Are you a new runner or someone who considers themselves a beginner? It’s important to be equipped with some useful tips to make your early running experience positive. Before you get going, check out this list of top 11 tips for beginner runners.
1. Start short
Whilst you’re excited to get going and probably want to get some miles in, be sure to keep it short.
Don’t go for 3, 4 or 5 miles right away. Going from 0 to these distances is likely to lead to discomfort, pain and most likely injury.
Instead, start with a smaller distance and gradually build it up over time. Aim to run a mile for your first run and adjust the next distance based on how you feel. If you felt okay, up the distance slightly. But if you were breathing heavily, couldn’t hold a conversation and felt a huge pain in your muscles afterwards, dial the one mile down a little next time and gradually build up.
2. Run at a conversational pace
A conversational pace is essentially what it says on the tin. It’s the ability to hold a conversation whilst running. If you’re not able to hold a conversation, it means that the level at which you’re currently running is putting a strain on your body.
During the early stages, it’s important that you don’t push yourself too hard. Your body is adjusting to the new stresses and strains of running so you should be giving it the necessary time it needs.
You want to gradually build up your physical fitness overtime rather than overdoing it with overly strenuous workouts. Until you’re confident you’ve built up a decent level of fitness over a couple of months, keep your workouts to a conversational pace.
3. Focus on distance and not time
In the early weeks and months of running, it can be tempting to get obsessed with times. How fast you can run a 5K, your pace, by how much your times are improving, and so on.
Don’t concern yourself with the time during these early stages. Instead, focus on the distance. The main idea here is to create consistency over a specific distance with the goal of building endurance.
For example, rather than trying to run your first five miles in a certain time you should be focused on being able to run the distance without stopping.
If you focus too much on getting fast times as a beginner, you’ll likely become frustrated, strain your muscles and may even cause yourself an injury.
Be sure not to check the time and pace screen on your sports watch during the runs too. If your watch has the functionality, switch its face so that it shows the time, or your heart rate zones.
4. Don’t be ashamed to walk
Whilst walking isn’t something that you’d see a seasoned or professional runner do, it’s completely okay for a beginner runner to walk from time to time.
As your body is adjusting to the stresses and strains of running, it’s important to listen to it and give it the time it needs to get oxygen into the lungs in a relaxed manner.
A tip ensuring you get a good mixture of walking and running would be to break it down into 3 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking, with the aim of reducing the walking time gradually.
5. Remember to do dynamic stretches
Dynamic stretching is important before a run because it gets blood flowing through the muscles and loosens up the body for exercise, reducing the risk of injury.
Before you run, start with a very light walk that gradually ramps up in speed. If you’ve got time, do some dynamic stretches like leg swings, lunges and side steps.
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6. Create a running system as soon as possible
A system is a set of procedures and actions that, when done together, enable you to make progress towards your goals. Effective running systems are those that can be followed easily with little thought yet are also adjustable should improvements be required.
By setting up a running system, you will be more organised and strategic in your running. Examples of actions in a running system include:
- Charging your running watch once every three days
- Choosing and setting clothes out the night before
- Purchasing and having easy access to pre-run snacks a week in advance
- Creating a list of content to listen to during runs in advance
- Planning five running routes in advance and alternating between them
All of the above actions are the actions and steps that make up part of my running system. By doing them, I keep myself focused on the process of becoming a better runner so that I can one day achieve the goals I have.
For more information about systematising your running routine, check out the following post:
7. Join a running club
Every major city and most towns will have a running club of some shape or form.
Running clubs are groups of like-minded people who love running that come together regularly (e.g. once a week) to work on form, get some workouts in and socialise.
Joining a running club is great for beginner runners for the following reasons:
- You meet new people
- Increased motivation
- Find variety in your training
- Work on form
- Challenge yourself
- Become a more knowledgeable runner
- Stay safe when running at night
- Enjoy friendly competition
For more information, check out the following post:
8. Get a decent pair of running shoes
The one thing that can make or make the running experience is a decent pair of running shoes, something that I learned the hard way when I started.
When you’re starting out, you should ideally go down to the local running store and get some expert advice for what shoes suit your gait.
Gait is the way you move your foot whilst running. Different types of pronation (check out the video below for more information) will influence the type of shoes that will suit you. Having the right shoes for your gait can make a massive difference in your performance, comfort and risk of injury.
For more information on gait, check out this YouTube video:
9. Take rest days in the early stages
When you’re first starting out, the body isn’t used to the strains, stresses and demands of running so it needs ample time to repair itself.
At the start of your running journey, follow a simple day-on-day-off method for both getting in decent workouts and allowing enough time for your body to recover.
As you become more advanced and your physical fitness improves, you can look to start a method of two days on and one day off.
10. Experiment with different surfaces
As a beginner runner, you likely don’t have a preference for your favourite running surface. It’s a good idea to experiment with the three most common types which are as follows.
- Road running – Any running that takes place on established roads and similar gravelled surfaces, including pavements. Road running is good for speed but can be tough on the joints due to its high impact nature.
- Trail running – Any run that isn’t on an unpaved surface and not on a treadmill. Trail running is all about running in the heart of nature and can take place in forests, woods, mountains and nature reserves. Trail running is easier on the joints due to the soft surface but there is an increase risk of injury from falling or twisting an ankle. Also, trail running leads to a decrease in speed as more care is required with ensuring proper footing.
- Treadmill running – Treadmills are running machines with a moving conveyor belt that runners can use to mimic the experience of running. Treadmills are good for runners who want to guarantee certain running conditions (dry and warm, for instance) but they are only an emulation of proper running. Personally, I’m not a fan of treadmill running, and I much prefer the sensation of getting out and about on the trail or on the road
11. Get a decent sports watch
A sports watch is a wearable electronic accessory that a runner can use to aid them on their running journey. Mainly, sports watches record and give their wearers access to a whole suite of data about their runs.
Whilst features vary from watch to watch, common sports watch features include:
- GPS tracking
- Heart rate tracking
- Distance tracking
- Pace tracking
- Cadence tracking
- Elevation tracking
- Sleep tracking
- Guided training exercises
- Calories burned tracker
Running watches are a great piece of kit beginner runners can buy and use to keep on top of their performance data to know exactly how their training is going.
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