Are you thinking of taking up running or just recently started? This post is about running for beginners, so welcome to the club! Running’s the best!
If you’re looking to become a runner then you’ve come to the perfect post. Running doesn’t take any special tools or talent. Nearly anyone can do it!
That’s part of the reason I love it so much.
Now not everyone can win big races or be an Olympic runner, but that’s a topic for another day.
Whether you’re running to stay healthy or training for a race, these 11 tips about running for beginners will transform your abilities. These are tips and tricks I’ve picked up over time from my years of running experience, as well as my knowledge as a registered nurse and certified personal trainer.
So without further ado, here are my unique tips about running for beginners.
FYI – keep reading to the very end because I saved one of the best, smartest tips for last!
Please note: Check with your physician before starting any exercise routine or starting any particular diet. See this Disclaimer for more details. This post may contain affiliate links. For details, please visit my Disclosure page. Thank you!
Running for Beginners – My 11 Top Tips
1. Side stitches are your friends
Okay, well not really. They hurt like heck and hinder your breathing, but the fact that you’re having one means that you’re pushing yourself. Everyone gets side stitches (also called side cramps) when they’re new to running or getting back into it.
But the good news is that they occur less and less frequently as you get further into your training.
My big tip here is that you have to push through side stitches. Don’t stop running if you have one. A lot of the time they’ll lessen up or go away completely as you run. I’ve also found that going up hills when you have a side stitch can sometimes get rid of it completely.
Just focus on taking deep breaths and putting one foot in front of the other. Pushing through them is the best way to get rid of them long-term.
2. Try this breathing technique
I fully stand behind this breathing technique, which I also covered in my post How to Beat the Heat During Your Summer Workouts. Read that post to get the reason behind why this technique works.
But pretty much, if my breathing is really struggling on a hill or on a hot, hot day, I use pursed-lipped breathing – all through my mouth.
To perform, inhale like normal through your mouth. When you exhale, do so through pursed-lips in the shape of an O (like you’re blowing out a candle).
It really works. It makes your breathing feel less labored and can be the difference between running up a hill or having to walk it.
3. Have specific easy days
As you improve and your speed increases, you shouldn’t always let your legs just take over. Make sure you have days you purposely run slower to recover.
If you ran a hard, hilly run yesterday, then it’s probably wise to go on a slower, easier run today. Ensuring you have easy runs will protect you from getting injured.
4. Run a distance rather than a time
I always liked cross country season better than track season, and I think that’s because of how we trained.
For cross country, our coach would give us a specific distance to run each day. But for track, our coach would tell us to run for a specific time, like 30 minutes.
I never liked knowing that no matter how fast or far I ran, I’d have to keep going until the time was up.
It takes all the incentive out of it. Plus it made mileage seem much less important.
So when it comes to running for beginners, a big tip would be to run for distance. It helps you focus on and track your mileage better. And the faster you go, the sooner you’re done – which is a great motivator!
5. Run longer than a race distance
This tip is for those training for a race. Unless you’re training for a marathon or ultramarathon, have days when you run longer than the distance you’re training for.
I certainly don’t mean every day, but if you’re training for a 5k, your longer runs should not be a 5k distance. Run 5, 6, 7, 8 miles if you can! If you work up to these distances slowly and run them at an easy pace, it will only help you on the day of your race.
When I ran my first half marathon, the farthest distance I had run before was 11 miles. And I did pretty well during the half marathon. But it wouldn’t have hurt to run that full distance or a little longer at a slow pace beforehand.
Our bodies are capable of impressive things! So don’t shy away from the longer training runs.
RELATED POST: Couch to 5k: How to Succeed
6. Plan out your mileage ahead of time
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: PLAN your runs ahead of time! It’s so much easier to convince yourself to actually complete your planned 8 mile run you knew was coming today.
Since running is such a mental sport, having a schedule allows you time to wrap your head around the distances.
Planning out your runs at least a week ahead of time also let’s you see your overall mileage and make sure you have a good balance of long, fast, hilly and recovery runs.
I recommend getting these planners or something along these lines to stay on top of your running and hold yourself accountable!
7. Stubbornly stick to your schedule
Be relentlessly stubborn about sticking to your running schedule. Run when you’re sore, when you’re tired, when it’s hot out, and when you don’t have time. Running when you’re not feeling it physically will help push your body and ultimately make you progress.
So don’t let the excuses derail you! If you want to become a runner, the best way to make progress is sticking to your schedule like your life depends on it.
Note: This doesn’t mean run when you’re having a consistent pain. If this is the case, get it checked out by a doctor or a physical therapist!
8. Do benchmark tests
In high school and college, I had a hilly 4.5 mile loop back home that I loved to test myself on. I kept a list of my times on it and always came back to that loop to challenge myself.
Whether it’s every other week or once a month, it’s important to do a check-in to see your progress. It certainly doesn’t have to be 4.5 miles – even 1 mile would work! But pick some way to test yourself regularly for added running motivation.
9. Be aware of how helpful smart devices can be
Smart devices are everywhere now and for good reason. In the running world, their insight is both useful and motivational.
Getting a smart watch that can read your heart rate will help you to train at the proper intensities, but it will also be a great way to see your running progress as you continually get in better shape.
I personally have a Garmin Forerunner watch, which can do far more than a regular digital watch. I love using it to track my miles and record my splits. It’s a game-changer.
Update: Since writing this I’ve published a post about 8 top running watches out there. The first 4 watches I cover are perfect for beginners (and inexpensive!) – check them out here!
10. It’s normal to have bad days
You will have days when your run feels really tough, whether your legs feel like lead or your breathing is extra labored.
This doesn’t mean you’re getting worse or not making any progress.
Our bodies just have days they feel that way. And the next day you may feel totally fine.
Don’t let it dissuade you from staying on track. This is a completely normal feeling for any runner, not just new runners. So keep on training!
11. Buy shoes at a small running shoe store
This list was originally going to be just 10 tips, but I couldn’t leave this one out.
Go to a smaller running shoe store to find your running shoes. I always do this now.
Smaller stores that are running-specific employ extremely knowledgeable people who KNOW the running shoe game. Plus they have the technology to evaluate your feet and your gait in way more depth than a typical shoe store.
This can be the difference between getting an injury after just a couple weeks of training versus going injury free for years.
So don’t think twice, especially when it comes to running for beginners. Go to a small running shoe store that knows what it’s doing.
And while this isn’t a tip, I’ll leave you with this last note: If you run, then you’re a runner. You don’t need fancy gear or to run marathons or even to run fast. You just need to run and run consistently!
So once again, welcome to the running family!
Any new runners here? Let me know below and tell me what got you started running!