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).
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?
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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.