I've been running for six months after starting out as a beginner. I'm keen to share what I have learned to help others new to running.
1. Focus on time, not distance
The first time I ran, I forced myself to run a total of 5 km (a mix of running and walking). I felt it was an impressive distance to run as a beginner, and I wanted to be able to show off. It actually resulted in me experiencing blisters and calf pain for about a week, preventing me from doing anymore running.
For my next few runs, I decreased the distance and focused on attempting to run a little further each time, pushing myself to continue running without any walking breaks. I did gradually manage to run further, but it was hard, exhausting, and my progress was slow.
I was becoming frustrated when a friend mentioned that she was following the couch to 5k programme. I had looked into this before I started running and felt it wasn't for me, largely because I believed the programme was for unfit people who did little exercise. I have regularly exercised for years (Zumba and Kettlebells) and felt my fitness should be high enough to start running without following a programme.
However, after witnessing my friend see great progress following the programme I decided to take a closer look. I quickly realised that rather than ignoring the programme completely, as someone who is a bit fitter, I could jump in further along the programme.
I read through the programme and decided to adapt it. At this point, I was just about managing to run for 10 minutes, so I switched to 6 minutes of running followed by 4 minutes of walking x3, giving a total activity time of 30 minutes (18 minutes of running). This felt much easier, and I managed to cover more distance without actually focus info or worrying about the distance.
Each week, I was able to add a minute to my running time and take a minute off my walking time. I then increase to doing 4 sets and eventually removed the walking breaks completely.
I was so glad I had discovered this approach to beginner running training, and I wished I had started by focusing on gradually increasing my running time rather than increasing my distance.
2. It's worth buying properly fitted running shoes
Running may appear to be a cheap and easy way to keep fit, but once you spot the cost of running shoes, you might feel tempted to look for a cheaper option. However, running shoes that are ill fitting and don't offer the correct level of support leave you prone to injury.
Personally, I think it is worth going to a specialist running shop and getting a pair of running shoes fitted by a qualified experienced assistant. These shops usually have a treadmill that you can run on to test out the shoes while the assistant examine your running stride and rotation of your foot to ensure you are wearing the most suitable shoe for your foots anatomy and running style. At first, the thought of running on a treadmill in a shop seems a little daunting and embarrassing, but this is usual in these types of shops, and you soon forget about other people around you. Running shop assistants are highly trained and usually experienced runners themselves. In addition to providing running shoe advice, they are often happy to chat to you about general running tips.
When trying on running shoes, ensure you focus on the feel of the shoes as you are running on the treadmill, and don't get distracted by the brand or colour. You could consider asking friends that run for advise on which specialist shop to go to, but avoid taking them along as it's easy to be influenced by others and what's right for them won't necessarily be right for your.
I'm currently wearing the Saucony Guide. I got my first pair at a running store, where I was able to test them out. They were recommended to me by the assistant as they provide good support for my low arches. While I would definitely recommend getting your fist pair of shoes in a specialist running shop, once you know which shoes work for you, feel free to shop around and find the best deal. As I'm running more and more each week, I plan to pick up a couple more pairs of the shoes online.
3. Make sure you vary your training schedule
I have always kept active, and when I began running already regularly attended Zumba, kettlebell, and spin classes at my local gym. While it was tempting to skip these classes to go running instead, it was important for me to keep my training varied.
Running can lead to overuse of particular muscle groups, causing others to become lazy. Having a varied training schedule that incorporates other types of activity is the easiest way to prevent this without having to worry too much about which muscles you are working.
Strength training is particularly important to include in your training schedule as strengthening the muscles and joints, allowing you to run for longer and reduce risk of injury. If you are a member of a gym or go to a strength training class, instructors are usually happy to give you tips on which exercises are most useful for runners.
The other benefit of variety is that it prevent you from getting bored with your routine. Running all the time, while this may be appealing as a new runner who is keep to progress rapidly, will quickly become stale.
4. Set realistic goals
With everything in life, I feel I am more motivated to achieve something if I am working towards a specific deadline or goal. The easiest way to set yourself a running goal is to enter a race. This allows you to focus and gives you a specific date to be ready by.
This goal does need to be realistic; don't set yourself the goal of running a marathon in three months. Aim for a 5k or 10k run initially depending on your experience.
Personally, I have found I have lost running motivation at times if I don't have a race to aim for. While I am motivated by increasing my overall fitness and improving my running, I find that my motivation is increased exponentially when I have booked myself onto a race.
Also, I generally find the sense of achievement higher when completing a race. Reaching being able to run 5 miles on my local streets was a proud moment, but it felt even better running 5 miles in an officially organised race.
Around the UK, there are a number of parkruns held every weekend. These are free to attend and are timed allowing you to see your progress if you go regularly. They are attended by a range of people from highly trained athletes to parents pushing prams, so whatever your fitness level you will be in good company. Park run is a great way to give yourself a goal and take part in a running event with others without the worry of a more competitive edge.
5. Don't compare yourself to others
When you start running, it's easy to compare yourself to others. You might see friends, family, or strangers running and think they are doing better than you and that you need to try to keep up or run as far as they do.
I know a few experienced runners and so when I started running, I wanted to be able to join in with them and impress them. I quickly realised that trying to achieve their speed or distance was unrealistic in such a short space of time. However, I realised this only after injuring myself by attempting to run too far too soon, which hindered my overall progress as I had to stop running for a few weeks.
Also, I very quickly realised that these people were impressed just by the fact I had started running and was sticking with it. They are after all my friends and family, so they want me to do well and won't judge me if it takes me a while to progress. But not only that, they were new to running once, it might have been a long time ago but they know that it takes time and practice to reach your running goals. And no matter how experienced a runner you are, there is always room for improvement.
So don't compare yourself to other runners—you are doing great as you are.
6. Run on different surfaces
Although I only started running recently, about three years ago I completed a 5k charity run with a group of friends. I wasn't keen on taking part but was peer pressured into it.
I did very little training and it was all inside on a treadmill. I quickly got bored running on the treadmill and gave up. By the time it came to race day, I hadn't done much training and it had all been indoors. Running outside at the race was a shock to the system and I struggled. After the race, I decided I didn't want to run again.
Fast forward three years, and when I made the decision to start running properly, I knew I would need to do a mixture of indoor and outdoor runs.
One advantage of running on the treadmill is that it is easier to set your pace and monitor your progress. You can select a speed on the treadmill and run at that pace for as long as you like, or you can vary the pace to do some interval training. If you get easily bored running on a treadmill check out my article on how to overcome treadmill boredom.
When you run outside, it becomes more difficult to run at a consistent pace, you naturally slow depending on the terrain or incline. And unless you have a running watch or app, it's impossible to know how fast you are really going.
For keeping an eye on my pace and distance outside, I love my Garmin forerunner watch. Mine is the basic model (Forerunner 35), which I think is perfectly adequate for most runners from beginner to more advanced. As well as using it to track my runs, I wear it everyday to track my steps and heart rate. I've found it a useful tool for tracking my overall fitness and activity.
7. Find a running buddy
Having someone to share your running journey with can be very motivating; whether you actually run with that person or just discuss your runs with. When I started running earlier this year, I preferred to run on my own. Running on your own allows you to set the pace and control your schedule. However, I regularly discussed my runs with friends who also run. I'm fortunate to have a mixture of friends with different levels of experience. This means I can ask the more experienced runners for tips and advise, while I can share my struggles with those that are less experienced and in a similar position to me.
After I started to feel more confident in my running and was able to consistently run 5K without stopping or walking, I decided I would like to run with others. A friend who is more experienced than me, but still a relative beginner, offered to run with me once a week. We have now been running together regularly for a few months, and I have found I am able to run further when with her. I think this is both because she is able to push me to run further when I would give up on my own and because it doesn't feel as far when I'm running along chatting to a friend.
You may want to consider joining a running club. This may feel intimidating as a new runner, but it opens you to a wealth of experience and offers proper training. This is particularly useful if you don't know anyone else who runs.
I still like to run on my own a couple of times of week but feel running with a buddy once a week has definitely improved my running and increased my progress.
What do you think?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Claire Bradshaw