At its core, running is a simple, fun and effective exercise.
While there are many practical tips and advice on how to start running, all it really takes to begin a new running habit is the desire to move, and a comfortable pair of shoes, and suitable clothes.
You don’t need much specialised equipment or a membership to start off, although the list of running things you’ll want to acquire is very likely to grow the more you get into the sport. In theory however, you don’t need much to start: simply put one foot in front of the other and repeat the process over and over again.
Remember, there isn’t a right or wrong way to run. There’s just different training methods with varying effectiveness and efficiency, but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by negative splits, speed sessions, or the 10% rule if you’re just staring out.
Practical Tips for How to Start Running
1. Get started and have fun
Running doesn’t have to be horrible, and you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by the mounts of advice on how to run better when you’re first starting off. For your first couple of runs simply head out and put one foot in front of the other.
Don’t worry about distance, pace, or about increasing either. Simply focus on trying to build a consistent habit and try to head out two or three times per week. Your goal here is to have fun and give you body enough time to adjust to this new training stimulus.
Head out, know that it’s acceptable to walk and, as you run, imagine you could still hold a conversation.
2. Find a good pair of shoes
Any shoe made for running or general fitness can be good for getting started. Many running beginners spend over $100 in their first pair of running shoes, but it’s not necessary to make that financial commitment if you’re just starting off.
The internet is full of second-hand shoes in pretty good conditions (no holes, only a couple hundred miles under them) with a lot of life still left in them. There’s no need to break them in anymore and you can figure out what you like – and what you don’t – about your running shoes.
Remember you can always fine tune once you know what works for you.
If second-hand shoes are not your thing, you can also head to a running shoe shop and ask for advice on what kind of trainer to get for the type of running you expect to be doing.
Black toenails, common in running beginners or runners who’ve increased their training volume, are often the result of ill-fitting shoes. A good pair of shoes will make your running experience a lot happier.
3. Set yourself a (small) goal
Goals are a good way to keep motivated and get you moving. Your goal can be to run at least twice a week for a month, or to complete three laps around your block. It could also be to run a certain amount of time non-stop.
Find either a distance or time goal and work towards it.
While lofty time goals can work, it’s better to start with simple goals you are very likely to achieve and set yourself up for success. Psychologically, this will help you keep at it.
Small wins are crucial to developing an enjoyable running habit and increasing your confidence.
Overtraining: If you’re used to exercising but are new to running, be aware of increasing your training volume (how long and how fast you run) too fast. You might have the fitness to make running feel easy, but you still have to give your body time to adapt.
One of the reasons many people don’t stick at running is because they increase their training volume too fast (easy mistake to make as you’re likely to see a lot of improvement to start off with) and end up injured.
4. Know where you’ll run
Pre-planning a route can take away some of the anxiety you might feel about starting running. By knowing where you’ll run you don’t have to worry about getting lost and not finding your way back home.
Exploring new routes is extremely fun, but you’ll have plenty of time to do that later in your running journey. For starters, choose a place where you’re likely to feel comfortable (for example, a park where other people run).
5. Finish on a positive note
If your training sessions finish on a high note, you’re more likely to want to run again. This is a well-known phenomenon called the peak-end rule.
As you start running, try to finish your runs feeling strong, even if this means having an overall slower session or walking in the middle, so your brain cooperates next time you want to head out.
How to Progress as a Beginner Runner?
To progress in almost every sport you simply have to do more training. In essence (massively oversimplified), the process goes like this: you train, your body reacts to the stressors placed on it, your body builds back up stronger and adapts to the stimuluses given.
To improve, you simply have to get more of those adaptations.
There are different paths to progressing your running:
- Keep track of your distance and try to run more over time.
- Keep track of your time and try to run more without stopping over time.
- Keep track of your pace and try to become faster over time.
- Keep track of a combination of some or all variables and try to increase them over time.
How to Increase Running Distance or Pace Safely?
As a beginner runner, you’ll want to make sure you’re completely comfortable with your running volume before you think about increasing it.
A good way to think about your running volume is by separating your training into weeks or blocks. For example, you can start by running twice a week for 20 minutes at a consistent pace and do this for four weeks, this would be your first block.
Once you’re comfortable with this, you could either reduce the amount of walking involved in your outings, or increase the time to 25 minutes per run, or keep the time the same and try to run a little further (and in consequence, faster), or combine any of the above.
Remember, all of these are examples. Listen to your body and change your training based on how you’re personally reacting to it. Know also that you don’t have to do this for every run, but can just increase the intensity of only one of your runs every two or three weeks.
To increase your running distance and pace safely, consistency is better than doing a lot and then not much.
In training, for example, this would look like three days of running 3 miles every week, instead of 9 miles one day and resting for the rest of the week.
How to Start Running – Program for Complete Beginners
If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly running program, we recommend you check out Couch to 5K.
This is a mobile app which contains training plans that gradually progress toward a 5 kilometre run over nine weeks.
What Is A Good Time for Running?
Is 5k in 30 minutes good?
Many runners have time goals they’d like to achieve for a certain distance. While these are good motivators, objectively there isn’t a “good time” to run certain distances in.
Your speed over a distance will be determined not only by the amount of training you put in and the conditions of your time trial attempt, but also by your age and gender.
A good way to know how your times compare to other runners like you, and objectively compare your times against runners from a different age or gender, is Age Grading.
In running, age-graded scoring is a number based on your running result compared to the world record speed over the same distance.
The best possible time an athlete has run over any distance is set as 100%, and your score will be calculated from that as a percentage value of the world record for your age and gender.
In general, a score of 60% would give you a good placing in a local race, 70% a high placing in a regional event, 80% could be considered national class and 90% world class.
You can calculate your age-graded score using one of many internet calculators.