The Ultimate Guide To Running For Beginners

Beginner Running Tips

“Running never gets easier, you get stronger.”

I want you to keep this quote in mind as you embark on this new journey to make running a part of your life.

The first thing you should know is that you’re going to have A BLAST. If you follow this guide (which includes a free 6-week “couch to 5K” plan — see below) and you consistently put in the work it takes to build running strength and endurance, you will slowly but surely start to FEEL like a runner.

That’s the thing, though … It does require hard work and at first it might feel pretty sucky. For most, it takes a few months before overcoming the beginning stages where even maintaining an easy pace for more than a minute leaves you huffing, bent over with your hands on your knees wondering why in the world you decided this running thing was a good idea.

Running Tips - running never gets easier you get stronger

But trust me, I’ve been there before and so have countless other runners just like myself, and we will all tell you without one inkling of a doubt that if you’re willing to stick with it and push past “the suck,” when you emerge on the other end it is so, so, so worth it.

Eventually it will start to feel easier. This means you’re getting stronger. This means it’s time to challenge your body in bigger and better ways.

The world of running awaits! Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Beginner Running Tips: What You Need

A good pair of new sneakers: Don’t worry about what type are “the best,” just head to your local sporting goods store, try a few pairs on and choose the one that feels most comfortable. Don’t over-complicate it. Once you complete your first 5K (or other comparable goal) and decide you want to start increasing your weekly mileage, then you can dive a bit deeper into the world of running sneakers. But for now, just pick a comfy pair that are affordable and you’ll be golden. You can also check out my guide to finding the right running shoes.

Optional Items

These things aren’t 100% necessary, but they will make your experience better if you choose to add them to your gear collection.

Moisture-Wicking Apparel: Workout clothes made of materials designed to wick the sweat away from your skin. Recommended over cotton clothing for comfort. The following brands are my favorites: Skirt Sports, Only Atoms, The North Face, and Under Armour.

I’m also a huge fan of Target and Old Navy for athletic apparel that’s on the more affordable end of the spectrum!

– Sport Headphones: If you want to listen to music while you run and don’t want to deal with your earbuds constantly popping out, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of headphones designed specifically for running. I recommend Yurbuds or Koss Fitclips. For a wireless option, I recommend AfterShokz.

– Athletic Armband or Waist Belt: Either are good options for carrying your phone while running. I recommend SPI Belt or ArmPocket Mega i-40TM.

A SPI Belt is also good for storing keys and other small items (ID, credit card, cash, etc.) while running.

Those are the very basics for getting started, once you start logging more miles then you can start considering additional accessories like a GPS watch, handheld water bottles, and compression socks, just to name a few.

Beginner Running Tips: What To Know

1. Take This Journey One Step at a Time

When you’re first starting, you might not even be able to run a few minutes without feeling winded, but don’t be discouraged — this is totally normal.

When I first started running, I could barely make it around the track two times (half of a mile), let alone run an entire mile (four laps on the track). But when I decided that I really liked running as a form of cardio exercise, I knew I would need to get better at it, so I made sure that I ran consistently every day that I could. If you do the same and follow the free 5K plan at the end of this page, your endurance will begin to build up and your ability to run one mile will eventually turn into two, and then three, and so on!

Keep in mind that everyone will begin at a different point. Maybe you’ve already developed some level of running fitness or maybe you’re starting from absolute scratch. Whatever the case, get out there and start running. See how long you can last at a comfortable pace. Use that at as your baseline.

The couch to 5K plan below will show you exactly what you need to do, but just remember that the process is gradual and it will take time.

The most important thing: Listen to your body and don’t go overboard. Especially if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll be putting lots of stress on your body and it will need time to adjust and recover.

2. Start Out Slowly

If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll end up feeling burned out and possibly even injured. This is why I’ve provided the training program at the end of this page. It will help you build endurance at a safe pace.

When I was first starting out, I was constantly wanting to run faster than I did in my previous workout. You will likely feel this way too — it’s only natural — but trust me (and the other runners who shared their tips below), resist the urge to go into turbo mode and follow the plan as prescribed. There will be plenty of time to work on your speed later. Just worry about building your endurance base for now.

3. Run With Friends When You Can

This is especially recommended for those of you who find running exceptionally difficult. While some runners love the sport for its solitude, that may not be true for you, and even if you do like it for “alone time,” you’ll find that pairing up with a partner or joining a group has lots of different benefits, including the ability to make running more fun and less boring.

Not only does having someone to talk to help pass the time, but you can encourage and motivate each other to work toward similar goals.

If you can’t find a friend that wants to run too or a local group to join, bring your favorite music or try listening to a podcast. You should try not to run with it all the time, but your iPod can certainly become one of your best running buddies. Plus, upbeat, fun music is one of the best ways to get motivated!

4. Run Everywhere

When you’re just starting out, try a little bit of everything. A short run outside, a quick jog on the treadmill (if one is available to you), or a few laps around the track. After a few tries or so you’ll probably find you’re more partial to one place over the others. That doesn’t mean all of your workouts should be in the same place and over the same route, though. Once you get into the swing of things, you’ll want to switch up your routine, run on different surfaces, and continue to discover new places to run so that you won’t get bored and you can continue to challenge your body.

5. Remind Yourself Of Why

You might find that motivation is hard to muster up when you’re just starting out. Don’t let this deter you. Always keep in mind the BIG reason why you started and why you want running to be a part of your life and let that drive you when nothing else will. And make sure you choose an internal motivator, like to prove to yourself that you can run a 5K or to build an overall healthier lifestyle for yourself. External motivators, like weight loss are OK too, but they’re fleeting — you want something that’s concrete and long-term.

I’ll be honest, it was hard for me to find motivation in the beginning. Even after my first few months of consistent running, motivating myself to get up and go was a struggle. And even now, sometimes it still is. Continue to remind yourself that the only way running will become easier and more enjoyable is if you continue to do it.

If you end up falling in love with the sport (like so many runners do), more often than not instead of feeling like, “Ugh, should I go for a run today?” You’ll think, “EEE! I can’t wait to lace up my sneakers and get outside!” The thing that they call a “runner’s high” (the release of endorphins we get from exercise) is a very real thing and once you experience that and truly enjoy a run, it will almost always keep you coming back for more.

Running Tips From The Road

Six veteran runners share what they wish they knew about this crazy sport before they started their running journeys. I encourage you to keep all of these things in mind as you delve into this world of sweat, sneakers, short shorts and yes, slight insanity (but in a good way)! 

Amanda Brooks - Runtothefinish
Follow Amanda @runtothefinish // runtothefinish.com

Andrea Golden - Run2Golden
Follow Andrea @run2golden // run2golden.com

Ashley Diamond - healthyhappierbearcom
Follow Ashley @healthyhappier // healthyhappierbear.com

Denny Krah - dizrunscom
Follow Denny @dizruns // dizruns.com

Tina Muir - tinmuircom
Follow Tina @tinamuir88 // runnersconnect.net/tinamuir
And learn more about running slow from Tina & Runners Connect here.

Nicole Handler - Fitfulfocus
Follow Nicole @fitfulfocus // fitfulfocus.com

Your “Couch to 5K” Training Plan

This 5K training plan for beginner runners was created by Tina Muir, elite runner and RunnersConnect community manager. Whether you actually plan to sign up for your first ever 5K race or you simply want to use this plan to build a strong base as a beginner runner, it can help you reach your goal. If you do want to participate in a race, though, just be sure to sign up ahead of time so you’ll know the date and can plan for at least six weeks of training beforehand!

You’ll notice that Tina has outlined each workout based on time, not distance. It’s important to stay focused on the duration, not the distance of your running workouts. Yes, we all want to brag about the amount of miles we ran, but for now duration is a much better metric.

While following this plan to prepare for your first 5K, you should include the prescribed 3 runs per week with either cross training or strength training on alternate days. There should be at least one day of rest between runs.

Couch to 5K 6-Week Training Plan for Beginner Runners
[Click to enlarge/download]
Created by Tina Muir

Questions, comments, concerns? Email me — katie@hungry-runner.com — and let me know what’s on your mind! 

6 Thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To Running For Beginners

  1. Great running tips! I use a Spibelt to carry my phone and other essentials like gels during a race. It’s great!

  2. Awesome! I really love your article; especially, this post. It is useful. I am also a runner, so these tips are good for me. Thankyou!

  3. Vimal Adhia on June 28, 2016 at 7:42 am said:

    Is it necessary to choose alternative running and not all day 5 Kms ….why so ?

    I was doing 3 miles at speed of 8 per mile but my left leg is showing some pain….

    On rest am ok, why is this… please guide

    • Hi Vimal, unfortunately, I can’t give you specific advice or answers because I don’t know enough about your overall fitness level and running background, but yes, it is important to allow for rest days between your running workouts in order to allow your body to fully recover. It sounds like you may be running too fast, especially if you’re running all of your workouts at the same speed. Some should be slower than others – it’s important to vary your pace.

  4. Pingback: Running Links [07/03/2016] – Eat Run Pavement

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