Running is my sport of choice – it’s been of massive benefit to me both physically & mentally. If you’d like to find out more about my story and experiences, you can in: Why I run: my running story
Having run for years now (not continuously – I’m not Forest Gump), people often stop to chat to me about it. More often than not the comment – I want to run but I don’t think I would be any good at it – is given. Well let’s put it this way, every runner started somewhere. Usain Bolt didn’t come out of his mother’s womb carrying a relay baton now did he?
I truly believe that as long as you don’t have a physical condition preventing you – anyone can run. Yes, anyone.
You might not want to run (and that’s totally acceptable) but that’s not the same as not being able to run.
If you’re ready to start your own running journey – but not quite sure how – then you’ve come to the right place!
Here are my top tips for beginner runners…
– Get up and go –
Yes, it’s that simple – the best way to start running – is to well start. And you can’t do that if you’re at home sitting on the couch. You need to get your trainers on, head out the front door and just go for it.
– Practical points –
OK so maybe there are some practical points to consider before you do head out that front door though…
It helps to have a rough idea of your route before you leave the house. Do you want to work out a loop or just run as far as you can and then stop and turn back on yourself? Not having to overthink where you’re going will help to keep your focus on the run.
Good to know: The first few times will be a learning process, so I wouldn’t fixate too much on distance or time, more logistics and allowing yourself opportunity to become accustomed to this new form of exercise.
For your first few runs just be sensible about what you wear. Exercise clothes and sensible trainers are enough for those first few strides into the world of running. There is really no need to drop hundreds on running trainers and compression tights etc. until you’re ready to make the commitment. Don’t make finances an excuse not to hit the pavement. Plus for those first few runs will your distances warrant the pro-gear? Just be practical and sensible.
I personally struggle to run without music, however I also know of others who can’t think of anything worse than having a soundtrack accompany their run. There is no right or wrong answer, just what you think will work for you.
Top tip: If you do decide to listen to music, think about your playlist – what type of music will energise and motivate you? Make sure your playlist is full of those tracks!
It’s not advisable to eat directly before a run. Give your body time for any food to digest or you’ll likely end up with a stitch. Make sure you hydrate before and after your run. I’m not a medical professional or personal trainer, so I would seek official advice, but I personally don’t take water out with me for shorter runs.
– Easy does it –
With all the practicalities out of the way, you’re ready to run. Regardless of your distance, level of fitness, training plan, whatever, you want to ensure your run feels comfortable. How do you achieve this? Good question…
Allow your body to naturally warm-up
Your body has just gone from sedentary to WTF?!? Allow yourself, your muscles, your organs, your mind, time to catch up. Start at a steady pace. Light, gentle effort for those first few strides to give you time to adjust and everything to kick-in how it should. If it feels too much, take it down a pace or two. Get to where it feels comfortable, if that’s one step above walking – that’s OK – the pace and speed will come but not if you push yourself too hard too soon, you’ll just end up hating it.
Remember to breathe! The breathing makes or breaks a run, so it’s important to keep control of your breathing. Lose control of it and you lose control of the run. If you’re struggling with your breath, take it all down a notch, get it back. The breath is a great anchor for your focus on the run. You should never find yourself struggling for breath, if you do, you’re over doing it. Slow down and calm down your breathing.
There is plenty of advice out there on the ‘perfect’ running position and stride. It can be become quite overwhelming and distracting when you’re first starting out. So I wouldn’t worry too much when you’re new. Although, one piece of advice I find particularly helpful is – stick your chin slightly outwards – it helps to naturally push you upwards in your posture, that’s all there is to it. Additionally, try not to swing your arms all over the place, it just drains energy for no purpose.
There will be plenty of times where I advocate stepping out of your comfort zone, but during a run isn’t one of them. Like I’ve mentioned before, stay in your comfort zone. You should run feeling comfortable and like you have a little bit more to give. You should be able to talk easily and not feel your heart anywhere other than where it should be. If not, again, you’re pushing it too hard, take it down a level – there is no extra benefit to be gained from ending up flat on the floor. Times and distances aren’t your concern at the moment, you’re running and that is more than enough.
If you end your run feeling like you had more in you, you’ll feel more successful and ultimately more likely want to try again.
– Mind matters –
It’s often been said, your mind quits before your body does, this is so true! Running is as much about mastering the mental as it is about the physical. Here are some ways to stop your mind from running away from you…
Whether the comparison is between yourself and other runners or comparison between this run and previous ones, keep in mind, every person and every run is individual. There is no benefit to be gained from comparison, work with who you are. Whether someone has lapped you 5 times or whether you’re running a minute slower than yesterday – the fact is you’re up, you’re out and you’re running – well bloody done you! Which leads me to…
I know plenty of people who won’t run due to what they believe others will think of them. I know people who only run at night or drive miles to be away from anyone they know – which is fine if this is the only way to get them to run, but crazy because where is the evidence that people will judge them negatively? And why does it matter? If someone has something negative to say, that is more of a reflection of their own insecurity than it is of you. All that matters is what you think of you. With that in mind…
Stop negative self-talk
Your inner negative self-talker can ramp up a gear or two whilst on a run. Quieten it with some self-compassion. I have some short positive responses whenever a negative thought comes into my head: I can, I will, I am, I’ll show you, Just watch me, shut-up (OK maybe not the last one, but you get my drift).
If it all gets too much, just remind yourself gently why you run, what your motivation is behind it, why it’s important to you, why you started this.
Don’t get ahead of yourself either
If you’ve already signed up to an event – don’t think about it during your first few runs. Avoid thinking, I can barely manage 5 minutes how am I going to manage 5K? It becomes overwhelming. Just focus on the run you’re doing at that moment, always keep your focus on the moment. You’ll get there – trust me!
Top tip: If you feel your mind is forcing you to quit, try some self-negotiation. ‘OK, we’ll stop when we get to the next lamp-post’ and then as you get to the next lamp-post ‘do you think you could push it a minute more? Think how you’ll feel if you do’ and keep negotiating further chunks with yourself until you’ve basically covered the original distance you set out to do.
– Cool down –
This is my favourite part of the run because it means YOU’VE DONE IT!
Respect your body, you’ve asked a lot of it, so make sure you stretch-out appropriately.
As I’ve said, I’m not a personal trainer or qualified professional, so I’ll direct you to NHS.UK for some recommended cool-down stretches.
You might not feel you need to do them, but when you wake up sore and can’t move, you’ll probably regret that decision! Plus nothing delays your running goals more than injury.
Also remember to fully hydrate post run.
And you’re off!
Now you’re armed with all my tips for beginner runners, I hope you’ll feel motivated to give it a go! Keep your focus positive, be proud of yourself for getting up and going – see every run you complete as a big achievement and know with every stride you are that much closer to achieving your goals.
Want some further motivation? Read:
Hello to all the beginner runners – welcome to the running community! Have you tried running yet? What has your experience been? Is there something that’s holding you back? Or is there anything I’ve not covered here that you want to ask? Just get in touch via the comments box below – I’m happy to help and I always love to hear from you! Wishing you massive luck and encouragement on your running journey – happy running!