I love helping beginner runners get started in the sport of running.
Here are 25 tips to help beginner runners get started running.
Some of them from my own experiences, others I have learned from others.
Be sure to add your own tips in the comments section below.
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1. Water and fueling.
If you’re running for an hour or less, you will not require any additional fuel.
When you start running for more than one hour, you should start looking into fueling options.
With that said, if you’re running in hot temperatures, bringing some water for hydration purposes is recommended.
Your body requires more fluids when it’s hot (and humid) outside and less when it’s cool.
2. Running shoes.
Most advice you’ll see on the internet and in stores says that you need to see if your feet fall into one of 3 categories:
This advice is out-dated.
“Do not use or assign any value to the ‘wet foot test’ or to picking shoes based on static foot posture. Research has unequivocally shown that this has no greater influence on reducing injury than just giving everyone a stability shoe.” – Ian Griffiths – Sports Podiatrist
How then, does one determine what running shoe will work best?
Focus on comfort. What feels best?
Further reading: How to Buy Running Shoes
Beginner runners should not worry about pace.
Getting your running gear on and getting out there for a run.
That’s your goal.
Pace will come later.
4. What gear do beginner runners need?
The beauty of running is that you don’t need much gear. Some comfortable running shoes and clothing that won’t constrict your movement and you’re off to the races.
Of course, there is some great clothing that is designed to wick sweat – keeping you comfortable and dry. But you don’t need that right away. The same goes for heart rate monitors, apps and fancy sport watches.
They definitely have their place, but they’re not essential in the beginning.
5. Safety first.
Safety is important. Some rules I made for myself when it comes to running safety:
- always carry a piece of ID.
- if you run with headphones, keep the volume low enough to hear traffic, bike bells and voices.
- if you run at night, wear bright clothing with some reflective properties. There are vest with built in lights which are great as well.
- if you’re running on terrain that is slippery and on a trail with unstable footing – slow down and shorten your stride. This will lessen the chance of falling.
- run on the sidewalk where possible and avoid running on roads that have no shoulder or sidewalk.
- assume cars can’t see you.
6. The days of stretching are gone (kind of).
The days of stretching before exercise are best left in your 6th grade PE class. Current research indicates that you should stretch after you run, not before.
7. No pain, no gain?
You will not doubt experience a little pain when you start running.
Normally, it will be that all over kind of ache – not localized.
On a scale of 1-10, feeling a 1, 2 or 3 is okay and normal. If you’re on a run and the pain creeps up to a 4 out of 10 and does not go down when you stop running or rest, you need to be careful.
Listen to your body.
Seek medical attention when the pain level creeps up and appears to be getting worse, not better.
8. Take time off when you need to.
Take a day off when you’re feeling tired or run down and don’t feel guilty about it.
Research support the notion that even taking a couple of weeks off, you will not lose much fitness.
You’ll be much better off in the long if you take a day off here and there. Don’t try to make up for missed workouts!
9. Walk / run programs are a great place to start.
Former U.S. Olympic runner and running coach, Jeff Galloway, is famous for advocating this approach.
I like the walk/run method for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s a gradual progression to continuous running. So from a motivation and habit building standpoint, making it easier will increase the likelihood of sticking with running.
Secondly, your chances of getting injured go way down when implementing walk breaks.
A win/win for beginner runners.
10. You will get injured.
Pros get injured and so will you. Your goal as beginner runner is to decrease the likelihood of getting injured and when injuries do occur, get back to running as soon as possible because you’ve trained smart.
Steve Boyd, in a recent interview I did with him, said it best. His goal when coaching new runners is to get them through the first year without injury.
Distance, times and pace largely didn’t matter.
Consistency and being injury-free did.
11. Strength training is not optional.
If you want to make running a part of your life, avoid strength training at your own risk.
This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours per week in the gym.
Far from it. Two to three strength sessions per week consisting of 4-5 compound exercises will make all the difference.
Think squats, push-ups, planks and lunges.
12. Race (once in a while).
I encourage people to sign up for a race.
Races are motivating, rewarding and provide a sense of community and togetherness that I love. Races though, are not the be all and end all.
Running is for life if you want it be.
I am a better person from running regularly – not from racing and chasing personal bests. Be proud of being a consistent runner first and for finishing races second.
13. Celebrate your accomplishments.
You’ve just completed your first month of a beginner running program or just completed your first 5K.
Buy yourself a new piece of running clothing, go for brunch, get a massage or sign up for a race!
You deserve it.
14. Does form matter?
Don’t even think about form for 6-months.
Take a video of yourself running when you get started. 6-months later, take another video and take a look at the way you run.
I think you’ll be amazed at how much better you look, without even thinking about form over those 6-months. Your form will improve the more you run.
Further reading: How to Improve Your Running Form
15. Building the habit.
If you want to make running part of your life, it needs to become a habit. Something that becomes part of who you are and what you do. In a recent interview I did with habits expert, Leo Babauta, he suggests to start small.
Initially, all you should think about is putting your running shoes on and getting out the door. Even if its for 5-minutes.
Further reading: How to Make Running a Habit
16. Run for time (on your feet), not distance or speed.
When you’re just getting started, you will be putting new stresses on your joints, muscles and cardiovascular system.
Your body will not yet be able to determine if you ran a 10-minute mile or an 8-minute mile, but it will know how long you were out there pounding the pavement.
This goes back to ignoring pace initially.
Worry about time on your feet (walking and running) to start, not how far you went. Distance and speed come later.
There are no rules for progression for beginner runners.
I feel like a broken record, but consistency and staying injury-free should trump any rule for progression. Progress so slowly it hurts (not literally!).
Once you’ve been running for 4-6 weeks regularly without injury, then look to increase the time of your runs.
Good resource: Forget the 10% Rule: How to Increase Mileage Safely
18. The best time of the day to run?
The best time to run is whenever you can. Daylight, darkness, morning, night – find out what time of day works best for you and your schedule.
19. Boost your health with 5-minutes.
Running for as little as 5-minutes provides health benefits. I would obviously recommend you go longer than 5-minutes when you are able, but be comforted by the fact that there is magic happening inside your body from running even 5-minutes.
20. Coaches aren’t just for pros.
There is an endless amount of information for runners available.
Probably too much.
And while taking a generic plan for beginner runners can certainly take your running to where you want it to go, the real problem is when things go wrong.
What happens when you get sick, get injured or 4 feet of snow just fell on the ground?
Having guidance from a running coach when things go wrong is just as valuable, if not more so, than when things are progressing nicely.
Invest in a running coach if you can.
21. You will not look silly.
Trust me on this. You shouldn’t feel self-conscious.
I have been running for 20 years and can truthfully tell you that when I see a new runner out there pounding the pavement, I find it motivating and inspirational.
Nobody cares what your form looks like and how fast (or slow) you’re going. Be proud because you, are a runner.
22. Don’t judge a run on the first 10-minutes.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone for a run and felt like crap for the first 5-10 minutes. This is particularly important for beginner runners.
But more often than not, after 10-minutes I felt better and the run ended up being enjoyable. Get out the door, even if you’re not feeling it that day.
Some days you’ll have it and some days you won’t, but don’t judge your run until 10-minutes in.
23. Running is not bad for your knees!
This is less of a tip and perhaps more for self-assurance.
I always get this question after I tell people I’ve been a runner for 20 years. “How are your knees?”
Or better yet, “Your knees aren’t going to like you when you’re 60.”
Many research studies indicate that running does not elevate your risk for developing osteoarthritis.
In fact, running may even lower your risk.
24. You shouldn’t be winded.
If you find yourself out of breath and would be unable to talk to someone, take a walk break. I also recommend walking up hills to start. Being out of breath is no fun, so again, take it slow.
25. You are a runner.
If you run, you’re a runner. Remember that! I wrote an article about this called “A Message to Non-Runners.”
Your turn! What tips would you add to this list?
Leave a comment below.
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