An absolute beginner’s guide to running for women

Ready to hit the ground running? We have the basics covered!

An absolute beginner’s guide to running for women

It's easier than you'd think to get started with our absolute beginner's guide to running for women.

Trainers

To start running you will need shoes specifically designed for running, not other sports such as tennis or workouts. Pop into a running store and they'll be able to recommend a suitable pair of trainers, based on your running style, ability, any injuries you might have, and your running aims. The most important aspect of choosing trainers is opting for the pair you find most comfortable, so it's important to try on a few pairs. Most running shops will have a treadmill or let you skip around the shop.

Sports bra

Just as important as what's on your feet is what's holding you up. Women will benefit from a proper sports bra while running - specifically, one designed for high-impact sports.

Your boobs move in a figure-of-eight motion as you run, moving up and down as much as eight inches. That's far more movement and bounce than in a medium impact sport like cycling - so you'll need a sports bra with properly supported seams to avoid damaging the ligaments that hold your breasts in place.

Can you still run if you have a bigger bust?

Absolutely! But it’s even more important you get the proper support. Ensure you’re not just squeezing your boobs into any old sports bra and find one specifically designed for your size. These are generally designed with thicker, wider straps, so they don't dig in.

I want to run on the road but I’m too self-conscious, what should I do?

You won't be the first to feel a little bit awkward when you first start running - but be brave. Once you gain confidence you'll worry less about what people think, and your run will become more relaxed and enjoyable. In the meantime, seek out technical fabrics that are breathable and sweat-wicking, but also comfortable and as flattering as possible and ask a friend to join you. The company of a fellow beginner runner will help you gain confidence and make the process more enjoyable.

Getting started: training

Don't sweat over how many miles you're covering at first: just focus on the time spent on your feet. You'll soon find that you're travelling further each time - that's when to begin increasing the length of your run and thinking about mileage.

Just 15-30 minutes of running has tons of benefits such as kicking starting your metabolism, burning fat and calories, and releasing those lovely endorphins that improve your mood and energy levels.  

How fast should I be going exactly?

If you’re new to exercise or getting back into a fitness regime it’s reasonable to expect to feel slightly out of breath. Try doing the 'talk test' to guage if you’re going too fast. You should be able to hold a conversation when running; when you can strike that balance and run while chatting you’ve found your ideal pace.

Don’t worry if you can’t run for the whole time, striking a walk/run balance is a great way to build up your fitness, instead simply focus on getting out there and moving.

I can't face running outside - can I run on a treadmill instead?

There are pros and cons of running in and outside, mostly down to personal preference. A treadmill can be a great alternative if the weather is unappealing and it’s a great way to easily track your distance and speed. Treadmills also offer a slightly more cushioned run reducing the risk of many common injuries.

Running outside gives you a breath of fresh air and and the sense of covering real ground, which can make you feel you've accomplished more, and therefore more likely to keep it up.

Stretching: what do I do - and is it really necessary?

It's important to warm up muscles before you get moving rather than stretching them out cold, which makes them more prone to injury. Mobilise your legs and joints before you go with dynamic stretches to warm-up and start slower rather than breaking straight into a sprint.

Don't forget to stretch again after your run, to minimise morning-after-the-day-before-day aches and pains.

So how much is this going to hurt, exactly?

At first, your legs may be sore in the hours or days after a run, but if you keep it up (and remember to stretch!) the soreness will subside relatively quickly. It's important to differentiate between pain and soreness - muscle stiffness is to be expected, acute pain can mean injury. If you are in serious pain you should speak to your GP.

Avoid the dreaded stitch

  • Eat something light pre-run: nuts, oats and fruit will give you an energy boost without taking too long to digest.
  • Warm up: start gradually to let your body adjust its temperature and loosen up.
  • Breathe: easy to forget! Try to develop a rhythm and control your breath.
  • Maintain your posture: keep your head up, drop your shoulders and try not to hunch - this effects your breathing as well.
  • Relax: if you do feel a stitch coming on, tensing up will only make things worse. Continue to breathe deeply and keep a rhythm, slowing down your run if necessary.

If the pain continues, put your arm on the side of the stitch up, reaching towards the sky. This should help to stretch out the muscles.

I find hills challenging, can I avoid them?

Running up and down hills is a great way to improve leg strength and burn calories quickly, but it is hard. Build up gradually, but don't feel like a failure if you have to walk up hill, even experienced runners struggle with inclines.

How do I run safely on my own? and in the dark?

Running at night, especially on your own, can be a bit scary so make sure you tell someone which route you’re taking and roughly how long you expect to be. It’s always a good idea to carry your phone, identification, and some cash or card just in case you end up too far away from home. Stick to well-lit routes and wear high-viz clothing.

Keep going: health and nutrition

I'm running regularly: can I eat whenever I like?

Running is great exercise and on average burns 100 calories per mile - but sadly, this won't give you free reign on the fridge. A healthy balanced diet is key - you'll only need to make specific changes to your diet if you begin training for an endurance event such as a marathon, or you're running specifically to lose weight.

Often we're told to limit carbohydrates in our diet - as a runner, though, it's best not to restrict your carbs too much.  Focus on complex carbs - wholegrains and such - as well as protein (to rebuild muscles) and a good mix of fruit and veggies.

Can I run if I have weak joints?

You can! It’s important to get the OK from your doctor first and then start slowly and build up. Before starting a running program begin by walking for as little as 10 minutes a day. Both walking and running use similar muscle group so you can build up your muscles and protect your joints before moving onto the higher impact.

Women: running during and post-pregnancy

Running with a bump - what's the deal?

If you've been running for a while, then it's generally fine to carry on when you're pregnant. Keeping active is important during pregnancy, but you do need to be aware of the changes in your body. Don't push yourself to maintain your usual routine or reach more miles - and expect things to be a little harder than they were! Be sure to drink plenty of water, warm up your muscles and stretch to cool down - and do take breaks when you need them.

If you haven'trun before, pregnancy isn't the time to embark upon a major new fitness regime, so if you weren't a regular runner before, now's probably not the time to start. Don't give up though - walking is a great alternative, as are lower impact sports. Always discuss your exercise regime with your GP.

And what about post-pregnancy?

It's best to avoid strenuous activities, including running, for at least six weeks after the birth of your baby. It can take a full six months for joints and muscles to return to normal after pregnancy, so don't rush in: take it easy, and ease back into a schedule gently. Meanwhile, eat a well-balanced diet, keep hydrated, and listen to your body.

How about bringing along the buggy?

Running with a buggy does change your workout slightly, so don't be disappointed if you can't run as much as you were before - but it's definitely doable. Your shoulders and arms will feel the increased pressure to begin with - join a buggy-running group to pick up tips, and perhaps some new friends. Chatting while you run will take your mind off the hard work your body's doing. 

What age can children start running?

It’s no secret kids are full of boundless energy and often want to be involved with whatever their parents are doing. Although children may run round playgrounds almost tirelessly, there is a huge between running as a sport rather than for fun.

Generally if your child is above the age of three and showing an interest in running stick to short distances such as 100-400 metres and keep the program fun by playing tag or creating an obstacle course so your kids learn to love running instead of thinking of it as a chore. 

Good luck! You're one of us now, and runners stick together.

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