10 Questions New Runners Ask


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Whatever has inspired you to take up running—be it your new sneakers or a desire to tackle your first 5K race—there are many health benefits associated with running, regardless of whether you're a beginner or an experienced runner. As a form of cardiovascular activity, running can potentially reduce all-cause mortality and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and the risk of heart failure; not to mention, that it does wonders for your mental health.

And it doesn't take much to reap these benefits. A 2014 running study involving more than 55,000 adults found that as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day of running, at speeds of less than 6 miles per hour (mph), can help reduce the risk of death and cardiovascular disease.

To perform at your best and avoid injury, you should learn more about the sport before lacing up your shoes. Here are 10 questions most new runners ask and what you need to know.

What Are the Best Running Shoes for Me?

Although studies have found specific benefits in running shoes—softer midsoles to reduce impact forces, for example—the style of shoe you select is a personal choice. That's because your biomechanics are unique. What might work for one person may hinder the performance of another.

"The best running shoes are the ones most comfortable for the individual runner," says Stephanie Mundt PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS at Volante PT & Performance. Also, be mindful of the terrain you will be running on as well as your tendency for pronation or supination.

Even though studies have yet to conclude whether one specific shoe is more supreme over another, Dr. Mundt suggests opting for one that won't give you blisters and fits you properly. This means a visit to a professional running store to be properly assessed and fitted is the best option for finding the right shoe for you.

Does Running Get Easier?

With consistency, time, and optimal recovery, running gets easier, says Dr. Mundt, especially through a gradual increase in time and distance.

"To reduce the risk of burnout, performance plateaus, and injuries, it's recommended that the majority of your running is done at relatively low intensities," she says. "[This] allows for optimal recovery while still improving your aerobic capacity, aerobic power, muscular fatigue resistance, and even mental fatigue resistance."

Dr. Mundt also points out that recovery is where you reap the benefits of the work you put in. Rest days, sleep, and optimal nutrition are just as important as your training to help ease your stride.

Should I Stretch Before I Run?

Stretching has its place in our everyday lives, but research on its benefits vary. For instance, a 2017 study on the impact of stretching on the performance of endurance runners found it posed no greater advantage.

"Static stretching (holding one position) before exercise can negatively impact your running economy performance for a short period," says Dr. Mundt. As a result, it could potentially reduce your stability and how much force you produce.

"If you want to incorporate some type of stretching as part of your warm-up, you can try some dynamic variations (active movements), such as walking lunges, skipping, or leg swings," she says. Dynamic stretches fire up and prime muscles ahead of your workout.

How Do I Prevent Running Injuries?

The best way to prevent running injuries is to nail the very basic foundations of your health, such as getting enough sleep every night, fueling yourself accordingly, and appropriately managing stressors, explains Dr. Mundt.

"Beyond the basics, having a logical training plan that allows progressive adaptations can reduce the risk for injury, which is where a running coach can be helpful," she says.

Also, strengthing your muscles with a light to moderate strength training routine can help ward off injury and improve running ability. Greater muscle activation and lower-limb coordination can help you perform at a greater output but should not be working to failure, as this can cause neuromuscular fatigue.

Should I Run Every Day?

Like every sport, balance is key. You don't want to overtrain and risk injury and fatigue, whereas, on the other hand, you want to reap the most benefits of exercise. The same goes for running every day.

Studies have found some specific factors, including previous sports activity and weekly running distance can place you at a greater risk for running-related injuries. With this in mind, Dr. Mundt recommends beginners aim for three to four days of running per week, either with walk-run intervals, or short bouts of running.

"This is typically very manageable from both a schedule and recovery standpoint," she says, "and it will still lead to improvements in aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health."

What Pace Should a New Runner be Running?

For a complete newbie, even a slower run pace may be tough when you are starting out, so go with what feels comfortable, says Jason Karp, PhD, MBA, an author of 13 books, including "Work Out: The Revolutionary Method of Creating a Sound Body to Create a Sound Mind."

"You can begin by mixing running with walking, for example, walking for 5 minutes and running for 2 minutes, on repeat for a certain length of time," Dr. Karp says.

Judge your pace based off the rated perceived effort (RPE) scale. Using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 is an easy walk and a 10 is an all out sprint, gauge how hard you are working. As you gain experience, try running easy, which is a 3 to 4 on the RPE scale, and then use it for faster workouts as well.

Once your body adjusts to the demands of running, consider transitioning to a pace calculator to track and measure performance. Then, you can decide if you want to increase your pace on harder running days, or slow it down during active recovery, when you will want to sustain more energy.

How Should I Breathe?

Breathing is the process of flooding your body with oxygen and getting rid of the waste product known as carbon dioxide. But the added strain of running makes it harder for your body to do this adequately.

"Getting sufficient oxygen into the muscles is a cardiovascular responsibility, with the heart pumping more blood with each beat and each minute," says Dr. Karp.

As you become better trained in the sport, breathing and stride rate should naturally fall into coordination that is entrained in your stride rhythm, he adds. When running, there are a few methods of breathing that add support, including rhythmic breathing.

At a steady pace, rhythmic breathing involves taking three steps as you inhale, two steps as you exhale, and repeat. Once your pace quickens, this process becomes two steps and inhale, one step as you exhale, and repeat.

How Much Water Should I Drink?

Without sufficient water intake before or after your workout, you run the risk of dehydration, which, among its many symptoms, includes a headache, fatigue, and nausea. There is a balance, however, as overhydration can divert blood flow toward the digestive system, rather than working muscles.

When running for short periods, as long as you are hydrated beforehand, water intake may not be necessary during the workout. Instead, drinking should be saved for after running, says Dr. Karp.

"As your runs lengthen, the amount of water needed depends on how much water is lost through sweating, but in general, it means drinking around 200 milliliters every 15 to 20 minutes," says Dr. Karp. "After running, the typical recommendation is to drink half a liter of water for every pound of weight lost during the run."

Should I Eat Before a Run?

There are benefits to fasting before a workout and benefits to eating prior to one, it all depends on your individual goals and preferences. Additionally, time of day also can be a factor.

"If you run first thing in the morning, it may not be the best idea to eat right before," Dr. Karp says.

Depending on what you eat, digestion can be a lengthy process as food weaves its way through your digestive tract. Running right after you eat can leave you feeling nauseous or crampy—not ideal when a run is on the agenda. If you have a gap of a few hours, then eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein can help fuel your run, Dr. Karp says.

Carbohydrates are the muscles' preferred fuel when running, giving you energy, whereas protein is used for the repair of muscle tissue and for protein synthesis which is integral to adaptation, he adds. Meanwhile, how much food you the consume should be based on the total number of calories you need daily, the length and pace, and the length and pace of your run.

Do Runners Need Resistance Training?

Resistance training has its many pros—for starters, it can boost bone density, improve mental health, and increase muscle mass. But the question of if runners need to resistance train is complicated, says Dr. Karp. It depends on your running goals, exercise history, the amount of time you exercise, and other factors.

"There’s no rule that says a new runner needs to resistance train," he adds. "The act of running, by itself, is sometimes enough for a new runner."

That said, if you plan to run a few times a week, resistance training can play a role in injury prevention by building up the supporting muscles. And, it can help build muscle if that is one of your goals.

A Word From Verywell Fit

Running for the first time can feel difficult when you are just starting out, but it does get easier over time. If you're healthy and without any injuries or aches, you can slowly find your stride by introducing a few running sessions each week.

However, if you are new to exercise, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider to ensure running is right for you. They can assess your medical history and fitness level to determine if you might benefit from a running regimen. Additionally, experiencing any pain that might worsen with running, should be discussed with a provider as well.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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