How to Start Running: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide

December 14, 2023 by No Comments

The biggest question you will have when you decide to start running is: where do you begin?

It’s as easy as putting on your sneakers and hitting a paved path. It is important to think about your goals, your pace, what you wear, how to schedule your other activities, and what workouts to do to avoid injuries and make progress.

Here are some tips from experts on how you can start running. Also included is a four-week basic training plan.

Motivating yourself: Start by identifying your ‘why’

Running delivers many health benefits. There are also other ways you can reap these rewards. Why are you interested in running? Why are you running now?

Kourtney THOMAS, CSCS, is a certified Road Runners Club of America running coach and trainer based in St. Louis. Find out what it is that you want to achieve and why you are doing it. This will help you to feel more connected to your effort.

You may want to feel the sense of achievement that comes from completing a 5-kilometer race. You may have noticed that you are getting more tired while playing with your children and want to increase your endurance. You may be feeling stressed at work, but the idea of going outside and moving around energizes you.

Thomas says to tap into whatever it is you’re feeling — even writing it down can be helpful — and then keep your goal in mind.

Set your pace and distance.

Amy Morris, an RRCA-certified coach and the head of CrossTown Fitness’ training in Chicago, says that establishing initial distance and pace targets will depend on your current fitness level and athletic history.

Read More to learn why you should lift weights if you have type 2 diabetes.

What Pace is Right?

Morris advises that you should start slowly and increase your speed over time. If you rush out the gate, you will accumulate lactic acids, and your lungs will not be able to keep up. You’ll end up feeling breathless. You’ll then drastically slow down.

You will also experience muscle fatigue if you run too fast due to the buildup of lactic acid.

Run-walk intervals are a technique that is useful for beginners. Pick an easy running pace (easy is when you can talk while you are running) for a set amount of time. Then, walk at the same time. Repeat the pattern. This will allow your body to get used to running without getting tired as quickly. As you get more comfortable with the running portion of the interval, increase it to two minutes. Once you feel comfortable, add another minute to the running part of the interval.

How long should you run when you start?

Morris explains that the distance you run when you start running will depend on several factors, including your current fitness, athletic background, and health. A half-mile walk-run combination will suffice for some as a starting point. If you are fitter- perhaps you’ve done yoga or other activities- you might want to start with a mile.

The American Council of Exercise recommends starting with 20 to 25-minute workouts and gradually increasing the distance. ACE suggests expanding your reach and duration by no more than 10% to 15% each week and that you run on alternate days.

Morris advises that you should train one day at a given distance.

She notes that progress is not always linear. Sometimes, there will be plateaus, lows, and spikes. It’s okay to accept it. “Follow your plan, and trust in the training.”


Get the Right Gear

Running doesn’t require a lot fancy equipment. But choosing the right clothing, shoes, and accessories will make your strides safer and more comfortable.


Morris says that what you wear depends on the weather at both the beginning and the end of your run. Remember that you will build up body heat while you run, so dress in lighter clothing than you would if you went outside to walk or do another leisurely activity. She suggests that you dress as though the temperature is 10 degrees higher than it is.

She suggests dressing as if it is 15 degrees warmer. She says that if you tend to get cold easily, dress as though it is 5 degrees warmer.

She adds, “Layers always work well.” She says to choose moisture-wicking materials (such as merino, bamboo and certain polyesters). In the winter, jackets that have zippers regulate your body temperature as a thermostat. They can be zipped up to keep you cool or down to keep you warm.

Remember that you do not need to wear specialized gear in order to run. Morris says that if you are starting and the weather is mild, a T-shirt and sweatpants combination will be fine.

RELATED What To Wear For Cold-Weather Exercises

Running Shoes

Running shoes are the equipment that can take you far (literally) in running. Thomas says it is best to evaluate the running trade store at a running store. The store will determine your stride and how you land on the ground and then recommend shoes for your needs.

Not everyone can drive to one. Thomas recommends that you start with shoes described by Thomas as “neutral,” which have an average amount of arch support. Choose the cushioning that you feel comfortable with. You’ll know after a few runs whether you need more or less cushioning.

The American College of Sports Medicine offers an excellent reference guide on how to choose the right running shoe for you.

Sunscreen and other Health and Safety Tips

Sunscreen should be used in both hot and cold weather. The ACSM recommends applying sunscreen with at least SPF 30 at least 30 minutes prior to going out in the sun. Reapply every hour if sweating heavily.

Thomas says that safety is another gear consideration. If you run at dawn or dusk, wear reflective clothing and shoes. Keep your phone in a pocket or a well-lit area whenever you can.

Warm Up Before You Play

Morris says that a good warmup before running is essential. It not only gets your muscles ready for exercise but also increases oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body.

The ACE suggests that a dynamic warmup is better than static stretching. This means being active and focusing more on movement rather than stretching.

Warming up dynamically can be done by doing simple yoga moves, brisk walks, or movements such as squats and lunges. Morris says that you only need to warm up for five minutes. However, if you are going on a long run, it may be worth doing a longer warmup.

You want to prepare them for the more strenuous work you will ask of them during your workout. Nicholas Romanov, Ph., is a Miami Olympic running coach who developed the Pose Method to reduce injuries. He says that muscles contract and relax in order to work. To prepare them for running and when you need them to be at their best, “you want to do drills or exercises that mimic running.”

Plan your day and stick to it.

Thomas says that while it’s important to lace up and go for a run, there are benefits in creating and following a plan.

The best plan for you depends on your fitness level. If you are a regular exerciser, you might feel more comfortable with a program that is higher intensity.

Dr. Romanov says that if you’re new to exercising (or returning to it after an extended break), you should go much slower. It would be best if you started with a training that is almost too easy. This will help you to build up your running slowly and prevent injury.

This is a four-week sample training plan for people who are new to exercising and have little or no running experience. As you progress, your goal is to run 30 minutes per session. Remember to warm up (see the previous section) before every run and pick a comfortable pace (as mentioned above). Consider jogging your “run” units as you start (jogging is just areas at a slower speed) or alternate between brisk running and walking during these portions.

Morris says that focusing on time rather than distance will help you get used to running by allowing you to focus on the movements. Once you’ve completed the first four weeks of training, you can begin to add other variables, such as distance and speed.

When you start running, don’t forget about other types of movement and rest days.

Morris says that it is useful to incorporate other exercises in a training program. Cross-training is a term used in the sports industry to describe workouts, which are not the main goal of the training program. Cross-training for running could include a bike ride or strength training. It can also be high-intensity interval training.

Morris says that cross-training can be more intense, similar intensity, or less eager to your running workouts. Cross-training is all about working different muscle groups. Overuse injuries can occur when you do the same thing every day.

Rest days are also important. Consider gentle activities that promote strength, mobility, and range of movement, such as Yoga or Pilates. Morris advises listening to your muscles on these days and resting any that are sore or tired. And remember, rest days look different depending on your fitness level.

It’s important to listen to your body during the training program and adjust the schedule if you feel muscle pain lasting more than a couple of days. This is especially true if sharp pains like shin splints or joint aches such as hip soreness accompany the pain. You may need more recovery time if you feel limited in your mobility the next morning.

According to research, feeling tired for several hours or even the next day after your workout can indicate that you are overtraining. states that it’s normal to feel some discomfort and pain after exercising, especially if you are trying a new activity.

Don’t forget to celebrate small victories. Thomas says it’s great to have bigger goals, like running your first 5K. But don’t overlook the smaller milestones. Even if you can run continuously for 10 minutes or 20 minutes or complete this plan, these are achievements in themselves.

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