During the depressing lockdown winter of 2021, I started running for the first time in my life. Not that I had never ever run before, but I had never run with any consistency. As a beginner, running can feel like an uphill struggle (literally) but I am here to tell you that it’s not.
While I am by no means a professional runner, and can’t tell you much about pacing and distance (because I am also still learning), I do know a thing or two about running from a beginner perspective.
How do I start running?
We have already covered the basics of how to start running, but here is a quick rundown of the things you’ll need before you get out the front door. (Hint: it isn’t much at all).
- A positive, open mindset
Running isn’t supposed to be horrible. In fact, it can be really fun once you get over the first few moments of thinking you can’t do it. Ending your run feeling good means you’re more likely to go again, but even if you don’t, simply going out at all is something to be celebrated.
- Comfortable clothing
You can spend hundreds on the ‘right’ clothes for running, but as long as you’re comfortable. Loose fitting clothing is usually beneficial as you get your heart rate going, and bottoms that will allow you to move with ease. Keep an eye on the weather, and dress warm enough to be outside for at least 20 minutes.
- Comfortable shoes
Find your most comfortable pair of sneakers. That’s all you’ll need to start. If you want to start investing in running, there are a myriad of brands and styles to research, but when you’re starting out just make sure you’re comfortable.
Running for a Beginner: How do I stay motivated to keep running?
Goal-setting and seeing improvement is one of the most surefire ways of feeling motivated to keep coming back to the starting line — but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Nowadays there are all kinds of sports apps to help you track your run, so here’s a little breakdown of the ones I have used and can recommend.
- Strava: the free version of the app tracks your distance, speed and if you have a smart watch, heart rate. It’s also a social app, so you can follow friends and motivate each other!
- Nike Run Club: My personal favourite running app. The Nike Run Club was a revelation for me, because it provides guided runs with motivating coaches that help you push through on those tough days. You can choose from 20-minute short runs, to mindfulness runs, to runs that prepare you for your first half marathon. The app also tracks distance and speed.
- Zombies, Run!: If you’re the kind of person that needs a little more… motivation to get you going, might I suggest Zombies, Run! You play Runner 5, the survivor of a zombie apocalypse. This is a great app for beginners, because you start slow and build the runs alongside the story.
- Couch to 5k: This one never worked for me, but others absolutely swear by it. This program does what it says on the tin, and is an excellent way to start finding the joy in running. Good for runners who are absolute beginners.
- MapMyRun: The best benefit of MapMyRun in my opinion is that it allows you to easily set goals and helps you build a training plan to achieve them. For example, if you aim to run your first 10k in four weeks, the app will build an adaptive plan for you so you can achieve your goals.
Running for a Beginner: How to stay consistent
When you’re a beginner, running can feel like a struggle. The key is consistency. Some days you can run 5k with no problems whatsoever, but other days a 2k can feel absolutely miserable, and that’s okay.
Here are some tips to stay on track (from someone in the same boat):
Make a training plan
Pick 2-3 days a week to run. It doesn’t matter what kind of run, but make a promise to yourself that you will get out the door with the intention to run that day. This will help make running a habit, and walking around your neighbourhood with your running gear on will help you get into that mindset.
It takes an average of 66 days for something to become automatic. This may seem like a lot, but trust me — time flies when you’re having fun!
Use it as an opportunity to explore
Thanks to running, I have (for the first time, honestly) really started to explore my local area. I am around 2k from a huge park and river, and right behind my building is a dirt path that runs along a canal; a path I would not have discovered if it hadn’t been for planning new routes.
Use running as a reason to get out and about an explore, especially as the weather warms up. One of my favourite things about running is that it allows you to be outside and in the world, which is especially important at the time of writing.
Listen to your body
This one is incredibly important, especially in the early days when your body isn’t used to running. As a beginner, running might feel uncomfortable, but knowing when to stop is part of improving and making yourself a better runner.
You may develop blisters, black toes, ankle pain, knee pain, calf pain; but all these are healed and helped with time, and you should not continue to run if it is causing an unreasonable amount of pain. Ways to help prevent these kinds of injuries are to wear well-fitting shoes, stretch before and after your run, and try and incorporate some strength training into your routine if you can.
Trust the process
Finally, trust that you will improve, will get faster, will run longer. When I first began, a 5k felt impossible, then the 10k became my goal. Now that I have run a couple of 10ks, I am thinking whether I should start training for my first half-marathon.
The trick for me was to not put any pressure on myself, and try to enjoy it. Runners high is real, but so are the days where you feel like your body weighs twice its weight — and that’s okay. You will get faster naturally, so always start slow, even if it feels unnatural.