As well as being a hugely popular pastime, running is also an incredibly effective form of physical activity – in fact, it burns more calories than any other mainstream exercise.
Not only are the health benefits of running plentiful – from helping with weight management to reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke – it’s also a no-cost activity that you can do practically anywhere.
If you’re new to running, this beginner’s guide will help you ‘find your feet’ safely and get the most out of this fun and healthy activity.
What to consider before you start running
Build up gradually
When you’re just starting out with running, it’s important to take things slowly by gradually increasing your pace and distance over time. To begin with, walk for a distance that feels comfortable, then start alternating between running and walking.
Once you feel ready, you can increase the running intervals until you’re running for most of your session. This gradual approach will help to reduce the risk of injury and allow you to ease into the experience of running.
Get the right running gear
This isn’t just about looking good on your run! The correct running attire will help to ensure you have the support you need and feel comfortable during your training.
A good pair of running shoes will help to protect your feet by absorbing the impact, while a quality sports bra for women will provide additional support during your run.
Create a running plan
Planning your runs in advance will make it easier to stick to your goals and progress over time, as well as helping you build a solid routine for your running.
Before you start out, decide on the location of your run, the route you’ll take, and how long you’ll allocate to each run. By making a note of these details, you’ll have a clear plan that you can adhere to during your session.
Tips for a successful run
Always include a warm-up and cool-down
Applicable to beginner runners and experienced runners alike, an effective warm-up and cool-down routine incorporating gentle stretches for your leg muscles will help to minimise your risk of injury as well as prevent muscle soreness.
Before you begin each run, spend around five minutes on some warm-up exercises, such as fast walking, on-the-spot marching, knee lifts or stair climbs. At the end of your run, slow your pace to a gentle walk until your heart rate stabilises, then stretch out your leg muscles.
Check your running form
Not only will the correct running form help you to develop a faster pace, but you’ll also be less likely to injure yourself.
You should run with your elbows gently bent and ensure your arms and shoulders aren’t too stiff. Maintain an upright posture and keep your running stride smooth and even, hitting the ground with the heel first, followed by the toes.
Listen to your body
Running can place strain on joints such as the knees as well as the leg muscles. It’s important to address any pain or discomfort sooner rather than later to avoid minor issues becoming more complex health problems.
Starting slowly and alternating running with walking when you’re a beginner will allow you to build up an effective running technique and avoid injury.
How to stay motivated with running
Find a running buddy
Having a running partner who keeps you accountable can be a great way to stick to your running goals and push yourself to show up to your training sessions. They can also make it more fun!
It’s a good idea to find someone with roughly the same level of running ability as you, so you can both match each other’s pace and motivate each other to progress.
Create realistic goals
Having clear milestones for your running journey can help to keep you focused and inspired to stick with your training. However, it’s important to ensure these goals are realistic and achievable.
A training goal such as a specific race or charity run can be a fantastic way to keep you motivated and give you something to aim for during your running sessions.
Map your progress
Setting goals is one thing, but keeping track of your running progress makes it even more likely that you’ll stay committed to achieving them.
Keeping a running diary or using a running app to record the details of each run – such as your route, distance, time, weather conditions, and how you felt – can help you to map your progress over time and track your improvements, which is a great way to stay motivated.