Want some beginner running tips from someone who understands that running is not fun? Then read on for practical tips for beginners running!
I have never been one who loves to run, or to do “fun” runs, or who runs to “clear their head.”
The only running I did as a child was in the 8th grade when I joined the track team. My main events were the high jump and the long jump, both of which I only did okay at, as I’m not a very good sprinter.
However, for one track meet I competed in a 400-meter race (once around the track). And guess who came in dead last? Me.
I am not a runner. And I hate running.
Despite long legs and a “runner body” type, I am not fast, nor do I enjoy it.
All that being said, I have recently started running.
Why running, you ask? Because I know it will be good for me, in the long run (ha, pun!).
I have always thought that running is the ideal exercise – you work your whole body, you get your heart rate going, you get a good sweat in, you burn a lot of calories, it’s free, can be done just about anywhere, and doesn’t take very long. It also tones your legs and butt and helps your core some too. It has always appealed to me, on paper.
I have always wished I was a runner. Wished I enjoyed running. Slowly, I am making some of those wishes come true.
After having a little baby boy in March,* I had only two months to get ready for a 5k race I had signed up for while pregnant. (I was supposed to have two extra weeks to prepare, but he decided to wait almost two full weeks after his due date to come.) I wanted to do this 5k, my first race, to force me to get back into shape, and to get me into running.
The good news is that it worked and I am still running five months postpartum. And I have only 4-5lbs left of my pregnancy weight, and have lost 1.5″ or more in my hips. (See? It DOES shape your butt and thighs!)
Beginner Running Tips
Beginner Runner Tip #1 – Start Slow
Since I was still recovering from giving birth, I started running by first walking. Walking is also a great exercise, easy on your joints. It starts working to build up those legs muscles and gets your heart beating faster. Plus, if you can discipline yourself to make time to walk (which takes longer than running), you then have the time to run.
Walk for distance, and push yourself to walk quickly. Once you have that down, challenge yourself and start to jog/run. Start with whatever you know you can do.
I know growing up I could usually complete a mile run at school without stopping, so I aimed for that, pushing myself to do that. My time was lousy (13+ minute/mile) and my legs ached for a couple of days, but I did it. And I made sure I got out again the next day and didn’t give up or let the pain stop me from doing it again.
Repeat your same route and then slowly add-on more as you continue to do it. Do another lap (or half), run to the next corner, push for another 10 seconds. Whatever level you are at, take pride in the fact that you are getting better for you (you’re not competing against anyone else!).
Beginner Runner Tip #2 – Get the Right Gear
Have good supportive shoes. You don’t want to injure yourself.
It’s been suggested to me, that if you are serious about running, or getting into running, that you should go to a running store so they can analyze your run, and hook you up with the correct shoes.
I went to such a store (Blue Mile in Indianapolis) and ran on a treadmill and got a great new pair of running shoes from Saucony. They are Saucony Women’s Mirage 3 Running Shoe are WAY better on my feet and knees than my previous Nike Frees.
If you are running outside, make sure to wear bright, reflective clothing (especially if you run at night).
I wear compression capri pants (from Adidas) and a lightweight mesh t-shirt (from Old Navy). I also wear a simple sports bra.
Wearing the right clothes helps you not get so overheated, stay dry, and be comfortable. Running in jeans would not be a good idea.
Beginner Runner Tip #3 – Have Good Form
I am not a running expert at all. I am a novice runner (so please don’t take my tips as doctrine). But, I do know that having proper form when running is important.
The little I know is that you should keep your head held high, look straight ahead (not at the ground), put your shoulders back, and keep your arms tucked in. I found out quickly that looking up and ahead helped me think about something other than how awful running was, as I kept my eyes on the prize (the finish line!).
I’ve also heard that short, quick steps are better than long ones when covering longer distances.
Beginner Runner Tip #4 – Warm-up, Cool-down, and Stretch It Out
When I go for my runs, I always walk to warm-up and walk to cool down, counting those walk times in my totals for my runs. I do this partly because I don’t have a stop watch or iphone or other device that could separate it out for me. Regardless, my point is that you should warm-up and cool-down!
My warm-up is a brisk walk down to the neighboring community where I end up doing my running (which is essentially a number of loops around their neighborhood). My cool-down is then my walk back. This is partly because it’s a hill to that neighborhood, and because there is no sidewalk/shoulders on that road.
Before and after my run I also make sure to stretch it out. I stretch my legs, but also my shoulders, neck, and back, which can sometimes hold in a lot of tension, which can affect how comfortable I am on my run.
Beginner Runner Tip #5 – Run Outside (if you can)
I think there are some great advantages to running outside as opposed to a treadmill inside. While I did this more because I lacked a gym membership and am short on available free time (newborns need fed every 2-3 hours after all), I found it beneficial, though very hard at times.
Running outside gives you that wonderful fresh air, the wind in your face, and the freedom to take your own pace. There is also no one running next to you, judging you (whether real or perceived) for gearing down in the middle of your run. You also don’t have that annoying little screen telling you how much you still have to do, or what your pace is, or long you’ve already been at it.
Running outside, for me, has helped to push me further.
I remember when I did have a gym membership not being able to jog a complete mile on the treadmill. I was so caught up with speed, the time I had already been running, my pace, and a host of other things (like a fear of falling off, which did happen to me once), that I always would give up, and say I had done enough and slow down or finish my run altogether.
Advice: if you are like me with the treadmill, cover up the numbers or have something else to distract you.
I also didn’t have clear goals for my run (more on that later). Running outside, I had visual markers (buildings, ponds, corners, etc) that I was shooting to keep running to. I also had to eventually get myself home, so I couldn’t just give up before then.
Running outside is difficult at times though. I would sometimes run during the lunch hours, as that’s when my children were sleeping (dad was home), but it was 80-90 degrees outside and humid. Other times it was cooler, but the sun was in my face (earlier in the morning). Also, sometimes it rains and you can’t really run in it, though I have once run in a gentle misty rain and it proved fine.
Running outside you also have to deal with cars and traffic. My advice is to always be safe when running outside. Wear bright colors, walk facing on-coming traffic, and stay hydrated.
Beginner Runner Tip #6 – Think about something, anything, other than running
This one is hard for me, but helps me run better and faster. In the early days, all I could think about when running was running itself.
How was I breathing? Was my running form correct? How far had I already run? How many minutes had gone by? How quick was I going? And most often, Am I done yet??
Not thinking about running while running is hard, especially when you don’t enjoy it; when you’d rather be doing something, anything else; when it hurts; when its hot and your sweaty and tired. But, as I have started running more, and consciously worked on not thinking about running, the runs haven’t seemed so tedious or agonizing to complete.
Although, I still think about my running as I run (how can you completely not?), now it’s more often thoughts about pushing myself, picking up the pace, and saying to myself, “You can do it!”
Beginner Runner Tip #7 – Track Your Progress and Make Goals
I have tracked my walks and runs with the website mapmyrun.com for over a year (it used be just my walks). It is fun to look back and see what progress I have made. I can see how many runs or walks I did in a week or a month. I can map my own routes, put in my time, get burnt calorie estimates, and set goals.
This website is chock-full of awesome tools, most of which I don’t even utilize. I really like seeing how my times compare to my previous ones on a given route. Sometimes I am so surprised when I get done and I see that what felt like a great run, was one of my worst times! Also, I love that I can be rewarded at Walgreens for tracking my runs too!
It has really helped me push myself to beat myself. I am competing against myself. I want to be faster because I think I can do it. I want to run further because I want to see if I can keep up my current pace for longer.
I am planning on signing up for another 5k and have a goal of running the whole thing in under 30 minutes, which is about what I am doing now on a good day/run. My first 5k (which was actually 3.2 miles) took me 40 minutes and 20 seconds to complete, or about a 12:37 min/mile, jogging the entire thing. I have greatly improved from then, in only three shorts months!
Signing up for a race is a great motivation! If you spend the money on something, then you better get your money’s worth out of it, and do your best.
Beginner Runner Tip #8 – Have a Support System
I couldn’t have gotten to where I am now, an average 10 min/mile pace and 3 mile runs, without my supportive husband. He encourages me to go. He practically pushes me out of bed or out the door some days. He tells me how proud he is of me.
I am also lucky that his schedule has allowed me to run during the morning/afternoon, since he is home. I know I wouldn’t have the time to run if he didn’t help me. I am very thankful to him for all of it.
My advice: get moral support. Have someone who expects you to have and meet goals. Have someone to watch your kids, or a gym that offers babysitting. Run at odd times if you have to. But, do it.
Beginner Runner Tip #9 – Have the Right Fuel
I have so not been great about this, but making sure you have the right food and drink in your body before your workout, and after your workout, is pretty darn important. And something I learned the hard way one too many times…
I put together a list of the best things to eat and drink before and after a workout that you can check out to find something that you can stomach.
Those are my tips and advice for those of you who want to become runners. I still don’t really feel like a runner, because I still don’t enjoy it, but the good news is that the more you just suck it up and do it, the easier, and more enjoyable it becomes.
What are you beginner running tips for people like me and others?
Be sure to follow my Exercise board on Pinterest!
Now go run!
Be sure to also check out my post on 6 Tools that Help You Start to Workout
*This post was first published September 4, 2013.
Katie Clark says
Great tips! I hate running, and never seem to be able to find a love for it, no matter how hard I try 🙂 It’s definitely a great work out though, and I agree — outside is much better!
Karyn - Pint Sized Baker says
My first run / walk is tomorrow… I have mixed emotions about it. Gonna get up and do it! No excuses!
Well, I’m proud of you Karyn! And you did it again the next day! That alone is amazing, cause I am always so sore after that first day! I hope some of these tips help you.
Brenna @ Life After Laundry says
Ok, Katelyn, I can so relate. I want to run. Love the idea of being a runner, but that is as far as it has gotten. I really need to get started, so glad for your tips.
Yeah, the idea of being a runner has always been appealing. I’m glad I’m starting to make that idea come true, somewhat. I still don’t feel like I’m there yet, but I’m trying!
Cristina @ Just My Crazy Kitchen says
I love this so much! I used to run on a regular basis and I loved it. Then, I got injured and I haven’t been out running since. I know that I’m not going to like running in the beginning, so I can’t get myself to get up and go. I think I’m going to print this out and read it on my run to remind myself that it will get better. And to keep me distracted from my run. Also, your picture makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. =)
Thanks for your kind words! I’m sorry you got injured! Seriously, not cool. The beginning is the hardest part, well, doing it again after the first day, is the hardest. And, I’m glad you like the picture. I think it’s hilarious myself. I’m just a goof.
What great comments! I too hate running. I never even ran the mile in elementary school. I faked illness, low bloodsugar or anything to get out of it. And I never understood runners telling me that they can “think” and “feel so good” afterward. I thought- “I can think on the couch. I can feel good shopping.”
But, like you, I decided that I wanted to be healthier. And so, I just did it. And I’m getting better! I can run for 22 minutes (about 2 miles) straight now!!
Sounds like you are doing great! Congratulations!
Krista @ Joyful Healthy Eats says
Great tips! One of my goals this year is to run a half marathon but the thing is I HATE running! So it should be interesting. I just started 3 days ago and this post was very encouraging! 🙂 Thanks Katelyn!
Katelyn Fagan says
You are welcome Krista! I want to do a sprint triathlon this summer. I’m super nervous about it, but I hope I can do it! Good luck to you too!
I too have “runner’s legs”. I have no clue how people decide on this. I have tried running a few times over the past few years. This year I have finally made it up to running for 10 minutes straight, followed by a 5 minute walk, then another 10 minute run. The walk will be getting shorter in a couple of days and the runs longer. I discovered withy last run that although I am running with others, I must have music on really loudly (I’m running on a trail that goes parallel to the road, but separated.) and it has to be music that I can just get completely lost in. Like I’m singing along breathing heavily. It’s probably a sad sight, but it helped. Before I knew it my running partner said it was time to walk and I said wow that felt so good!
Slow, but steady! My goal is a 5k by the end of April. We are up to 2 miles in 30 minutes. Almost there!
Great tips! Starting slow is so important! I started running 6 months ago (Jan. 1). I never ran in school, and I’m 39 with 3 kids. I train primarily on our treadmill, and couldn’t get faster than a 13:30 pace during the first 4 months. (I had to do a light jog at 4 mph starting out.) My first 5k was in April (with my hubby, who has a marathon and several halfs under his belt), and he slowed down to run with me. I shaved my pace to 12:27. I was shocked! After I got my Brooks Ghosts at the running store, I can feel a difference. I am not yet to a 10-minute pace, but I will get there eventually. My pace at a 5k two weeks ago was 10:43. I’m no elite, and don’t plan to be. I get so frustrated when I hear people (elite runners, I assume) say things like “My grandma can run at 5 mph,” because that discourages beginners from continuing to try and improve. Your only competition is yourself, even if you place last. Finishers still beat those who stayed on the couch. 🙂
Found this post via Pinterest and I love it. I started my jogging journey in August and so far so good. Is hard and sometimes I want to give up but when I find posts like this it motivates me . Thank you!
Thanks for the tips. I’ve never run but I want to start and it’s nice to get frank, honest advice from a normal person, not a fitness professional.
Katelyn Fagan says
You are welcome Jenny! I am definitely not a fitness professional! Good luck starting!
I’ve been a sort-of-sporty guy, but I was definitely not into running. Like about 7 years ago I decided to run my first 10k, the next year I forced to run 2 or 3 10k, the following year, I was getting into all the 10k that were in town. It has been a process but today I can tell you that the best exercise and the one I enjoy the most is running. I am running an average of 100 miles per month and nowadays I just hate the days I don’t run.
Lindsay @ The Local Taste says
Love this post! I love hearing about your journey in becoming a runner. I ran for about 4 months straight and even ran a 5K, but after the 5K i was so unmotivated to keep going. I definitely think making continuous goals is the way to go! Thanks again for the motivational tips. 🙂
One thing I have done to motivate myself to run is promised to someone I would run a 5k with them come spring! I am a teacher, and our school is doing a 5k and mile run, so I promised my students who are competing that I would do it with them. Something to look forward to and they literally ask me every day if I am practicing for the race!
GREAT MOTIVATION! 🙂
Thanks for the post! Glad to see others face the same challenges as I do!
Katelyn Fagan says
If I wasn’t already having a pretty great day, your comment would have made it one! Thank you! And good luck with your upcoming 5k! You can do it! I definitely think a running partner and a race (goal) is a great motivator. And I love that your students are cheering you on.
Thanks for sharing! I am on my last week of couch to 10 K and still hate running.
Any beginner runners who are really trying to get started- I definitely suggest couch to 5k program. It starts off with running very small amounts (though the first day I definitely felt like I couldn’t make it, and I was only running in 1 minute increments!) and builds you up. My runs are now an hour long and I’m running 4-5 miles at a time. Still slow, but SO much better than that first day!
To any of you who need motivation- just remember that you definitely CAN do it! Even if you move slower than turtles in peanut butter, you’re moving faster than if you were still on your couch!
Katelyn Fagan says
Great advice and motivation!! Totally agree! I’ve heard great things about the Couch to 5k program from others too. You guys can do it!
I just started running in January! My husband has been a distance runner since high school and has dared to encourage me to run a few times. Then my book club created a team for a 5k and I decided it was time to hop to it.
I really enjoyed my couch-to-5k plan. The intervals of running/walking were very achievable to me, when the thought of running at all still sounded like The Worst. Thankfully winter in Alabama was pretty amenable to outdoor running, because my two attempts at the treadmill were Actually The Worst. I ran all of my almost-5k (it was 2.92 miles) in under 30 minutes, and now I’m hooked! The simplicity of it is great: just go. Though the motivation to stick to a schedule is completely gone now that I’m off the plan. Perhaps it’s time to sign up for another one!
People, run listening to music!!!! It helps me so much, I’m not thinking about the run when I do it, and the sound kind of pushes me further, and makes me not wanting to give up the run. I started running a few months ago, but had a two months break, so now it feels like I’m starting from the beginning, but with music it’s just so much easier. I loved this post 🙂
Katelyn Fagan says
Thank you! Music can certainly help you get your mind off the running. 😀