18 Tips for New Runners and Beginners

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Decided to start running? You’ve made a great choice! Not only will you get fitter than ever before, but you’re about to join a community of run-lovers who will welcome you with open arms.

But before we get too excited, we need to let you know that running isn’t all sunshine and roses. It’ll have its tough moments, you’ll likely experience new aches and pains, and at some point, you’ll probably hate it… Before you fall in love with it.

Here are our tips for new runners and beginners to make the most of this part of your running life. If we could go back and do things all over again, these are the tips we wish someone had shared with us!

How Do You Start Running if You’ve Never Run Before?

It all starts with a choice. A commitment. And a good pair of shoes—more about that below! In practical terms, the easiest way to start running is to use the run/walk method.

It’s simple—run for a challenging but manageable amount of time – 30 to 60 seconds are a good place to start. Then walk that same amount of time – or until you feel you can run again. Aim to do this for a total of 20-30 minutes.

Once you’re used to the run/walk method, you can start to increase the amount of time you run and shorten the time you walk. Gradually increase the time you do this.

The goal is to be able to run for 5 to 10 minutes before stopping for a break and be out for around 3 miles.

How Often Should You Run as a Beginner?

Running 3 times per week is a good way to begin. This will give you one day off between every run, allowing your body time to adjust and work through discomfort, aches, and pains.

Don’t be tempted to push it—you really don’t want to cause an overuse injury just as you’re getting started.

You can do other forms of cross-training on your in-between days. In fact, we highly recommend it to build up your fitness level to increase your running performance faster.

18 Tips for New Runners and Beginners

Now that you know how to get started, here are our 18 top tips to help you before, during, and after your runs. These are the things we wish we’d known as new runners and beginners!

Getting Started

1. Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

If you’ve never run before and you’re just getting started, running a marathon is not a viable goal at this point. Yes, it can be a long-term goal, but it’ll require a lot of work to get there.

Set goals that are relevant and achievable for you NOW. Maybe you want to be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping or finish a park run within an hour.

Long-term goals are valuable, but short-term ones are the stepping stones to get you there. Be realistic and remember—your body needs to adjust to your new activity.

2. Invest in a Good Pair of Running Shoes

We can’t understate this one. Even if you have the best intentions, your motivation can wear away quickly when your feet and knees hurt… And often, it’s because you’re wearing the wrong shoes.

The first step is to figure out your arch type and pronation type. Then, it’s a good idea to get your feet measured at a running store. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to find a pair of shoes that supports your arch and fits perfectly. You’d be surprised what a difference it makes.

3. Wear Comfortable Clothes

Your clothing should be soft against the skin and moisture-wicking. That way, it won’t chafe as you run, and it won’t hold sweat and rub in places it shouldn’t.

Try to avoid buying running clothing just because it looks good. Opt for high-quality apparel designed specifically for runners, and ensure it’s the right size.

4. Choose Your Running Route

As a new runner, choosing your running route beforehand is a good idea. Check out Google Maps or a running app to find an appropriate route. Make sure it matches your ability level—not too far if you’re still new because you still need to turn around and come back!

You may want to plan a route with a water fountain along the way, so you can refill your water bottle. You won’t have to carry a large, heavy bottle then. It’s also helpful to let someone know your route, just to be safe.

5. Start With a Warm-up Routine

Don’t forget to warm up! Especially if your muscles are not used to exercise. A few minutes of dynamic stretching should do the trick, and then you can begin by taking a brisk walk for 3 to 5 minutes to get the blood flowing.

Building Your Endurance

As you progress, you’ll want to change up your training slightly so you can see improvement. Here’s what we suggest.

5. Start by Walking and Running

As mentioned, there’s no need to leap right into running. Walk/run until you can hit that 30-minute running mark without a break. If you stay consistent, it should come much quicker than you anticipate!

Don’t think that you’re not a runner because you still need to stop and walk. If you’re running—whether it’s for 1 minute or 1 hour before taking a break—then you’re a runner.

6. Gradually Increase the Duration and Intensity of Your Runs

The safest and easiest way to increase your training is to increase the duration or the intensity of your runs by 5-10 percent each week. In most cases, for beginners, it’s easier to increase the duration.

That means if you’re running/walking for 30 minutes this week, you can increase it to 31-33 minutes next week.

It might not seem like much, but an extra minute and a half can take it out of you! It might take you a few weeks to get used to it, and that’s okay. Increase it by 5-10 percent more when you feel ready, and continue that way.

7. Monitor Your Heart Rate and Adjust Your Pace

Got a smartwatch or fitness tracker? You can monitor your performance by keeping an eye on your heart rate as you run. This is an indication of the effort you’re exerting on the run.

The first step is to calculate your maximum heart rate. You can do so using this equation: 211 – (0.64 x your age). For example, if you’re 30, this is how it would look:

211 – (0.64 x 30)

211 – 219.2 = 192 max HR.

You want to stick to a heart rate that’s between 60 and 80 percent of your max, in this example, between 115 and 152 beats per minute. If it drops below that, increase your pace. If it rises above, slow down.

Create a Routine That Works for You

To develop a consistent running routine, you must find what works for you and stick to it. Here’s our advice.

8. Plan Your Weekly Running Schedule

Generally, you have an idea of how your week is looking. You know what time you get up, what time you leave for work, how late you get home, and what sort of activities your time is filled with.

It’s a good idea to plan your weekly running schedule on the weekend so you’re prepared for the training ahead. It helps you to prepare mentally and get into a habit.

9. Set Realistic Milestones

Set milestones during your week based on your fitness level and weekly mileage. Make sure they’re realistic—they should be just out of reach but attainable with some hard work.

It could be something like “Run 5 miles this week”, or “Run for a full minute without stopping.”

10. Mix Up Your Runs to Keep Them Interesting

There’s no need to do the same run on the same route every single time. Keep in mind that it makes it easier to plan your routes ahead of time, so you might want to plan a few different routes to alternate.

This not only keeps things interesting but it gives you some exposure to different surfaces and environments. Just make sure any route you choose is safe, well-lit, and free from hazards that could cause injury.

Injury Prevention and Recovery

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a veteran. Preventing injury is equally as important, but you should definitely be getting into good habits now as a beginner.

11. Plan Your Rest and Recovery Days

If you’re running 3 times a week, you’ll get a rest day between each run. Make sure you know when your rest days are and what you’re doing on them—incorporate them into your weekly schedule!

You may want to include foam rolling, percussive massage, an Epsom salt bath, and some light yoga or dynamic stretching in your rest day routine.

12. Practice Proper Running Form and Technique

It’s never too early to start practicing proper form. The earlier, the better! Learn all you can about proper form, and we highly advise video-taping yourself running and getting it assessed by a professional coach who can advise you on your form.

This is worth it—if you don’t get into good habits early, it becomes very hard to break bad ones. Poor form can lead to injury, so don’t neglect this step.

13. Incorporate Strength Training Exercises for Overall Fitness

Do strength training as your cross-training at least twice weekly—one upper body and core day, and one leg day. This will help you to build stronger muscle in your legs and core, boosting your running performance.

It also increases your muscle metabolism, so this is essential if you’re running to lose weight. You can lift weights, use a resistance band, or do body weight exercises, but make sure you’re challenging your muscles.

14. Stretch Before and After Each Run

A cool-down is as important as a warm-up. 5 minutes of dynamic stretching will help to stop muscles from tightening up and can help to lower the pain of stiff muscles in the days following the exercise.

How to Stay Motivated

At some point, motivation will wane. We’ve all been there! Here are a few tricks for igniting that flame again.

15. Set Milestones and Reward Yourself for Achieving Them

We’ve spoken about setting realistic milestones. If you really want to stay motivated, reward yourself for reaching those milestones. The rewards don’t have to be big—your favorite snack, an outing somewhere, or watching a few episodes of your favorite show.

16. Track Your Progress

Tracking your progress can be hugely motivating. You can use a running journal or a running app—whatever works for you, although there’s something special about writing things down.

Week by week—as long as you’re consistent—you’ll be able to see how you’re progressing in terms of both duration and effort. There’s no better feeling than seeing those stats improve the more you work!

17. Run With a Friend or Join a Local Running Group

If you’re a sociable kind of person, you can always ask a friend to join you. Not only does this give you someone to share the experience with, but it also adds some accountability to your training.

You can always join a local running club if no friends or family members want to join you. Not only will you meet like-minded people, but you will also be able to get valuable advice from seasoned runners.

18. Listen to a Great Playlist

Try running to an upbeat tune… You can’t help but attempt to keep up to the beat! Playing some of your favorite music can be highly motivating—just make sure that you can still hear what’s around you so you’re aware of hazards.

How to Tackle Common Challenges

Challenges will come. But overcoming them is part of the runner’s journey. Here’s our advice on dealing with some of the most common challenges.

Overcome Mental Barriers and Self-Doubt

Visualization is one of the best tools runners of all abilities should be used to build mental toughness. It’s easy—simply spend some time picturing myself in your mind’s eye, performing how you want to perform.

Make it relevant and realistic. If you’re just starting out, picture yourself running comfortably for a minute, not finishing a marathon. Pro tip: don’t stop at seeing… Try to feel your muscles moving, the wind in your hair, and your heart beating.

Surrounding yourself with motivation helps. That could be positive quotes, affirmations, pictures, and even positive people. And remember—every champion runner was once a beginner too.

Weather Conditions and Seasonal Changes

If you’re serious about running, it may be a good plan to invest in a treadmill as well. That way, you can still run comfortably if the weather’s working against you. This is great for rainy or snowy days, windy days, sunburn-is-inevitable days, and even days with a high pollen count.

We recommend keeping up with the weather, UV index, and pollen count and working your training schedule around it. If you don’t have a treadmill, perhaps there’s an indoor track somewhere nearby that you could train at. Look at your options!

Plateaus and Progress Stagnation

It’s important to note that there will come a time when your progress starts to even out, and that steep upward curve begins to flatten. This is normal! It doesn’t mean you’re doing badly—it means your body has adjusted to its new activity level.

Although progress will be “slower” from here, you can still do plenty to push yourself to new heights. In the early days, you may notice this a few months into training—around 12 weeks or so.

This may be a good time to give your body a break. Take a week off and rest. You can still do some light cross-training but have a week of no running. Your legs will thank you… And you’ll return with fire and determination once you realize how much you missed it!

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.