So you’ve made the decision to start running? Congratulations — It’s a big deal to want to do something so great for yourself! We know it can be nerve-racking for beginner runners to try something new, especially when it comes to running as a sport.
You probably have a ton of questions as a beginner runner, and while your friend’s advice to “just run” doesn’t make you feel more confident, neither does spending hours online searching for credible advice.
That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive yet easy-to-digest list of everything beginner runners should know about running. Keep reading to learn more about finding the perfect pair of shoes, properly fueling your body before and after your runs, and staying motivated throughout the process. Bookmark this page so you can easily refer back to it later.
Get in the right headspace.
If you’ve attempted to run before but had a bad experience with it — put it in the past. And if you’re beginner runner, then it’s a good idea to tune out any negative opinions you might have heard, like that it’s boring or bad for your knees.
There’s a number of reasons why running is one of the most popular and practiced sports worldwide. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), participation in aerobic exercises, such as running, “has been shown to decrease the overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.” Running can also keep you strong and healthy, help stave off cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as being a great way to lose weight.
Choose the right gear for beginner runners.
Before stepping foot outside, it’s important to lace up the right pair of shoes for your running style, or gait. Gait refers to the specific way your foot hits the ground, and it plays a big role in determining the best shoe for you as a beginner runner.
Everybody falls into one of three foot-types depending on their arch type: High Arches (Supination), Medium Arches (Neutral), or Flat Feet/Flat Arches (Pronation). The Wet Feet Test is a simple way to determine your foot type, and the best part is that you can perform it at home. Simply wet your feet, walk over a flat surface, and compare the impression you leave with the three figures below:
High Arches (Supination):
Supination (for runners with high arches) is the lack of an inward roll or rolling out of the foot during its foot-strike. This motion inhibits the foot’s ability to absorb shock well.
Medium Arches (Neutral):
Neutral gait (for runners with medium arches) is the slight inward rolling movement of the foot during its foot-strike. It’s considered to be the ideal motion of the foot during running as it greatly reduces the risk for injury.
Flat Feet/ Flat Arches (Pronation):
Over-pronation or pronation (for runners with flat arches) is the excessive inward rolling of the foot during its foot-strike. This can often create alignment problems within the legs, and there is a wide range of degrees of over-pronation.
Once you know where you fall, you can utilize the Shoe Finder feature on PLUOT.app to easily find shoes to match your needs or type in ‘running shoes for beginners’ and let PLUOT help you find the perfect running shoes for you!
It’s also important to choose the right type of clothing and accessories for your runs. Moisture-wicking tops and bottoms will help keep you dry and cool in warm weather while layering up are ideal in colder climates to prevent overheating. “Invest in a good pair of running socks, “advises Ruggero Loda, the runner behind the award-winning RunningShoesGuru blog. “Cotton is terrible to eliminate moisture — the sweat from your own feet is the most common cause for blisters. A good running sock in technical material will avoid a lot of unnecessary pain.”
Choose the right surface for you as a beginner runner.
What surface is right for you as a beginner runner? The answer to this really comes down to personal preference. There might be situations where you don’t have access to a treadmill, so the great outdoors is your only option. On the other hand, you don’t have to deal with hot or inclement weather conditions when running indoors.
Pavement: Running on the pavement is ideal for fast running as there’s little danger of turning your ankles. However, pavement doesn’t provide cushion for your step, and some heavy-footed runners might feel “the pounding of the pavement” more than others.
Sandy surfaces and trails: Running through a forest or a park provides much better cushioning than pavement, as well as scenic eye candy. Your risk of injury does increase due to rocks and bumps, though. Make sure to wear trail running shoes that are more rugged and have harder rubber outsoles.
Treadmill: A treadmill allows you to train year-round and provides good cushioning. Since the belt is moving under your legs and there’s no resistance for your body to counter, it’s also technically easier to run compared to outside. Be sure to offset this difference by increasing the incline by at least 1%.
Start at a snail’s pace.
We know your feet feel amazing in your new shoes and you’re riding off the high of getting started, but one of the best pieces of advice we can share to beginner runners is to start slow. “Trying to do too much too quickly is a recipe for a running injury, getting burnt out, or both, “advises Denny Krahe, running coach and creator of DizRuns.com. “Don’t be frustrated that you didn’t go farther, that will come. Just be proud of the fact you got out there and got that first run in, no matter how long (or not long) it is!”
Choose the right training program for beginner runners.
If you’re a beginner runner, then following a realistic training program will help you improve without overexerting yourself.
The Run-Walk Method is a great way to gradually build endurance with less stress on the joints. Start with 10-30 seconds of running followed by 1-2 minutes of walking, and then slowly increase the running intervals. A basic routine you can follow would be to run/walk for 20-30 minutes, three days a week, and resting in between your train days. After a couple of weeks, try increasing the duration of your runs or run/walk to an hour. If you’re feeling good and want to challenge yourself more, then you can add a fourth day of training to your routine.
There are also programs like Couch to 5K that are designed to take beginner runners with no previous experience to being able to complete a 5K (or 3.1 miles) in eight to nine weeks. If this sounds like your speed, then great! It’s important to note that these programs really ramp up in intensity after the first few weeks, so be sure to evaluate if it’s right for you.
Have a proper prerun routine.
A smart warm-up routine gives your muscles and joints a chance to loosen up while also gradually bringing up your heart rate (which makes it easier to get into the rhythm of running). One of the best low-intensity activities you can perform before running is walking gently for three to five minutes. This brings up the temperature of your muscles and core and also enhances the blood flow to all the muscles you’ll need for running.
Next up: dynamic stretches. These are active movements meant to get the body moving and aren’t held for any length of time. Skipping, shuffling, butt kicks, and leg swings are all great examples of dynamic stretches that can be performed before running.
Fuel your run.
Proper nutrition and running go hand-in-hand. Not only do healthy foods eaten at the right times enhance your running experience as a beginner, they also ensure you’re able to benefit from it.
For shorter, easy runs lasting less than 60 minutes, the option to eat is up to you. Your body will already have enough glycogen stored to power you through, but it’s important to refuel properly after your run. An apple or banana with peanut butter is a good after-run option. The natural carbs from the fruit and fat from the peanut butter synergistically work together to help you recover.
Any run lasting longer than 60 minutes or performed at a more vigorous rate may require some fuel to keep you going, which means your meal or prerun snack will require more time to digest. Give your body at least an hour for proper digestion before you run. Your body’s preferred fuel source is simple carbs because it can quickly be converted to energy. A bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter or sliced bananas will be a good option.
Staying hydrated is another key piece of the nutrition puzzle. Your body won’t be able to effectively transfer heat when dehydrated. When this happens, your heart rate will increase, negatively affecting your running performance and body. To keep your levels in check, drink around 10 fl. oz. of water every 20 minutes or so. If you feel thirsty, then it means you’re already dehydrated. To remedy this, sip water more frequently instead of chugging large amounts — this will prevent stomach cramps. Adding a sports drink can also help restore lost carbohydrates and electrolytes during long or more intensive runs.
Cool-down after a run.
Just like a good warm-up routine prepares your body for your run, you need need a cool-down routine. A solid cool-down session relaxes your muscles, lowers your heart rate, and allows your breathing to return to normal. As a beginner runner, it is important that you include this in your routine.
You can transition out of your run with three to ten minutes of brisk- to easy-effort walking (the more intense the run, the longer the cool-down walk should be). Follow this with 10-20 minutes of foam rolling and static stretching. Foam rolling helps relieve tight muscles and inflammation while increasing your joint range of motion. And static stretching — which consists of stretching a muscle to its farthest point and then holding that position for 10-30 seconds — increases circulation to tired muscles and releases any tension that might have been built up.
Rest and active recovery.
Running builds strength and stamina, but it also causes tiny amounts of tissue damage. Without effective rest days, you risk losing the benefits of all the hard work you’ve been putting in. Typically, beginners should give themselves at least one proper day of rest between workouts — this means avoiding any type of strenuous activity that could get your blood pumping.
Active recovery, on the other hand, can include easy to moderate levels of intensity to help your muscles recover and get them ready for your next run. “Do low- or no-impact activities like cycling, swimming, yoga, or strength training to complement the demands of your high-impact running workouts,” advises Jenny Hadfield from Runnersworld.com. “Runners who run more than three days per week can use easy runs as active recovery, too.”
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
There are many inspirational quotes, like the one above from Fred DeVito, that we could post to help keep beginner runners motivated. But we’ll leave those for office posters. Instead, here are some tried and true things you can try once the flame starts to fizzle out:
Make it social: Ask a friend to join your runs or sign up for a running group. Studies have shown that people tend to perform better and push themselves harder in a group than on their own.
Reward yourself: It’s totally okay to treat yourself every once in a while for the hard work you’ve been putting in. If you had a particularly soul-crushing workout (we’ve all been there), then pick up your favorite dinner as a small reward. Been eyeing a new pair of shoes? Then make yourself “earn” it by not missing a workout for a month.
Change your scenery: Finding a new route to run is a simple way to beat boredom and potential burn out. If you normally run on pavement, then switching to trails can breathe new life into your routine. Not to mention, you’ll have a legitimate reason to get new gear.
Creating benchmarks: It’s easy to get caught up in running times and miles logged, but another good way to measure improvement is by creating fitness benchmarks. Try taking any non-running movement, such as jumping jacks, and log the amount you can do in one minute before your first run, after running for one month, and after running for five months. Not only will the number increase, but you’ll be able to perform them more easily.
We know that was a long read, but as a newbie, it’s better to know too much than too little. Feel free to bookmark this page so you can easily refer back to it later. And if you have any more questions about running, then be sure to check out our other posts or leave us a comment!