Running Tips for Beginners

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How to Start Running

If you've never run before or you've had a long break from running, it can feel intimidating to get out there and hit the pavement. But if you get familiar with some basic information about running and follow a beginner's schedule, you’ll be well on your way to starting a new running habit.

Before You Get Started

If you haven't recently had a physical, get medical clearance from your doctor before you start running.

At your visit, share your running plan and goals with your doctor and have him/her assess your plan and any potential health issues. If you have had any previous injuries or issues, make sure your doctor is aware of them, and ask if he or she has any suggestions on how to prevent a recurrence.

Gear Up

Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive equipment to run, but getting the right running shoes for your foot type is crucial for comfort and injury prevention.

Visit a specialty running store to get expert advice on buying the right running shoes. An expert at the store will look at your feet, watch you run, and make recommendations based on your foot type and running style. If you already have running shoes that you like, but you’ve had them for a while, you may still need to get new ones. Running in worn-out running shoes can also lead to injury. You should replace them every 300 to 400 miles.

Beyond running shoes, you don’t need much more than some comfortable exercise clothes to get started. If you’re running outdoors, make sure you follow some basic tips for how to dress for hot weather running and cold weather running, so you stay safe and comfortable.

As your endurance improves and you start running longer, you may want to invest in some technical fabric running clothes and other basic running gear, such as a running belt, good running socks, and a running hat. Some runners also like to have a running watch to track their times and distances.

Take Walking Breaks

Before you get started with running, get familiar with how to do the run/walk method. Most beginner runners start out using a run/walk technique because they don't have the endurance or fitness to run for extended periods of time. The run/walk method involves running for a short segment and then taking a walk break. As you continue with a run/walk program, the goal is to extend the amount of time you're running and reduce your walking time. Of course, some runners find walk breaks to be so beneficial that they continue taking them even as their endurance and fitness improves.

Follow a Beginner Running Schedule

Following a training schedule will not only safely build up your running distances, but it will also help you stay motivated.

Knowing that you have scheduled runs to complete will keep you on track. The below eight-week beginner running plan is simple and will help you ease into running.

Before you start any running workout, though, you need to make sure you warm up properly. A good warm-up signals to your body that it will have to start working soon. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart when you start your run. Start your runs with a brisk walk, followed by very easy jogging for a few minutes. You can also do some warm-up exercises. Always end your workout with a slow five-minute jog or walk to cool down. The cool-down allows your heart rate and blood pressure to fall gradually.

8-Week Beginner Running Program

WEEK ONE: Walk for six minutes, then jog at an easy pace for one minute. Repeat three times. Aim for three sessions with that same sequence for week one.

WEEK TWO: Walk for five minutes, then jog for two minutes. Repeat three times. Aim to do three sessions in week two.

WEEK THREE: Walk for three minutes, then jog for four minutes. Repeat four times. Aim for three sessions in week three.

WEEK FOUR: Walk for two minutes, then jog for five minutes. Repeat four times. Shoot for three of those sessions in week four.

WEEK FIVE: Walk for two minutes, then jog for eight minutes. Repeat three times. Do three of those sessions in week five.

WEEK SIX: Walk for two minutes, then jog for nine minutes. Repeat three times. Try to do three sessions for week six.

WEEK SEVEN: Walk for one minute, then jog for 11 minutes. Repeat three times. Do three sessions this week.

WEEK EIGHT: For your first run this week, try walking for five minutes to begin and end the workout, and running for 20 minutes in between. By the end of the week, try to run for 30 minutes without stopping.

Once you’ve finished the program, aim to run for 30 minutes three times a week. You'll notice that your stamina and fitness will continue to improve. Soon you'll be ready to run your first 5K!

Take Safety Seriously

There are some basic safety rules that you should follow, especially when you're out running on the road or on trails.

  • Carry identification such as a driver's license and a medical insurance card. There are also companies that make ID tags for runners that you can attach to your shoe or to your wrist.
  • Minimize distractions including music. If you listen to music, lower the volume or run with one ear pod out so that you can hear noises (such as cars, animals, or other potential threats).
  • Vary your route or the time of day that you train so that you don't become a target.
  • Bring your phone and consider using an app that allows others to see where you are (for instance, you can share your location in some texting and messaging apps). Your phone is another place where you can store medical and contact information for others to access in case of an emergency.

You might also consider getting some safety gear for runners if you feel that you will be running solo often or if you don't feel fully comfortable in an area where you might run.

More Key Tips for Beginner Runners

  • Use your breathing as your guide when running. You should be able to carry on a conversation while running, and your breathing shouldn't be heavy. Don't worry about your pace per mile—if you can pass the "talk test" and speak in complete sentences without gasping for air, then you're moving at the right speed.
  • Make sure you’re breathing in through your nose and mouth, and breathing out through your mouth. Proper breathing and taking deep belly breaths will help you avoid annoying side stitches, or cramps in the abdomen area.
  • Proper running form is key to preventing injuries and fatigue. Follow these tips for proper running form. Also, make sure you avoid these common running mistakes.
  • Drink water at the end of your workouts to rehydrate. If it's hot and humid, you should also drink some water (about four to six ounces) halfway through your workouts.​
  • Post-run is a great time to stretch and work on improving your flexibility because your muscles will be warmed up. It’s also a relaxing way to end a workout. Try some of these stretches that target particular areas that frequently get tight during and after running.

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