Top 10 running tips for beginners
Thinking about taking up running? Here are our top tips to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Running is an excellent form of exercise that has a range of benefits for both your physical and mental health — something we all need to prioritise.
Research shows that cardiovascular exercise, such as running, can improve your mood, help you sleep, enhance your sex life, and improve your overall wellbeing . However, with our busy work schedules and hectic home lives, it can be hard to stick to an exercise routine, particularly if you don’t know where to begin. So, to help you out, we’ve put together ten tips to start you on your running journey.
Top ten running tips for beginners
1. Create a plan
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail (Benjamin Franklin). As with most things in life, it’s best not to just throw yourself into it. Before you head out on your first run, you need to consider things such as:
- Where will you go?
- How long will you run for?
- What do you need to wear? (E.g. do you need reflectors for running at night?)
- Which days will you run?
- What is the first goal you want to achieve?
Careful planning will not only help you stick to a running routine, but it will also help to keep you motivated.
If you are just starting out but unsure of what running routes or timings to begin with, take a look at the NHS Couch to 5K programme.
Keep any goals or plans realistic and achievable to avoid hurting yourself or being disheartened – if you’ve never run further than 2K before, don’t think you can just go out and run 10. Also, remember to incorporate rest days into your routine so that your body has a chance to recover.
2. All the gear is the right idea
With running, ensuring you have the right attire can mean the difference between making it through that extra mile, and falling at the first hurdle. Your running gear is likely to depend on the weather, and for the most part, you don’t need to buy anything expensive – something that’s breathable and comfortable should do the trick. If you already have exercise clothes in your wardrobe, as long as they are warm and have longer sleeves, you should be good to go.
Though you may not need to invest in clothing, the correct shoes are paramount. Wearing the wrong running shoes can cause all sorts of injuries (both long-term and short-term), from shin splints to hip pain.
Though many brands may claim their shoe is the best running shoe, each individual will need something different. We recommend going to a running shop for assessment and specialist advice.
Also, be mindful that after a while your shoes will develop natural wear and tear over time, and experts advise that you should replace your shoes every 300 to 400 miles .
3. Always warm up and cool down
Remember, warming up is essential before doing any cardio. Start with five to ten minutes of light aerobic exercise, such as a brisk walk and a few stretches. A proper warm-up will prevent injuries and make your workout more effective by increasing blood flow to your muscles.
End your workout with a cool down to avoid any light-headedness and slow your heart rate. Reduce your run into a walk or slow jog for the last 5-10 minutes. And don’t forget to stretch out your calves, hamstrings, and shoulders.
4. Find a time that suits you
For some people, running first thing in the morning is optimal. There are many benefits to exercising early, and the endorphins that you release when you exercise keep you alert and energised throughout the day.
However, rolling out of bed and going for a run isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and there are plenty of other times that are perfect for running – whether that be on your lunch break, or in the evening (most running clubs tend to be in the evenings). Ultimately, it’s whatever time of day you feel most motivated.
5. Consistency is key
Staying consistent is one of the most important, and arguably, one of the hardest parts of running. Making sure you are prepared and have a plan (as advised in tip one) can help to ensure you’re consistent – if you know what the next step is, it’s easier to be motivated to do it.
By staying consistent and avoiding long breaks between exercising, you are less likely to lose any well-earned progress.
Even if you’re not as good as you hoped to be at the beginning, stick with it and eventually you will see improvements. Consistency in training separates high performers from the rest.
6. Pace yourself
When motivation strikes, it can be tempting to give it your all immediately, but it's important to pace yourself. Don't try to do too much, too fast, or too soon, as this will lead to overtraining and injury. A constant, steady pace from start to finish is much better than going too fast for short periods (unless you’re specifically working on hill sprints, for example).
Learning to pace yourself properly takes practice. Listen to your body and monitor your breathing so that you can understand what’s comfortable for you. Allow your body to adapt to training over time, be consistent, and avoid getting tired too quickly.
7. Try a walk-run
Although running is the ultimate goal, don’t underestimate the walk-run technique (also sometimes referred to as interval training), particularly when you’re new. It’s a useful tool that helps you to improve your endurance safely .
Including walk breaks in your cardio has many benefits.
Interval training benefits include:
- Helping to control your fatigue
- Breaking up the mental challenge of the run
- Strengthening your muscles with short intervals
Alternate three minutes of running with one minute of walking and continue until you’ve completed your route. Remember to end with a walking segment so that you can cool down efficiently.
8. Stay inspired
Once you’ve started running, your motivation can ebb and flow. Some days it will feel tough, but there are things that you can do to stay inspired and continue to reach your goals.
Tips to stay motivated when running
- Run on Mondays – start with good intentions and set the tone for the rest of the week. It can also give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your motivation to do it again.
- Create a training log or use a running app – when you lack inspiration, you can look back on your mileage and see how far you've come (literally and figuratively). Your achievements can be a great source of encouragement to keep going.
- Run with a partner or group – exercising with others is an excellent way of staying motivated as you're able to encourage and challenge each other.
- Hire a trainer – if you have the budget and you’re in desperate need of motivation, a personal trainer may be the answer. They can create a customized running plan and hold you accountable for your goals.
- Listen to music – create a playlist that you find motivating; it can keep you going for longer. Or perhaps you could use this time to listen to a podcast or audiobook that you haven’t had the chance to enjoy yet.
- Explore new scenery– running the same route multiple times can become dull and tedious; try to break up the routine with some new scenery. Travel to a different location or even just run the opposite way around your usual route.
9. Find the balance
Although running is the primary focus, you may not experience all its benefits unless you find the correct balance between rest and nutrition. If these areas are lacking, you may not progress as much as you hoped.
Rest and nutrition are essential for helping your body to recover and regenerate. Although the balance may never be perfect, try to have a healthy, balanced diet and at least two rest days a week. We offer multiple tests that allow you to check your energy, nutrition, and stress levels to ensure you aren’t wearing yourself out. You can read more about the tests we offer in our Health and Wellness Buying Guide.
10. Track your progress
What better motivation is there to stick with your running than seeing how it has improved your overall health? Running not only helps your overall fitness levels and weight management but also your inner health.
Running can help to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
We offer a range of Sports Performance Blood Tests that allow you to establish your baseline health levels, so you can track your progress over time. You can read more about our range of tests in our Sports Performance Buying Guide.
You can spend endless time preparing and researching, but nothing will be as beneficial as just getting started. The first step out the door is usually the hardest, but a couple of months from now, you will thank yourself for doing it.
- The mental health benefits of exercise (no date) HelpGuide.org. Available at: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm (Accessed: December 28, 2022).
- Running tips for beginners (no date) NHS choices. NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/running-tips-for-beginners/ (Accessed: December 28, 2022).
- Christine Luff, A.C.E.-C.P.T. (2020) Your 8-step guide to the run-walk method, Verywell Fit. Verywell Fit. Available at: https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-do-the-runwalk-method-2911203 (Accessed: December 28, 2022).