Deciding to start running can seem like a big decision. The running community is huge and as a beginner, it’s easy to feel intimated. Then there’s the whole going out and running in public thing, and other people seeing you run. As a someone who’s new to running it can be hard to know where to start, and how to get going.
Look no further. Here are the answers to the 5 most common running questions I get asked by those who want to start running.
How Do I Start Running?
The easiest and most obvious answer is, put some trainers on and get outdoors. I realise for some, it takes a little more than that, and going for that first run can come with some anxiety, a fear of being judged, or maybe something else. Taking up running isn’t easy and while you’ll need to build up your fitness, you’ll have to develop your mental strength too. You may question your sanity at times, but my advice would be:
Stick with it!
To begin with, go slow. Keep it steady. There’s no point in doing what my son does at a Parkrun, which is bombing down the road and then gasping for breath. It’s inevitable that your heart rate will pick up, but not to the point where you feel it’s about to burst out of your chest. You should be able to hold a conversation too. If you can’t, you’re going too fast.
The aim at this point is to see what you can do and find your running baseline. On your first few runs, just see what you can do, and how long for. This is your starting point. Every runner had a starting point, even Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe. Before you know it, you’ll be running further than you think, or expected. We all started somewhere.
If I Start Running, How Long Should I Run For?
This all depends on what you can manage and your level of fitness. It may be that you’re coming to running after years of routinely doing a different sport, or maybe this is your first sporting venture after a while of thinking about it. A good place to start is to think about what your running goal is, if you have one. Do you want to run steadily for 30 mins, without stopping? Or maybe you want to complete a 5k? Perhaps a 10k is in your mind?
There are several apps out there to help you pace your runs as a beginner. They tend to tell you when to run and walk and gradually build up the time so you’re running more and walking less. If you fancy an app to help you structure your running, Couch 2 5k is very popular and is endorsed by the NHS. My personal favourite is the Guardian Guide to Running Podcast from Martin Yelling. He offers an 8 week beginners plan, and it works.
If you’d rather go it alone, this is what I would do (and will be dong once the injury sorts itself out):
Run steadily, at a gradual slow sustainable pace, and see how long you can run comfortably for, before you have to walk. Take note of how long you’ve managed to run for. then walk for the same duration. Again, keep your walking pace steady and constant. These are the initial intervals I’d recommend and I’d probably stick to them for the first 3 or 4 runs, before gradually increasing the running time and decreasing the walking time.
First 3-4 runs : Run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes. Repeat for 20 mins
Next run: Run 3.5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes. Repeat.
You can do each session more than once too. Don’t feel every time you run you have to make changes and be better. Listen to your body and how you feel. It’s really important as a runner that you’re tuned in to what feels okay.
How Often Should I Run For?
As a beginner runner, and if you’re wanting to increase your fitness, I’d recommend 3 times a week. It needs to be enough so you can gain and maintain momentum, alongside the balance of easing your body into a new sport and way of moving. You’re looking at setting up a new routine so make sure it’s achievable.
How Do I Stay Motivated?
So you’ve started running, you’re on week 2, maybe run 4 or 5 times, and you’re thinking of doing something else instead. Staying at home is so much more appealing, right?
We all feel like this sometimes, and I’m not going to lie, some runs feel totally rubbish. You’ll have times when you’ll feel unfit and are convince that you’re not making progress. This is totally normal; all runners feel this from time to time. But these runs make us all stronger, whether we’re a beginner or not.
Different things motivate us but there are a number of strategies you could use:
- Chart your progress on an app, like Strava. You’ll be able to see objectively how you’re doing, and how much your running is improving (if you go out 3 times a week, it’ll inevitably get better).
- Write your run in your diary and treat it like an appointment. Once you get into your new routine, it’ll feel like second nature.
- Run with others, or a friend. You can motivate each other not to miss a session.
- Set a goal or a date when you review your running, and how it’s going. You could aim to reach your running goal in a certain timescale to help you keep your focus.
If you’re still thinking about ditching that session and cracking open the beer, think about how good you feel after a run. Also, think about how you’ll feel if you don’t go. You’re only talking 30 minutes, or thereabouts.
You can do it!
Do I Need To Buy Lots of Kit?
You don’t need to have all the running stuff to go running, but it’s tempting to have a running splurge. To start with, wear what’s comfortable and bear in mind that you’ll get hot when running. I usually dress as if it’s about 10 degrees warmer.
If you’re going to buy one thing, trainers should be your priority. If you run regularly, it’s a worthwhile investment. I’m aware running shoes can be costly but there are ways of finding shoes, and other kit, at a discounted price
When it comes to running shoes, you need to make sure you’re buying the right ones for you. Go to a specialist running store, not a generic sports shop, and get your gait analysed. I’d then advise you to try on as many shoes as possible. I tend to go for the trainers that make me breath a sigh of relief when I put them on. If there’s a pair you like, you can try and find them online, or ask the store to price match.
You can find my review of my latest road running shoes, Brooks Ravenna 10, here.
The only other bit of running kit I’d not be without is a decent, well fitting sports bra. Go for the best you can afford. If possible, go to a specialist lingerie retailer rather than a department store. Again, sports bras can be expensive but please be reassured that you won’t regret it. My go-to running bra is the Panache Ultimate. There’s a reason why it’s won awards, and it comes in some jazzy pattens too.
If you’re wanting some specific advice, you can find my running bra post here.
In terms of other running kit, it’s a slippery slope. I could easily spend a fortune on all things running, but I’d rather buy new running kit than a pair of heels. In time you’ll probably want to buy some shorts, tees or vests which is fair enough.
One More Thing…
The best piece of advice I can give is this: enjoy it. You may feel like running’s a struggle, particularly at the beginning, but progress can be made relatively quickly if you run frequently. Enjoy being outside and finding something that will make you feel so good when you’re finished. It doesn’t matter how far you go, or how fast you are, welcome to the gang.