t-shirts for YEARS. I didn’t get my first Garmin watch until I had finished multiple half marathons. So you don’t NEED the gear to just go run.
Instead, here is how I would prioritize gear to help:
- Get fitted for the right running shoes – this make your knees, legs and feet feel better
- Spend more on some good running socks – they will prevent blisters and your feet will thank you
- Grab some anti-chafin cream – this is going to prevent so many issues
- Moisture wicking fabric – once you ditch the cotton you’ll never look back. Try TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and stores like that to find great name brands at discounts!
- Entry level GPS Running Watch – trust me you won’t use all the bells and whistles
Heading to a local running store can feel intimidating, but trust me they’re truly there to help and no matter how speedy they might appear, their main goal to help more people enjoy a sport we love.What every new runner needs to know (hint it's not about speed) #runchat Click To Tweet
8. Smile to Trick Your Brain
Fake it til you make it right? Even in running when you force yourself to smile, I guarantee it will lift your spirits. Take a moment to look around you and enjoy the fresh air, the sunshine and the fact that you are making this choice.
Science has also shown that it releases feel good endorphins and can reduce our perceived effort!
Along with this are the standard mind games every runner plays:
- Just run to the next stop sign…ok maybe the next one
- Just run until you’ve hit a round number on your watch
- Find a good running mantras to help your brain focus
- Learn how to shut down negative thoughts while running
Looking for more tips? Wishing you had an exact plan and ways to mange your mindset? Checkout my new book Run To The Finish: The Everyday Runners Guide to Training.
9. Include Running Drills
This feels like a bonus tip, but it’s another one that I wish someone had pointed me towards when I started running! In any other sport, you would spend time practicing, right?
So yes, you 100% need to practice your running form. This is going to help you prevent knee pain, improve your speed and run with more EASE.
All winning points to me. Don’t be intimidated, it’s actually pretty darn easy to start doing some drills which will in turn help you have good running form.
- Do some fast feet before a run to practice what a fast running cadence will feel like
- Move on to a few high knees to practice learning how to drive your knee up in front of you
- Checkout this Running Form course with videos to guide you
- Practice standing tall both feet on the ground and leaning until you have to take a step to stop yourself (working on the lean)
- March in place to in grain in your brain that your foot should land under you, not in front
- Stand in front of a mirror and practice your arm swing – they should NOT cross your body
What about nutrition?
Listen running nutrition is a boatload of articles around here and I know so many of you can go down the research rabbit hole and get overwhelmed. So again let’s keep it simple!
- Staying hydrated is going to make your muscles feel better
- Drinking electrolytes can provide energy and prevent muscle cramps
- Remember that complex carbohydrates are great fuel to help your body recover and then provide you energy for the next day
- Protein after a workout is especially important if you are running for weight loss. It will help to build muscle and improve recovery time so that you can run again soon feeling good!
All of that being said, remember what you love because that is what keeps you showing up everyday.
After running for 20 years, 9 marathons, too many halfs and 10k’s to count I can tell you all of these tips still apply.
Running is a journey! Just put one foot in front of the other and see where it takes you.
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