How to Start Running if You're an Absolute Beginner

© Giuseppe Milo/Flickr
© Giuseppe Milo/Flickr
Photo of Sarah Zakzouk
12 June 2017

So you’re trying to get back into fitness and you’ve decided to take up running, but where do you start? Well, running is probably one of the simplest forms of exercise you can take up, because you don’t need an expensive gym membership – or any equipment for that matter – and you can do it absolutely anywhere! All you need is a bit of space and the motivation. Check out our Beginner’s Guide To Running with these basic tips.

What’s your motivation?

It’s important to pinpoint why you want to start running before you begin because this will be your driving force, your motivation to keep going, particularly on those rainy mornings or after a busy day in the office when all you want to do is hit the sofa.

You might be trying to lose weight, or training for a race; maybe you’re adding a cardio element to your regular training sessions, or your goal could just be to improve general health and fitness. Whatever the reason, set yourself an attainable goal and you will find that it’s much easier to stay motivated and on track with your running routine.

Find a fitness buddy

Partner up with a friend, colleague or trainer – someone who will hold you accountable and also rely on you to be there. Nobody wants to let the other side down, and it’s fun to exercise with a friend, so by making it more of a team effort you are more likely to stick to your running routine and get more out of it in the long run (no pun intended). Running with someone will provide support, motivation and positive reinforcement.

Choosing the shoes

Having the proper footwear is imperative; running in ill-fitting running shoes will only be a hindrance, making you more susceptible to blisters, bruises and discomfort, which could actually lead to muscle strains and injury. To start off with, try gait analysis, a method that assesses the way we walk or run to determine the intrinsic mechanics of these movements, and highlight any biomechanical abnormalities.

Essentially, we want to see if the foot naturally rolls inwards (pronation) or outwards (supination), and to assess the level of natural arching of the foot when moving naturally. This will then tell you what style of running shoe you need: whether you require insoles, or extra padding for a pronated gait, and so on. You can have a gait analysis assessment done in most gyms, and in some sports shops.

Find your stride

Start off steady and focus on your breathing and your running stance. Make sure that you use your breathing to drive you, with deep inhalations through the nose and exhalations through the mouth. You can experiment with breath patterns and see what works for you, but the important point is that you intake as much oxygen as possible to feed your muscles as they work hard to keep up the pace, circulating fresh oxygenated blood through your body.

As your body becomes more accustomed to running, you’ll build up stamina and be able to run for longer as your fitness increases. Be patient with yourself; it takes time to get results.

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Your running routine

The type of running that you do will depend entirely on what you are looking to achieve. If you are aiming to de-stress and relax after a hectic week, then running outdoors, surrounded by nature is the perfect way to unwind. Download some of your favourite tunes, pop your headphones in and you are good to go.

If interval training is the aim of the game, head to the park or, if the weather isn’t on your side, hit the treadmill at your gym to train. How this works is you run for two minutes at a moderate-to-fast pace, and then you bump the speed up and run flat-out for one minute. After that, bring the setting back down to your starting speed, repeating your two minutes, and then up again for the one-minute intensive burst. This style of interval training is great for calorie burning because it increases the heart rate intermittently, pushing the body into working at different speeds in a short space of time.

Strength training and endurance is another style of running, which is more of a circuit-style workout, and could include small obstacles, relays, sprints, laps – even varying terrains. This style of running will get the heart rate pumping and will seriously challenge your body, your fitness and your overall endurance.

Prepare a playlist

Music makes you move: fact. It’s been proven that music helps to motivate us when working out; we almost absorb that internal beat and emulate it as we move. Running can become monotonous if you’re on a steady track, or treadmill, so it’s important to find the right beats to keep you moving. A good way to do this is to find your favourite songs and download their dance remixes, for a faster, punchier version of something that is already music to your ears.

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Running is all about you and your personal goals. The Beginner’s Guide is just that – a guide to cover basic tips and provide some advice for getting started. Once you have the proper shoes, and the right gear to either keep you cool, warm or dry (depending on your running location), you’re all set to go. Think about your breathing, focus on your posture and remember that you get out what you put in – and the way to benefit the most is to do what you love and enjoy it!

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