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A Beginner's Guide to Running


I used to do no sport at all. I was lucky though, I could eat what I wanted and I was still considered slim. However, I knew I wasn't fit and healthy and this bothered me.

I realised that I still had plans for my life and didn't want those plans taken away from me because of deteriorating health or even early death. So I decided to do something about it.

Why Run?

Some people would answer this question with "Why not?" My reason for running was a little more focused than that: it is free. I didn't have money to join a gym or buy expensive equipment.

I had a cheap pair of trainers, some leggings and t-shirts. I could step out of my door and start straight away. If I decided to stop running, I hadn't lost a penny.

Other reasons to run? It's one of the most demanding cardiovascular sports available. With only cycling and swimming suggested as alternatives when you're injured and unable to run.

There are various was you can intensify your run too; increasing the distance, the pace or finding a more demanding route with more hills.

You can run anywhere: paths, woods or the more modern treadmill.

How Can I Start?

Everyone can run! It's just how far can you run before getting out of breath and feeling like you're going to collapse? Start small.

  1. Run for 30 seconds, then walk 2 minutes to recover.
  2. Do this for 15 minutes.
  3. Then a couple of days later, increase the running periods to 45 seconds.
  4. Gradually increase the running periods, shorten the walking periods and increase the overall time.

If you can't be fussed with all that timing hassle, use an app that will do it for you. I started running using the NHS's Couch 2 5K iPhone app, but since then I have also used app's by Zenlabs to help me increase my running distance. There are many couch to 5k phone applications that will tell you when to run and when to walk. They tend to have a 12 week running plan that will help you to gradually increase your running time and distance to 5 kilometres.

  • You should run 3 times each week; this will help you to build your fitness. Miss a run or two and you will really notice. Without a regular running plan, you will not progress.

However, if you stick to a regular running plan, you will start to see your fitness increase really quickly and it can be hard to have those rest days in between because you want to speed up the results.

I Need More Motivation

Need more motivation to run other than the knowledge that you are doing your body some good? Try the following:

  • Sign up for a race. Preferably a charity race so that you know without the training, you will be letting people down; it'll be hard to back out then.
  • Find a running buddy. Know someone else who wouldn't mind getting fit? Get them to join you. Have regular days to meet and then you won't want to let them down or appear to be giving up.
  • Mark your runs on a calendar and cross each one off as you do it. There's something about seeing those big crosses that is so satisfying.
  • Start a running diary. Note your time, distance and speed so you can compare every run.
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Tips to Stop Distractions Whilst Running

I find it hard to not think the following whilst running:

  • How far have I run?
  • How much further do I need to run?
  • Is it time to walk yet?
  • Surely I'm going slower than normal?
  • I feel sick.
  • I'm going to collapse in a minute.
  • Are those people looking at me?

It is so hard not to get distracted by these off-putting thoughts whilst running. My favourite thing to do whilst running is to listen to upbeat music. I have a playlist just for when I run. I follow the lyrics (in my head - people would really stare if I sang out loud!) and it helps me think about other things whilst running so that I'm in a completely different place.

To stop the questions about how far or how fast I'm running, I run the Nike+ Running app on my phone, which talks out loud to me every mile or kilometre (you can change the settings), telling me how far I've run, the time it's taken and my average pace.


Want Some Kit?

If you have got past the point of wondering whether it's worth investing any money in running, and you know you want to continue, you can invest in some real running kit.

My suggestions are the following:

  • A peaked cap. I mainly use this when it's raining as it keeps the pouring rain out of my eyes. However it can also be used when the sun is bright enough to blind you.
  • Running clothes. These are made with breathable fabric that keeps you cool and stays dry (with the exception of running in the rain). Running tights also manage to keep you cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Don't ask me how, but the magic in these completely amazes me! Girls - don't forget the sports bra!
  • Running shoes. There's some debate amongst runners and running experts as to whether special running shoes prevent or cause injuries. If you decide to try these out, go to a store where they watch how you run before advising you on the best shoe.
  • Something to hold your phone (if you take one with you). This is especially useful when it rains, as you don't want it getting too wet. I tend to carry mine in my hand otherwise, but there have been a couple of occasions where I have dropped it...
  • Water bottle. This really is only needed on exceptionally hot days or if you are running over 10K. I find carrying a bottle with me if awkward and I re-hydrate once I get home.

Final Advice

If I could impart just a small amount of wisdom that I have learned during my few years of running it would be this:

  • Run in residential areas, unless you know the area well beforehand. Safety is paramount.
  • Don't run on the road if possible, it doesn't allow you to focus your attention on anything else. If it can't be avoided, make sure you run against the traffic so you can see vehicles coming towards you. This means you can jump out of the way if you need to.
  • If running in the dark, wear something reflective so you can always be seen. Many running clothes contain reflective elements.
  • Don't run in the middle of the day when it's hot. Run early in the morning or at night. I run between 5am and 6am as I find the temperature is perfect.
  • Don't give up because you think you're too slow or not as good as other runners. You're still faster than everyone sat at home!
  • The thought of going out for a run is worse than the actual run itself. I hate the thought of running, but I love it once I'm out.
  • Enjoy it!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Deborah Nessmith from Florida on November 30, 2016:

This is a great post. Your information was spot on. If your not used to running, starting off with short bursts is the way to go.

I like how you added safety tips for running too. Now day, it's not safe to go running by yourself, let alone in areas your not familiar with.

I was really impressed with your article and think you did a nice job, laying it out.

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