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Mastering mile one: 10 tips to conquer the first mile of a run


Running is a transformative experience, but for many beginners, conquering the first mile of a run can be daunting.

The initial stretch sets the tone for your entire run, influencing your mindset and energy levels. 

However, the first mile can be full of challenges – including first mile jitters and fatigue.

By incorporating these practical tips in this guide into your routine, you’ll not only navigate these initial challenges but also build a solid foundation for your running. 

Remember, every step you take in that first mile brings you closer to becoming a more confident and resilient runner. 

Embrace the journey, celebrate your progress and enjoy the empowering sensation of mastering mile one.

Before we begin, thanks to adidas for sponsoring this post!

first mile of a run

Mastering mile one: 10 tips to conquer the first mile of a run

#1 Start slow and ease into it

The first mile is not a sprint – it’s a warm up

Resist the urge to dash out of the gate at full speed. 

When you first start running, your heart rate will start to increase, adrenaline will rise and blood will start pumping to your key muscles. 

Your body needs time to get used to the demands of the run and get oxygen to where your body needs it most. 

Begin with a comfortable, easy pace that allows your body to gradually adjust to the demands of running. 

This approach helps prevent early fatigue and sets the foundation for a sustainable pace throughout the rest of your run.

Related: How to start running: 39 game-changing running tips for beginners

#2 Focus on your breathing

Establishing a steady breathing rhythm is crucial for a successful first mile. 

Take deep breaths and exhale fully to optimise oxygen intake. 

If you find yourself panting or gasping for air, slow down your pace until your breathing is controlled. 

Related: How to pace your run: 4 simple tips for effective pacing

#3 Find your stride

Experiment with different strides to discover what feels most natural and efficient for you during the first mile of a run.

Avoid overstriding, as it may lead to discomfort and fatigue. 

Instead, aim for shorter, quicker steps that promote better running form. 

A good way to think about it is running on ice. 

Pay attention to how your body responds, and, crucially, make adjustments as needed to ensure a smooth and sustainable stride.

Related: 4 ways to improve running cadence

first mile of a run

#4 Use positive self-talk

The mental aspect of running is as crucial as the physical. This is never more apparent than the first mile of a run.

Use positive self-talk to counter any doubts or anxieties that may arise during the first mile. 

Remind yourself of your capabilities, focus on the present moment.

A good way to make it more manageable is to break down the run into smaller, manageable segments. 

This is exactly the technique that the Couch to 5k progamme uses to gently ease you into your stride.

Related: Is running good for you? 12 amazing benefits of running for the body and mind

#5 Establish a consistent pre-run routine

Creating a pre-run routine helps signal to your body that it’s time to run. 

Whether it’s dynamic stretches, a short warm-up jog, or a few minutes of mindfulness, having a consistent routine prepares your mind and body for the upcoming physical activity. 

Routines also provide a sense of familiarity, reducing pre-run jitters and allowing you to approach the first mile with confidence.

Related: The 9 best pre-run stretches (and how to do them properly)

#6 Hydrate and fuel appropriately

Proper hydration and fueling are essential for sustained energy during your run. 

Hydrate adequately before you start, and consider a light snack if your run extends beyond 30 minutes. 

Dehydration and low blood sugar can contribute to early fatigue, making it challenging to push through the first mile. 

Listen to your body’s needs and ensure you’re adequately fueled for a successful start.

Related: Your step-by-step guide to create the perfect training plan

first mile of a run

#7 Set realistic expectations

It’s natural to be eager to push your limits, but setting realistic expectations for the first mile is key to a positive running experience. 

Acknowledge that the initial phase may feel challenging as your body adjusts to the run. 

Set achievable goals, such as completing the first mile without stopping, and gradually build from there. 

Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, to reinforce a positive running mindset.

Related: 5 important things to remember when setting effective running goals

#8 Distract your mind

The first mile often involves a mental battle as much as a physical one. 

Distract your mind from the initial discomfort by focusing on positive thoughts, listening to music, or even practising mindfulness techniques. 

This helps shift your attention away from fatigue and allows you to settle into the rhythm of your run.

Related: How to practice mindful running: 6 top tips

#9 Check your form regularly

Maintaining proper running form is crucial for avoiding unnecessary strain and injuries. 

Periodically check your posture, arm position and footstrike during the first mile. 

Keep your shoulders relaxed, arms bent at a 90-degree angle and land on your midfoot. 

A consistent and efficient form contributes to a smoother run, especially in the critical early stages.

Running gear like a proper pair of sports shoes and sports bra will also make it that much easier to adopt good running form. 

Related: How to find the right running shoes: A complete guide

#10 Celebrate milestones

Break the first mile into smaller milestones and celebrate each one you reach. 

You can use a specific landmark, each quarter mile or a designated time interval. 

Using these markers motivates you to push through to the next one. 

Related: 101 funny and motivational race day sign ideas

Caroline Geoghegan