Confession – I’ve been a newbie runner more than once.
I start, I run occasionally, I stop. Sometimes I hit a goal, like a 10km, and then I stop. I get injured, and then I stop.
It’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve got it right. I’ve listened to beginners’ running tips, I learned more about form and progress, I’ve helped myself. I’ve adjusted my expectations, and for the first time, I’m not running because I’m trying to lose weight or hit a target. I’m running because I love to run.
Getting started as a runner is hard. It hurts, it’s hard to stay motivated when you are sooo slow, and if you don’t get to the point where you love it, it’s easy to give up or to start making excuses.
Knowing what to expect when you start running and reading some beginners running tips can help you to stick with it long-term.
Here are some of the questions I wanted answering when I started out, and my attempts to answer them know that I’ve been going for a while.
Disclaimer - I'm not a trained professional. Any advice is just that. This post is based on my experience. Please consult a doctor before undertaking any new exercise, or if you have any concerns about your health or wellbeing.
How Long Should You Run for the First Time?
I started out with C25k the first time I decided to run regularly.
I’d run before, but only ever for about 20 minutes at a time and ridiculously slowly. I wasn’t fit, and I wanted to build up strength and stamina as a beginner runner.
Starting with c25k means that for the first few weeks you are only running up to 5 minutes in one go, and a total of about 20 minutes. Much less in week 1.
This is a great way to build up to 30-minute runs in 9 weeks.
Even if you don’t want to do C25k, I’d recommended going for time, not distance to start with, because you won’t know your pace. Aim for 20 minutes and build up very slowly from there, perhaps running (with walking bits if you need to) 20 minutes three times a week, then 22 minutes the next week, and so on, until you feel ready to push further.
How Often Should I Jog as a Beginner?
Three times a week is ideal if you can. This gives your body a chance to recover but is often enough that you can build strength and fitness. There’s no right and wrong here though, just make sure you listen to your body and take time off when you need to.
What is a Good Pace for a Beginner Runner?
As a beginner, I wouldn’t worry about pace at all.
When you can run for 30 minutes without walking, it’s a good time to start thinking about pace and improving your times. Until that point, slow and steady is definitely the best way to go.
Should I Run When I’m Sore?
Beginner runners often get very sore. Now, I can run 15km and not be as sore the next day as I was in week one of C25k when I was running for 6 minutes in total.
If you ache that much sitting down is tough, you need to rest. The more you run, the more you’ll start to understand what your body needs. Generally, it’s ok to run on a bit of an ache. Your muscles will loosen up as you move, and you should be fine. If not, walk!
You shouldn’t, however, run if that ache is extreme, all over, or has become pain.
Can I Run Every Day?
Running is a fairly high impact exercise, especially if you do it on pavements, which are hard and put a lot of pressure on your joints.
This is the main reason many people advise against running every day.
But, I know lots of people that have gone of huge run streaks, with hundreds of days between days off.
The main thing is that you listen to your body and rest when you need to. We’re all different. I don’t run every day, but I will sometimes do 4-5 days in a row without a day off. Some of these runs might be very short and slow to give my body a break, while still getting the mental health benefits of running.
If you hurt, you are injured, you feel stressed out, or you just don’t want to run, don’t ever pressure yourself. But, if you feel good, and want to run every day, that’s ok too. Just make sure some of them are recovery runs.
How Do You Breathe While Running?
In theory, you should breathe in and out through your nose, with some kind of rhythm. You might breathe in for three strides, and out for three strides. Depends on how big your strides are and how quickly you run.
I’m bad at this though. I breathe through my mouth, and can’t count and run. So I just try to take deep, steady breaths.
Do You Need to Warm Up and Cool Down for a Short Jog?
Ideally, you should always completely at least a short dynamic warm up. This means moving, as you stretch, to get your heart rate up as well as warming up your muscles. Then a gentler routine of stretches to cool down when you’ve finished. I do a short yoga routine when I get home.
For a very short, or gentle run, at least warm your muscles up with a short walk before you start to jog, and stretch your legs out before you get in the shower. It only needs to be a few minutes but is worth it to prevent injury.
Does Slow Jogging Burn Fat?
Any movement burns calories, and so fat. Obviously, the harder you work, the more you will burn, but slow jogging, or even walking, still counts.
If you want to burn fat consistently, you should try to get your heart rate up and keep pushing yourself to go further and faster so that you don’t get used to what you are doing and hit a plateau.
Is it Better to Run Longer or Faster?
When running slowly, it takes longer for your body to reach a fat burning state. But, because you will run further, you may ultimately burn more fat, than with a quick burst.
The same is true of building muscle and cardiovascular health.
As a beginner runner, it depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you’ve got a race coming up, or want to be competitive at some point, you might want to focus on running faster. If you are just running for fitness, mental health and a love of running, then being able to run for longer at a slower pace might be more advantageous.
For me, it’s a combination. If I go for a short 5km run, unless it’s a recovery run, I try to go faster and beat my time. If I’m out for a long run (which I try to do every week or two) then I try to go a little bit further. Often, deciding what I’m aiming for depends on how much time I’ve got on that particular day.
When Will Running Feel Easier?
Running does start to feel easier. There’ll always be times when you are pushing yourself, and so it hurts more. But, your everyday runs will be easier, and your easy or recovery runs will feel quite nice.
This happens when you’ve built some strength in your legs and enough fitness that breathing is easier. This depends on how fit you are when you start running, how often you run, and how hard you push yourself. It’s different for everyone, but you will get there!
How Can I Run Longer Without Getting Tired?
Building up slowly is the best way to increase the distance that you run, and the time that you can run for. Do this either with walking intervals or by increasing distance slowly.
I also found that adding hills helped me to be able to run further without getting tired. I do a route close to home which is around 8.5km, with some fairly steep inclines. This has made a 10km on the flat feel much easier because my legs are much stronger.
Top Tips for Beginners
Life as a beginner runner is tough. But, it’s definitely worth it! Here are my top tips to help you stick with running, and getting past that horrible first few weeks.
Invest in Good Shoes
When I started running, I did it in cheap gym shoes with very little cushioning or support.
They didn’t last very long, they weren’t good for my varicose veins, and I could have easily gotten injured.
Since investing in some more cushioned and supportive shoes, running has been more comfortable. Even if you don’t plan to run long distances, good running shoes are a worthwhile investment for your feet and overall health.
Build Up Slowly
You’re not going to go out and run 5km on day one unless you are already very fit and do other kinds of cardio exercise.
It’s a good idea to adjust your expectations in the early days. Aim to run for 5 minutes without walking, or to manage 1km. Set small, achievable targets and build up slowly and you are more likely to stick with it and less likely to get injured.
Don’t Worry About Pace
Forget about it. Until you can run for 30minutes, I wouldn’t even think about pace or trying to get faster. You’re just putting more pressure on yourself. Give your body time to get used to running before you start pushing it.
Stretching is super important. Even if you only give it 1 minute, do it!
Don’t Neglect Rest Days
At some point, you might want to start running every day, or at least more days. But, while running is new, these rest days are super important, especially if your body aches a lot.
Improve Your Form
Form is incredibly important, but something that beginner runners don’t think about. This often means that we pick up bad habits, and so when we do start to consider form, we have to undo them before making improvements.
It’s easier to just work on good form from your very first run!
A lot goes into running form, and you can learn more here, but the basics include:
- Look forward and straight ahead, instead of down at the floor (even on hills!)
- Keep your shoulders low, away from your ears, level with each other, and loose without any tension
- Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle, swinging forwards without clenching your fists
- Stand tall, with your tummy pulled in and your hips forward, without slouching
- Keep your legs underneath you and your stride short, this will help you to lift your knees
- Your foot should touch the floor between heel and midfoot and roll forward, landing lightly and pushing off with power. This is easier if you invest in good shoes which match your gait
Make Running a Habit That Works for You
It’s easier to stick to something if it is a habit. Make running part of your daily life, fitting it in at a time that suits your lifestyle.
Remember, it’s Ok to Walk
Don’t ever feel bad, or like you’ve failed if you walk. Do what you need to, and celebrate every run.
Cross Train to Build Strength and Fitness
Cross-training by practising other types of exercise will help you to build strength faster by shocking your muscles. I like yoga and swimming, which also help my posture and work muscles that running doesn’t.
I hope these tips help, but please see a doctor before starting any exercise program, or if you have any worries.