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Beginners Guide to Starting a Running Routine

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

If you’re curious about how to initiate running and you’re a complete beginner, there are likely a multitude of queries buzzing around your mind: How swiftly should I run? How will it feel? What should I consume? Could I participate in a race? Trying a new skill can evoke a certain level of uneasiness, but it also brings about a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. Running is an exceptional pursuit for anyone to attempt, irrespective of age or fitness level, so if you’re in pursuit of experiencing the so-called runner’s high, refer to this valuable guide as a resource on how to start running for novices.

How to Commence a Beginner Running Plan

Firstly, you’ll want to chart out your schedule and allocate time for your new running regimen. In your beginner running plan, you can reap fitness benefits by dedicating just 30 minutes per day, three to five times a week. The same can be said for engaging in a 30-minute daily walk.

When commencing your running journey, it’s advised not to aim for long distances or high speeds right away — doing so often leads to common running injuries. Begin by running for 20 minutes each session, three times a week. Gradually augment the duration of your runs and the frequency of your training days, but refrain from doing so until you feel at ease with your current level of training. If 20 minutes feels like too much, don’t hesitate to incorporate walking breaks. You may start by running for four minutes and walking for one minute until you complete the full 20 minutes. As you build strength, gradually eliminate the walking breaks.

When you’re learning how to run, don’t fixate on the number of miles covered — instead, focus on the duration in minutes. Over time, you’ll begin to cover more ground within the same timeframe, and that’s when you should contemplate increasing the length of your workout. Following a plan can assist in holding yourself accountable and prevent you from pushing too hard or too fast.

A Guide on How to Commence Running for Beginners

Below are a few considerations to ponder before embarking on your running journey.

Invest In Suitable Running Gear

One advantage of running as a sport is that it requires very little equipment. Nevertheless, the most crucial investment runners ought to make is in a high-quality pair of running shoes — not cross-training, walking, or tennis shoes. It’s best to acquire running shoes from specialized running stores where the staff can recommend models based on your current running level, goals, and your foot strike pattern (also known as gait).

Additionally, it’s important to have a well-fitting, premium sports bra, preferably crafted from moisture-wicking fabric to keep you cooler and drier.

A digital athletics watch (or a complimentary jogging application on your mobile device) is also beneficial. As you progress in your jogging and establish new objectives, a pulse-rate monitor is pleasant to possess, to ensure you sustain your exertion level where it ought to be.

Be Aware That You’ll Experience Muscle Tenderness

Your legs will feel tender initially, but if you maintain the routine, the discomfort in your legs will diminish relatively quickly. If you experience intense pain anywhere, cease running for a few days and allow your legs to recuperate in order to prevent injuries. Shin splints are the most common injury, typically acquired when you excessively train or wear inappropriate footwear. Recognize the distinction between fatigue and injury, and ensure that you’re not promoting excessive strain injuries.

Acquire Proper Running Posture

Most individuals believe they can simply put on a pair of sneakers and start running, but running with improper form can lead to severe injuries, asserts Chris Hoffman, a certified running coach.

To position yourself for success, adhere to these brief suggestions for proper running form from Hoffman:

A. Maintain an upright stance and slightly lean forward at the ankles, not the hips.

B. Keep your head slightly inclined forward, with your chin slightly tucked.

C. Direct your gaze 8 to 16 feet ahead and in front of your body.

D. Breathe naturally through your mouth and/or nose, with your mouth slightly ajar.

E. Keep your arms at your sides with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Prevent your arms from flailing or excessively swinging to avoid wasting energy.

F. Keep your hands loosely cupped, as if they were holding a small stone that can still bounce within your palm.

Establish Your Baseline Pace

Initially, running will undoubtedly feel challenging, and you may find yourself slightly breathless. However, that will eventually subside. It’s beneficial to utilize the talk test to assess your exertion level. If you can maintain a conversation while running, you’re maintaining a suitable pace. However, once or twice a week, aim for a shorter run but complete it at a faster speed to make conversation more difficult. This will aid in improving your fitness level and cardiovascular endurance. (See: Which Is Better — Running Faster or Longer?)

Plan Your Course

If you’re running outdoors, it’s important to know your exact route. Alternatively, using a treadmill is always a viable option. Both outdoor and treadmill runs have their benefits: Treadmills are a perfect alternative when the weather is unfavorable and can be useful in gradually transitioning to new distances or paces. Additionally, treadmills complement outdoor running because the cushioned surface reduces the risk of injuries that many runners experience from consistently pounding their legs on the pavement outside, according to Adam Krajchir, the head coach and program director for the New York Road Runners Team for Kids.

Run, wherever you may, indoors or outdoors,” advises Krajchir. “Establishing a regular pattern is more crucial than discovering a flawless solution,” he clarifies.

Embrace Inclines

Running on hills is a fantastic method to enhance leg strength and challenge your abilities. When ascending a hill, shorten your stride and propel your arms forward. Descending a hill, allow gravity to assist you and give it a slight push by leaning forward.

Prepare for Potential Side Stitches

Side stitches are a common occurrence for both runners and athletes of other disciplines. They are partly caused by “gravity and the inherent movement of running, which strains connective tissues in the abdomen,” explained Bob Murray, Ph.D., founder of Sports Science Insights, as previously mentioned in Shape. To alleviate them, try exhaling forcefully and at length, or bend over at the waist while exhaling, as suggested by Krajchir. You can also reduce your pace until the stitch subsides. (Here are some breathing pointers for novice runners that may be helpful.)

If side stitches persist as a recurring issue, consider avoiding solid food right before exercising and ensuring that you remain adequately hydrated, advises Krajchir.

Deliberate on Pre- and Post-Run Nutrition

Good news: You don’t need to make significant changes to your overall diet when learning to run, unless you are training for an endurance event like a marathon. However, it is important not to severely limit carbohydrates. Additionally, you should aim to consume an ample amount of protein to aid in muscle recovery and opt for sensible, nutritious, high-energy foods (such as plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).

Runners should experiment and discover what works best for them, as recommended by Danny Dreyer, author of Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running. In terms of pre- and post-run nutrition, you may find that you prefer running on an empty stomach in the morning or after a small snack. (More information available here: What to Eat Before Running)

Enroll in Your Initial Race (If Desired)

Setting a goal to complete a 5K (3.1 miles) race or any other distance is an excellent method to stay motivated and committed to your running routine.

Local contests draw individuals of all capabilities and offer a sustaining and motivating milieu to accomplish your objective. Numerous individuals stroll throughout the entirety of the race, whereas others will dash from the commencement. If you’d prefer to postpone until you’re confident you can jog the whole span, enroll in a contest that is three or four months in the future, and strive for that aim.

Treadmill Jogging Exercises for Novices

If navigating your way through a congested sidewalk or leaping over substantial roots and rocks on the trail doesn’t sound like an ideal jogging environment to you, try transferring your jogging workout to the treadmill. In general, complete beginners should commence their treadmill jogging routine on a 1-percent incline (since most treadmills have a slight decline at the start) and adjust their speed to a pace that allows for a conversation with the person beside them, be it walking or jogging slowly, as recommended by Hoffman. “That endurance training builds up your foundational mileage and endurance,” he explains.

At this stage in your novice treadmill jogging routine, focus on jogging at your foundational endurance level for a specific period of time rather than completing a distance. Distance can feel intimidating, but time is a more manageable metric to track when starting out since you can clearly observe improvements in distance while jogging for the same duration. “We don’t instruct people to run five miles because everyone’s abilities differ,” states Hoffman. “But we do advise, ‘work out for 50 minutes, whether walking or jogging.’ It doesn’t matter if you cover a mile or ten miles,” he elaborates.

Furthermore, while every individual’s body and fitness level are unique, as you continue training, it is generally beneficial to incorporate different elements like speed and incline into your treadmill jogging workout to enhance your overall running fitness capacity, according to Hoffman. To include these elements, each of your treadmill jogging sessions can have a distinct theme, be it endurance, speed, or hill workouts. Alternatively, you can combine all three in one session to keep it engaging, he adds. However, it is crucial not to immediately increase the speed and incline to the maximum. “The key is to start slowly, take it one step at a time, and listen to your body,” emphasizes Hoffman.

Once you feel comfortable and secure enough to raise the incline, which aids in building strength and power, gradually increase it for a short duration, such as running at a 3-percent incline for a minute, then returning to your base, and repeating the process a few times. Once that becomes easy, attempt to increase the duration of running on that incline, the speed, or the incline itself.

The same gradual interval approach should be applied when aiming to increase your speed. “It’s even more crucial to take it easy and be cautious about your speed,” cautions Hoffman. “You don’t want to run at such perilous speeds that you lose control of your body. Your body needs to accustom itself to those increasing speeds, and the only way to do that is gradually over time,” he explains.

Regardless of the type of treadmill jogging workout for beginners or the speed and distance covered, warming up and cooling down is essential to prevent injuries, states Hoffman. Before stepping on the treadmill, engage in dynamic stretches involving active movements, such as leg swings and butt kicks, for at least five minutes to warm up your body. Then, after completing your jogging workout, spend at least five minutes performing static stretches, such as calf stretches and forward folds, to cool down the body and ward off injuries.

Essential Vocabulary for Running

Utilize this lexicon to adhere to your running strategies like a genuine professional:

Perceived Exertion Rate (PER): The level of intensity at which you are exerting effort, ranging from one (seated) to 10 (sprinting).

  • PER 4 to 5: Effortless; you can converse with minimal exertion.
  • PER 6 to 7: Moderate; you can hold a conversation, but your breathing is slightly labored.
  • PER 8 to 10: Challenging; you can only utter a few words while running.

Cross-train: These are supplementary exercises that will assist you in working out muscles that are not adequately targeted during your primary form of exercise (in this instance, running). For instance, engage in swimming, cycling, walking, or partake in full-body resistance training for 20 to 30 minutes. “Activities that do not strain the leg muscles used in running are ideal,” advises running coach and professional pickleball player Scott Fliegelman. “When weightlifting, maintain high repetitions, use lower weights, and ensure you do not excessively tire yourself before important workouts,” he recommends. (Here are five cross-training workouts all runners require.)

Quick Intervals: Quick intervals refer to short, swift bursts of activity. Not quite a sprint, but running as rapidly as possible (PER 8 or 9). If you incorporate some quick intervals into your running routine, ensure to jog leisurely for the same duration as the interval afterwards.

Rest Day: Take a break! “After a rigorous workout, muscles necessitate time to repair microtears,” explains Fliegelman. Give yourself a full 24 hours of rest and relaxation (or a proper day of active recovery) to aid in recovery.

Novice Running Plans to Experiment With

Choose one of these running plans designed for beginners to ensure that you do not excessively increase your mileage too quickly and to keep you moving in the correct direction (perhaps towards a new running objective).