Beginners Guide to Running
You made a New Year’s Resolution that you’d start running. There’s just one problem: you don’t know how to start running.
Luckily, running comes pretty naturally. Learning how to get better at running is far from an impossible goal. Humans have been doing it throughout the entire history of our species, and once your body acclimates to the process, you’ll be chasing that runner’s high in no time. Keep reading for the best running plan to help you learn how to get better at running.
But, saying things like “Running is natural,” and “Runner’s high will make you want to run more” aren’t exactly tangible, helpful tips for how to get better at running—even though that’s the only advice you might get from your runner friends.
Follow our tangible running tips below. Our guide to running for beginners will help you get off the couch and into the zone.
Wear High-Quality Shoes
Before you take your first run, you need a pair of high-quality running shoes.
Lots of rookie runners think, “Well, I’m just going to try running, and I don’t want to buy a $100.00 pair of shoes before I’m ready to commit.” Don’t run in the beat-up sneakers you wear to do yard work.
Run in shoes that will support your ankles, arches, and insteps during your first run to prevent injury. If possible, avoid buying shoes online. Your local outdoor, sports, or running store can fit you for a pair of shoes that will work best for your feet while you run, and you’ll be supporting a local business.
Take It Slow
Especially for perfectionists, the fear of not being good at something right away can scare you away from trying new things.
Running is the same. We see people running outside of our windows at home, while we’re in the car, and on TV, and we think, “I’ll never be that fast.”
Even the seemingly perfect people in exercise equipment commercials had to start somewhere. Take it slow! Start by gradually increasing your walking speed and adding short intervals of slow-paced running. Easing yourself into running will prevent injuries, improve your stamina, and get you running in no time!
Stretch Before and After You Run
Stretching before and after a run is integral to preventing injuries and soothing the inevitable soreness after your first few runs.
Keep pre-run stretching minimal. Stretch just enough to acclimate your body to the motions it’ll be making while running. Some common pre-run stretches include:
- Holding each knee to your chest (either while standing or laying on your back) for ten seconds
- Using one or both hands to pull each foot towards your butt (holding for ten seconds)
- Flattening each arm across your chest and holding it with the other arm for ten seconds
- Tilting your neck side to side, forward, and backward, holding each position for five seconds
After your run, prevent soreness with deeper stretches like lunges, ankle rolls, and toe touches.
Cross-training is an excellent way to improve your general athleticism and keep your fitness routine fresh and exciting. If you’re quick to boredom (and quitting) once you get too used to a routine, cross-training is for you.
Cross-training is when you occasionally (perhaps less than once per week) train in a different way than you’re used to. Some common cross-training for runners includes:
- Yoga, to build core strength
- Swimming, to improve stamina
- Weight-lifting, to promote balanced, full-body strength
While you don’t even have to cross-train once per week, throwing in a different type of exercise will both benefit your running and keep you from getting bored.
On Rest Days, Rest!
But, don’t mistake cross-training days for rest days. On rest days (which should be taken at least once per week), you should be doing only low-intensity exercise, if any at all.
Especially if you’re a new runner, you’ll need at least one day per week to recover from initial soreness and give yourself a break. Running is a high-impact activity, and you shouldn’t have any guilt about taking at least one day a week to give your feet, knees, and ankles some rest.
At most, go for a leisurely bike ride, take a slow walk around the park, or do a short and gentle yoga session.
Try to Run Outside
In some climates (like places with frigid winters or excruciatingly hot summers), running outside year-round just isn’t feasible. Even for people living in temperate climates, running inside can feel safer, more private, or simply more accessible.
But, you should try to run outside at least occasionally, when possible. Observing nature, taking notice of the life and activity in your neighborhood, and breathing fresh air can provide a boon to both mindfulness efforts and mental health.
Running on the treadmill or at an indoor track is still running, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But, a brief stint in the great outdoors will add some spice to your running routine and give you a taste of nature.
Keep Track of Your Progress
While you’ll feel embarrassed writing “Ran 0.2 miles for 5 minutes” in a journal at first, imagine how inspired you’ll feel after reviewing your progress a year later.
Tracking your progress is beneficial for new runners for a variety of reasons:
- Despite it feeling grueling, new runners actually make progress faster than veteran runners. After a few years of running, you’ll long for a time when you were making exponential leaps in distance and speed!
- It’ll motivate you not to break your streak or your routine. You don’t want to have to skip a day in your journal or on your app, do you? Guilt is a great motivator.
- It’ll make you feel more connected to your personal fitness. If you wrote it down, it happened, and it was meaningful enough to record.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you’ve taken your first run, you’ve taken the first step on a fulfilling fitness journey. Your first run doesn’t need to be a six-minute mile (and there’s a very low probability that it would be). Take it slow, and congratulate yourself on your small victories.
Don’t punish yourself for not looking like the other runners in your neighborhood or the ones on TV. Any exercise is good exercise, and even your first run will be a step in the right direction. Stay positive, remind yourself that you’re worthy of praise, and keep going!
Running for Beginners: An Exercise in Patience
Your first few runs are probably going to feel miserable. There’s just no way around that. Running for beginners is hard!
But, while your progress may feel glacial at first, it’s happening. Running is a rewarding activity because the results are so tangible. Stay motivated by thinking about how much stronger, faster, and ensuring your next run will make you.
Now that you know how to start running, your first foray into running will be positive. A combination of injury prevention, self-care, and motivation just might take you to your first 5k!