If you choose to take up running, you’ll enjoy a journey that’s as rewarding as it is challenging. If you’re an absolute beginner, though, it’s important to get off on the right foot. Here’s our how-to guide on running for beginners.
If you want to make something a habit, it’s generally a good idea to have a reason to drive it. Whether it’s to lose weight, eventually run a 5K, or simply just to feel better, it has to be something that gets your butt off the couch and onto the track, trail, or road.
Benefits of Running
-Can help you feel healthier
-Releases endorphins, which can result in what running fanatics call a runner’s high.
-Increases lung capacity (yay breathing)
-Increases energy (sounds counterintuitive but true)
-Boosts metabolism (maybe you can have that extra scoop of ice cream)
Pick Up the Right Equipment
One of the beautiful things about taking up running as a hobby and exercise is that it doesn’t require a lot of equipment to start. You can just dart off into the night in your work attire and everyone will think it’s normal.
Just kidding. It doesn’t take much to gear up for a running regimen, but the right running shoes are non-negotiable.
How to Find a Running Shoe That Fits
Measure the length of your foot from heel to toe. Then add a thumb’s width after your longest toe (read: not always the big toe). This is how long your shoe should be to comfortably accommodate your feet, which will change in size as you exercise. Weird, but true.
Figure out your forefoot width. If your foot spills over the side of the shoe, it is too wide for that model.
Meet with a shoe fit specialist to discuss lacing techniques and uppers. If it feels like your feet are falling asleep, then the shoe upper probably doesn’t fit your foot properly. It might be an altogether bad fit, or you might just need to lace up in a different way. A shoe fit specialist will be able to help you figure it out.
Choose the right support and cushioning level for your feet. Finding the right combination of the two can really help you find another level in running ability. Don’t overlook the way your heel feels in the shoe. If it ‘locks’ into the shoe, you’re on the right track.
Quality running shoes aside, you’ll also need gear for all types of weather. The rain and cold are not going to get in the way of your newfound running routine!
For Warm Weather
Lightweight clothes. Sweat can make your clothes heavy. That’s why it’s important to start each run wearing the most lightweight gear possible.This might make you feel inclined to wear as little as possible, but that would be the wrong way to look at it. In fact, longer clothes will help protect your skin from sun damage.
Moisture-wicking materials. Shirts and shorts made from moisture-wicking fabrics do a great job of helping you stay cool and dry. Customize them with your own personal style for an extra boost of confidence when you’re out on the trail.
By contrast, 100% cotton shirts will absorb sweat, meaning they’ll get heavier the longer your run goes (which is the last thing you want!). Read more about how different fabrics work here.
Broad-billed hat. Running in warm weather usually means you’re out in the sun. And prolonged sun exposure isn’t just uncomfortable– it’s bad for your skin.
Keep the sun off of your head and face with a proper running hat. These hats are made out of moisture-wicking material, too, so they’ll help you stay cool. Look for ones with “sun skirts,” which offer extra protection for your ears and neck.
Sunglasses. Lightweight sport sunglasses offer superior coverage than casual sunglasses. In a pinch though, anything is better than subjecting your eyes to piercing sunlight!
For Cold Weather
Long-sleeve baselayer. Staying warm starts at your core. That’s why you need a shirt that wicks moisture away from your body, while offering enough coverage so that fierce winds don’t feel like they’re going straight through you.
Wool or fleece layer, for extreme cold. When the temps go lower than freezing, a basic baselayer is not going to cut it. For extra protection, you’ll need a warmer layer to protect you from the elements. Wool and fleece are known for this!
Training jacket. Sometimes referred to as an “outer shell,” this jacket has to be more than just your everyday windbreaker. It should be waterproof on the outside, without trapping sweat on the inside. Look for fully sealed seams for extra dryness.
Gloves and a hat. Because nothing can make a run miserable quite like cold hands and ears. With plenty of options on the market that are both lightweight and warm, you won’t have to sacrifice comfort for the sake of avoiding frostbite.
Joggers. They’re more than just an acceptable sweatpant to wear to the grocery store. These will keep you warm while offering breathability and a fit that doesn’t get in the way of mobility.
A traction system. Yes, you’ve already invested in a great pair of running sneakers. But they’re really not designed for running in icy conditions. For that, you’ll need a traction system that retrofits to your shoe, providing cleat-like stability in the worst winter conditions.
What About Colors?
If you plan on doing most of your running on a track, you don’t have to worry about being seen by vehicles and other bystanders. In that case, wear whatever color suits your fancy.
But if you plan to run mostly roads and trails, you’ll need to wear colors that help you stand out. Safety yellow and orange are designed to be seen in hazardous conditions (that’s why construction workers wear them).
You may also want to consider attire outfitted with reflective tape. This material glows when light is projected onto it, such as headlights on a car. If you plan to run at night, this is a must-have. Reflective bibs and vests are available, which can significantly expand what you’re able to wear for night runs.
After you get what little equipment you need, it’s go time.
That’s right. No more waiting around.
If you’re a procrastinator– ahem, perfectionist— like me, you might feel like you should wait to start on the day with the best weather, or when you don’t have so much work. But the best thing you can do is to just start.
(Yes, I’m saying this as much for me as for you.)
Even if you can only run for 10 minutes, that’s better than not running at all. And while your body might not feel like getting started, a simple warm up routine might help you out.
-Start with five to 10 minutes of light exercise. Something that will elevate your heart rate gradually and loosen up your muscles. This can be anything from a brisk walk to a jog. Using a stationary bike also works.
-Start stretching after you’ve loosened up a bit. Static stretches (ones that don’t involve movement) are less effective than dynamic stretches. Some effective dynamic stretches include jumping jacks, walking lunges, and high kicks.
-Start your run gradually. It isn’t a good idea to launch into an all-out sprint. Instead, begin at a comfortable pace. You should be able to breathe easily at the start of your run. Slow down if you start to feel like you’re out of breath.
Practice Good Running Technique
Runners make running look so easy, right? Gliding along like that takes practice, though. That’s why it’s crucial to be mindful of the way you run in the beginning. Good habits will help you stay on your feet!
It’s important to keep your posture as upright as possible. That means no leaning forward or back from the waist, and keeping your head from dropping.
Try to make your back feel as long as possible, without stiffening your shoulders. Remember, you warmed up to loosen those muscles; don’t undo your work by being too rigid with your posture.
Don’t let your shoulders fall forward, either, as this can keep you from getting the maximum oxygen intake when you breathe.
Bend your arms at the elbow. Let them swing from the shoulder as you stride, keeping your hands as tension-free as you can.
The most important part of running is what your feet do. As you run, take note of where your foot hits the ground. If your heel touches first, you’re a heel striker. This means you take longer strides than needed, which can waste energy. If you land on your toes, you’re a toe runner (aren’t these names inventive?). This can lead to tight calves and shin soreness.
Try landing in the middle of your foot, and roll to the front of your toes to launch into the next stride. As hard as it sounds given all this information, try not to overthink it. If you’re comfortable with your footstrike, it’s probably okay to stick with it. (Note that this does not constitute medical advice
The Talk Test
When training, it’s important to pace yourself. An easy way to do this is with the “talk test.”
Simply talk while running. If you can talk comfortably while running, you’re in your target aerobic zone. If you’re “huffing and puffing,” or gasping for air in between words, you’re probably running too hard.
This is a good excuse to find a running buddy!
Fuel Up the Right Way
If you want to stay true to your running regimen, you need to make sure your body is getting the energy it needs to thrive. Proper hydration and nutrition are never not important, but they’re absolutely crucial if you want your new routine to be a runaway success.
What to Drink
When you sweat, you lose water. Everyone knows that. So the more you sweat, the more you need to drink. So drink about 16 ounces of fluid at least an hour before starting your run.
Caffeinated beverages don’t count, because they’re diuretics, which actually dehydrate you.
Longer runs require more pre-workout hydration. You may have to start hydrating several days in advance.
A good rule of thumb for drinking during your run is to consume four to six ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. The faster you run, the more you should drink, though not more than eight ounces per 20-minute interval.
The longer your workout goes, the more things your body needs to replenish. That’s where sports drinks come in. For workouts longer than 90 minutes, incorporate a drink like Gatorade into your hydration program. It will bring sodium and other minerals back into your body, which is a crucial part of recovery.
In general, drink when you’re thirsty!
What to Eat
There’s no question that running burns a lot of calories. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to eat all the junk food you want.
You still have to treat food as fuel. And while cheat days and indulgences are fine, you still have to put mostly healthy calories into your body. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, and follow these tips.
Tips for pre- and post-run nutrition
Before a run, eat a light snack that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat, protein and fiber. You’ll want to finish your snack 90 to 120 minutes before starting your run, at least to start.
For runs longer than 90 minutes, bring a snack along. This will help give you the energy you need to finish your workout. Consume 100 calories after an hour, then another 100 every 45 minutes after that. Energy gels, sports bars, and even candy are good snacks to have during the run.
Within 30 minutes of a long run, eat carbs and protein at a 3-to-1 ratio. This helps your muscles recover properly.
Now you have everything you need to get started with running. Good luck, and happy trails!