The golden rules of running for beginners

New to running? Here’s what you need to know...

The golden rules of running for beginners

1. Invest in proper running shoes

The only really important piece of technical kit you need when you first start out (aside from a high-impact sports bra for women) is a pair of running shoes. Your best bet is to visit a specialist running shop to get your shoes professionally fitted, where they will be able to advise you on the best shoes for you.

Always go a half to a full size up from your normal shoe size and allow a thumbs width of space in the toe box. Your feet swell when you run, so wearing your normal size could lead to blisters or even toe nail loss. For help, read our tips on choosing the perfect running shoes

2. Follow a plan

There are so many great running plans out there, so pick one that suits your aims and lifestyle, and get going! Most beginner plans start with walk/run sessions to build your fitness and confidence. Try our coach to 5K plan

3. Warm-up

Before every run, walk briskly for five to ten minutes, to warm up your muscles and joints, so you minimise injury risk.

4. Take it slow

The biggest mistake most beginner runners make is to set off at a sprint and then get disheartened when they can’t keep it up for more than 30 seconds. Slow down! Ideally, you’re aiming to run at a pace at which you could comfortably hold a conversation – a gentle jog is perfect.

5. Do some post-run stretches

After your run, walk for five minutes or so to cool down, then stretch your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors while your muscles are still warm. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds or more. Try these four essential stretches

6. Learn to identify ‘good’ and ‘bad’ pain

It’s natural to feel some discomfort when you start running. Your muscles will probably ache a bit as they adapt to the new workload, but this should ease in a day or two. However, if you feel any sharp pain, joint pain or experience any swelling or redness, this is not so good. Take a few days off, and if the pain doesn’t ease or gets worse, see a physio or GP. 

7. Set yourself a goal

Even if you’re just starting out, signing up for a race is a great way to stay motivated. Set a goal that’s achievable and not too far in the future, so you don’t lose interest. A 5K or 10K in eight to 12 weeks would be ideal. Head over to our Events hub to find your ideal race. 

8. Do cross-train

Cross training refers to any low-impact exercise, to give your muscles a rest from the high-impact of running while maintaining your aerobic fitness. It’s great to include a weekly cross-training session – try anything from swimming to spinning! 

9. Mix up the pace

As you get used to running, it’s a good idea to play with your pace – in fact, your training plan will probably encourage this. Try incorporating some short intervals, such as 5 x 30 seconds of faster running, with 3-minute slow running recoveries in-between. Occasionally running at a faster pace will make your longer, slower runs feel easier, so it’s worth the effort. Read our beginner guide to interval training to get started.

10. Join a club

Running with company is great motivation, whether that’s simply finding a friend to run with, joining a local club or group, or taking part in parkrun – free, weekly, timed 5K events held at 9am on Saturdays nationwide. Welcome to the world of running! You're one of us now. 

Join now for free!

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