How to start running: A beginner’s guide to running

How to start running: A beginner’s guide to running

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So, you want to take up running? Congratulations and well done you! This beginner’s guide to running has got you covered!

There are lots of people taking up running each month as it’s a fun, affordable and accessible way to get fit and get outdoors.

Running doesn’t have to be scary. There are plenty of ways you can get going which don’t require you to be a fitness fanatic or a speed demon.

Whether your goal is to run one mile, 5k, or even a half marathon – I’ve got you covered in this beginner guide to running.

Whether you’re completely new to running, or would just like some friendly advice, I hope I can answer some of your questions when it comes to running.

Be sure to check out the following posts which will spark your running curiosity:

Here is my beginner’s guide to running. 

beginner's guide to running

How to start running: A beginner’s guide to running

Get motivated

A beginner’s guide to running wouldn’t be complete without a tip or two on motivation. It takes a lot of motivation to get up and go for a run, especially if you’re new to it and finding your feet.

Motivation is key when forming a new habit like running. If you’re struggling to find your running mojo, then there are a few simple tips that will help you rekindle your passion.

Check out my post on how to motivate yourself to go for a run for a lowdown of these tips. 

I’ve also written about the physical and mental benefits of running so check these out if you’re not quite convinced of the power of running.

Take it easy

Many new runners think they have to be able to run a mile or two from the get go in order to class themselves as a runner.

This simply isn’t true and for much of the first few weeks you’ll probably find yourself walking rather than running.

You need time to get better at something, and running is no different. This is something I am keen to stress in this beginner’s guide to running.

You’re not a failure if you have to walk for part of the running route. In fact, some of my favourite runs are the ones where I go at a leisurely pace and just enjoy my surroundings.

Beginner plans like Couch to 5k are designed with walking and running periods in mind. This has proven to be the best way to get someone from zero to 5k in a matter of weeks. 

beginner's guide to running

Make a plan

A tailored running plan is a great way to get started and ensure you are setting yourself achievable goals each week.

There are plenty of free running plans out there which provide training plans for a range of distances and milestones.

The Couch to 5k plan is probably the most popular, and rightly so, as it helps many new runners run 5k (3.1 miles) in under nine weeks.

The key to a successful plan for beginners is to focus on time, not distance. You’ll find it a lot easier – both physically and mentally – to complete a run to time instead to distance.

beginner's guide to running

Set a goal

As discussed above, setting yourself achievable running goals is a great way to motivate yourself each week.

That’s what’s so great about the Couch to 5k plan as it builds up the running time week on week.

I know a lot of runners who set themselves a goal of finishing a Parkrun which is a free, timed 5k run. Parkrun is a great way to challenge yourself as you slowly build up your fitness through running.

The key to setting effective running goals is making sure they are S.M.A.R.T – Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Bound. 

Get the right kit

You don’t have to own or wear expensive kit in order to start running. There are lots of places on the high street and online that offer affordable running gear.

The three essential items are: running shoes, a comfortable and chafe-free pair of running leggings or shorts, and, for the ladies, a good sports bra.

Running shoes

When picking a pair of running shoes, it’s important you get a pair that support and cushion your feet, ankles and joints and prevent injury.

Running is considered a high impact sport so it’s essential you get a pair of trainers that support your feet in the right way.

If you’d like to invest in a good pair of running shoes, I’d suggest you visit your local, specialised running shop so they can measure your feet and conduct a gait analysis.

A gait analysis is a way of assessing the way in which you walk and run. More specifically, it looks at the way in which your foot strikes the floor (also known as footstrike) to determine whether your foot rolls inwards, doesn’t roll inwards enough, or stays neutral.

This information will allow the staff in the shop to correctly identify an appropriate shoe for you in store. Most running shops offer a gait analysis free of charge or for a small fee.

Check out my blog on how to choose the best running shoes for beginners for a detailed guide on how to pick the perfect pair. 

Running leggings or shorts

There are plenty of options when it comes to running bottoms – whether you prefer running leggings or shorts.

The key is to finding a fabric that doesn’t rise up or cause chafing between your legs.

You can find affordable workout wear in many high street shops nowadays, but always check before you buy as a lot of these clothes have not been specifically designed for running.

A great running brand for beginners is Karrimor. They have a great range running tops and leggings. My other personal favourites are Under Armour and Nike.

I’ve bought most of my running gear for these brands from either Sports Direct and TK Maxx at a reduced price, so it’s worth looking around for a good bargain.

It will also depend on the time of year that you take up running as there are different types of leggings out there for winter and summer running.

If you’re starting running during the winter months, check out my post on how to dress for winter running for more tips.

For summer running you have a bit more flexibility with what you wear, but the key is to find fabrics that are sweat-wicking and that don’t cause too much chafing. 

Check out my post on 7 tips for running in the heat and humidity for more information and advice on summer running. 

Sports bra

For the ladies out there, a good sports bra is essential and makes your run so much more comfortable. There are lots of options on the market depending on the type of activity.

I’d suggest a bra that is designed for high impact activity for running. These are sometimes referred to as ‘shock absorber’ bras.

John Lewis offer a good range of sports bras, so do specialist retailers like Figleaves and Bravissimo.

If you’re on a budget, a lot of other high street stores are offering their own sports/leisure ranges nowadays.

They often have decent sports bras on offer, so try and test some of them to find your perfect match. 

beginner's guide to running

Be safe

When heading out for a run, I’d always advise you tell a family member or friend where you’re going.

Don’t get me wrong, running is normally very safe, but it’s good practice to do this even if you’re an experienced runner.

I like to take my phone with me on my run so I know I can contact someone if I get into trouble, or suddenly incur an injury.

If you’re running in the dark, it’s equally important to be seen on your runs. High visibility jackets are a must during those dark nights!

Track your progress

There are lots of tracking apps nowadays that let you track your run for free. This is a great way to track your progress over a period of time, and if you like, share your progress with family and friends.

So many apps are free nowadays, meaning you can track your runs even when you’re on a tight budget.

My favourite apps include Map My Run, Strava, and the Nike running app.

Check out the following posts to help you choose a running app depending on where you are in your running journey:

If you want to go a level further and invest in a proper running watch, then there are some decent options out there.

Brands like Nike and Garmin offer a range of sports tracking watches with GPS capabilities.

My personal favourite is the Garmin Forerunner 235 running watch. This is the best running watch as it has a host of features to help you track your run and performance. 

Find a support system

Joining a running group is a great way to motivate yourself and make you feel accountable to go for a run with others on a regular basis. They also offer a great support system and network in return!

The key is to find a group that works for you and that matches your goals and running experience.

If you’re looking to really enhance your running, consider joining a group organised by an athletics club. These tend to focus on making you a better runner at all levels, including looking at your breathing, running form and endurance.

If you’d prefer a more informal social group, you can normally find some listed on apps like Meetup, RunTogether and Facebook. Many groups organise social activities too – whether it be coffee and cake or a pint at your local – these are all great incentives to finish your run!

If you’re not quite ready to join a running group, find a friend to go running with you. A good friend can be a great source of support and motivation on your run.

With the great outdoors as your playground, you may find it a better environment in which to talk about your day or your week ahead.

Finally, enjoy your run!

I hope you found this beginner’s guide to running useful. Enjoy your run and may it be the start of a live long love affair with running.

Running, believe it or not, is supposed to be fun! 

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Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

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