How to Start Running: A Beginner’s Guide
Regardless of how fast, how far, or even how long you’ve been running, if you run you are a runner! Some of you may have been running for a long time and others are just about to start running.
You are probably here because you want to get a bit more serious about running. So let’s jump right into why running is good for you and how to start running. Ready? Set? Go!
Why Start Running?
Do you want to stay fit, lose weight, build strong bones, strengthen your joints, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease? Running can help you with all of that and more! What I also love about running is that it is relatively inexpensive and accessible to everyone, regardless of age, athleticism, or location. Believe me when I say it’s never too late to start running!
Besides the physical benefits, running can also positively impact your mental health. Running can relieve stress, alleviate anxiety, sharpen your memory, and boost your overall self-esteem among other benefits. Oh, and have you ever heard about the runner’s high? It’s real! If that’s not enough to convince you, read about even more benefits of running.
In the end, however, it doesn’t matter why you start running, because you will still reap all the awesome benefits. Everyone has different reasons to run. I, for instance, began running shortly after I had moved to New York City back in 2014. I don’t really want to go too deep into my personal story, and instead cut to the chase.
Before You Start Running
My best advice to you is to take it easy. Start where you are and not where you think you should be. Wanting too much too fast can be unsafe and often leads to injury. So don’t worry if you cannot reach your goal right away. We all struggle from time to time and that’s totally fine!
The most important rule of running is listening to your body – whether it comes to food, the frequency, or the duration of runs. Creating a habit and building stamina requires time, discipline, and consistency. Nobody develops endurance overnight.
5 Steps To Get You On Track To Run
So, how to start running? There’s so much more that goes into running than just hitting the road. While running is simple, it’s not easy. Preparation is key to an enjoyable, safe run. Here are the top 5 things you should consider on how to start running, packed with my best tips and recommendations.
1. Getting equipped
You don’t need much to get running but the right gear will undoubtedly improve your enjoyment, elevate your performance, and also prevent injuries. It’s the best investment you can make as a runner. For you, I have curated the ultimate runner’s gear checklist. Additionally, I have rounded up the best running gear for women in more detail.
Lacing up for a run is one of the most important steps. Comfy shoes are a must for runners. After all, nobody wants to be stuck in a pair of running shoes that hurt your feet. The wrong pair of running shoes can also increase your risk of injuries. My favorite running shoes are the Adidas Solar Boost and the Adidas Boston. As you can easily see, I’m a huge Adidas fan. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Adidas is right for you, too. Check out the Brooks Ghost 12 Running Sneakers as an alternative.
Yes, you read that right – socks! You may think they don’t matter but trust me when I say: they do. The wrong running socks can make you slip and slide, and also lead to painful blisters. It took me a while to become aware of the importance of running socks. Whether thick, thin, long, short, cotton, polyester, or wool – there are many variables to consider. Upgrading your socks can be a simple but extremely effective adjustment. Have a look at the best running socks for women.
Running GPS Watch
The more you invest in this hobby, the more you want to keep track of your pulse, run duration, and distance covered. There are many watches out there that can do exactly that. Most runners choose between Garmin and Apple Watches. Personally, I prefer my Garmin Running Watch over my Apple Watch as it provides better performance metrics and navigation. Apple Watches are not specifically geared toward running.
2. Fueling your body
A run is more than the run itself. Your preparation starts with fueling your body. Food provides the needed energy for your workout. Not eating before running is one of the biggest mistakes a runner can make. What we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat before running can make or break a run.
Keep in mind that everyone is different, so what works for others may not necessarily work for you. Generally speaking, however, it’s a good start to follow these guidelines:
What to eat
Your body gets the ultimate energy boosts from carbs. Carbs are quickly turned into energy by our bodies which is why a runner’s meal plan contains lots of them. A balanced diet, however, should also incorporate some protein and a moderate amount of fats. Generally, I follow the 60-30-10 rule, meaning my meals consist of 60% carbs, 30% proteins, and 10% fat. For pre-run snack recommendations, head over to what to eat before running which also discusses the next point.
When to eat and how much
When and how much to eat pre-run go hand in hand. Ideally, you want to give your body just enough time to fully digest a meal or a pre-run snack before you’re hitting the road. Allow 30 minutes for a snack and 2-4 hours for a meal, depending on the size. As with everything in life, there is no one-size-fits-it-all answer and it’s a bit of a journey figuring out the best time window to eat before a run.
Find the right supplements for runners
Supplements help you supply your body with essential nutrients that even a balanced diet may not be able to provide. The right supplements for runners can help you reach peak performance, assist you in building endurance, and speed up recovery. There is an overwhelming number of runner supplements out there and I’ve tried plenty of them to see which ones work. Always remember: while supplements certainly help you, they don’t do the work for you entirely!
Be sure to stay well hydrated before, during, and after your run. That being said, there is such a thing as overhydration. Quench your thirst without overdoing it to avoid headaches, nausea, dizziness, and other symptoms that develop from overhydration. When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes. Energy drinks or gels can replenish these nutrients. Gels especially are easy to carry and give you that mid-run energy boost you need. Be sure to read all my hydration tips before you start running.
3. Preventing running injuries
Injuries don’t only occur in the form of accidents. Pain can creep in as a result of eating the wrong foods, wearing suboptimal shoes, and improper self-care. My tip: don’t let side stitches, cramps, pain, or other injuries ruin your run. Make sure to minimize injury potential by considering:
Nutrition is often overlooked when it comes to recovery. Protein is not only helpful when injury strikes but long before that. It plays a vital role in injury prevention as it helps build and repair muscles and body tissues. Protein should be part of your meal prior to as well as post-run, for example in the form of a protein shake. My favorite post-workout shake is a great, delicious way to up your protein level.
Inarguably the most stress during a run is placed on your feet. Think about it, you keep impacting your feet with every step you take. That’s why shoe comfort and support are of utmost importance. Worn-out shoes increase injury potential.
Stretching before a run doesn’t take long but goes a long way. It keeps the muscles and body flexible which also prevents pain and stiffness. There are two types of stretching: dynamic stretching and static stretching. While you hold a stretch for a prolonged period during static stretching, dynamic stretching involves moving through a range of motions. Because holding a stretch for too long can tire out the muscles, dynamic stretching is typically preferred by runners to prepare for exercise. If you’re new to stretching, have a look at my favorite pre-run stretches for the best results.
Cross-training refers to performing different forms of exercise. When all you do is run, your body gets used to the same movements. To get the most out of your exercise regimen, make sure the body stays versatile. Using different muscles reduces overuse injury. The best cross-training exercises to elevate your performance will train the same muscle groups but in a different way.
My personal preference is running and weightlifting. It’s helped me gain more strength and provides a break from the impact of repetitive movements during running. As a runner, you can also consider cycling or aqua jogging both of which engage leg muscles.
Your body needs to rest and recover. Joints and muscles need time. So don’t overdo it and go past your limits. Especially if you’re just figuring out how to start running, you may need more rest days than an experienced athlete. Give your body time to get used to your new exercise. It’s always better to take rest days when you’re healthy than waiting until you’re injured!
4. Creating habits
As with everything in life, consistency is key! Good planning is half the journey. Before you set foot on the road, ask yourself when you want to go for runs and for how long. What should you eat beforehand? Planning ahead will also help you with buying the right groceries. Running becomes easier once you’ve made it a habit.
When and how often you want to run
If we talk about running frequency, everyone is different. Some runners do run every day, others have set running days. From my experience, it’s most important to keep a consistent schedule regardless of how often you run. Personally, I love morning and mid-day runs. It helps me sleep better at night.
Where to run
You have so many options when it comes to running. You can do it anywhere! Most runners prefer outdoor running or treadmill running but you can also run on a nearby track or if you want to stay fit on vacation, you can run on the beach. Those who master their habits will stick to their running routine, even when traveling.
I already mentioned that what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat can make or break your run. That’s why it’s important to plan ahead and create meal plans so you’re never left without a pre-run snack or fueling meal. Creating a meal plan for yourself also helps with grocery run and makes life so much easier!
Breathing right is not as easy as it seems. It takes practice to control your breathing. Once you focus on your breathing, you will notice that it can help you run longer and faster. To get there, have a look at the 5 best breathing tips for runners. The right breathing technique can also help you ease side stitches!
5. Staying motivated
Once you’ve successfully created habits, running will seem easier. While habits are key in getting us to move, we all sometimes reach motivational plateaus. Everyone has days where you just don’t feel like it. I have some recommendations that help keep running fun and make you look forward to it.
Listen to a playlist, an audiobook, or a podcast
Sometimes, you may find it relaxing to run in silence. Other times, it can be just as relaxing to tune in to music. Listening to upbeat music helps me maintain pace and enjoy my runs even more. Alternatively, you can use your run time to learn something new through an audiobook or podcast. It’s a win-win! One of my greatest accomplishments was to learn a language while running. If you do listen to a playlist, an audiobook, or a podcast while running, be sure to still pay attention to your surroundings.
Run with friends or find a community
Many people run exclusively solo when they start running. I was one of them. But did you know that running in a group has some serious benefits? Running in groups can give you a real boost, whether you run with friends or join running groups.
I joined Adidas Runners NYC after moving to NYC and couldn’t be more thankful to be able to connect with like-minded runners. Running groups support you with lots of positive energy and motivation. It’s a great way to establish new friendships as well! Anyone can be part of the club, regardless of their abilities! Read how to become an Adidas runners member and/or the Adidas Runners FB group to stay in touch.
Change your scenery
Running the very same route can certainly have benefits. A familiar route adds to a safer run as you will get to know every inch of the way. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change it up every once in a while because running the same route over and over again can be a bore. That’s when new routes can be exciting and motivating.
Living and running in New York City, I’m very grateful for the incredible routes I have access to, whether it is along the waterfront or in Central Park.
Motivating yourself to go out and run can be a struggle, especially when you start running so rewarding yourself can be a great part of your routine. After all, you deserve it! Every run you take is a testament to your willpower. With a little treat after every run, your body will eventually understand the connection between running and the reward.
Log your miles
Watching your miles accumulate over time can boost your confidence! It’s not so much about the length of each run, but rather the total distance you covered since you started running. It’s a simple way to visualize your progress and a great way to set motivational milestones.
Sign up for a race
When you feel ready, sign up for your first race! I suggest starting small, whether it is running a 5k or a local charity run. Training towards a race can be extremely motivating, both extrinsically and intrinsically. You suddenly have a clear goal in sight. Needless to say, finishing a race is the ultimate reward and gives you a real confidence boost.
Draw inspiration from fellow runners
You are not alone! There are so many runners out there, having gone through or going through similar situations as you. I’ve always enjoyed following other runners’ journeys. It’s incredible to me not only how much you can learn from others but also how much fellow runners can inspire and motivate you. An authentic role model will share routines, motivations, and victories but more importantly, openly talk about their struggles. If you’re looking for running inspiration and motivation, head over to my IG account runningbrina and follow more fellow runners.
The Bottom Line
While running is simple, it’s not easy and there are lots of things to consider to safely run.
Need More Guidance?
Did you know that I’m a certified running coach? If you’re looking for more insights and advice, I can help!
And since you stuck around till the end, I would love to know: why do you want to start running? I can’t help but be inspired by fellow runners’ motivations. Feel free to leave a comment below or message me directly via email or my IG where you will also find daily motivation.
Last Updated on 7. July 2022 by Sabrina Wieser
Sabrina Wieser is a running expert based in New York City and the founder of Runningbrina - She is a USATF Level 3 and IAAF Level 5 Endurance Certified Coach and experienced marathon runner. She completed over 35 long-distance races and helped over 200 clients to cross their personal finish line. Her expertise in enhancing running performance through training and nutrition has been recognized by many within the running community and different media outlets such as Huffington Post, the Dr Oz Show and adidas running.