How to Start Running as a Beginner

Dr Handicap - man running

Running is a sport that can seem totally alienating to beginners. Why on earth would you volunteer to run long distances for seemingly no reason? How to start running as a complete novice is a whole other story! However, when you do your research, the benefits of running, over both shorter and longer distances, are clear. As well as the physical benefits, the sense of achievement when you pass certain barriers and run in races cannot be overstated.

Running is a cardiovascular exercise, which means that, over time, it strengthens your heart as well as your other muscles. It also improves your general fitness and lung capacity, meaning you’ll have more energy to complete the other tasks that make up your everyday life. It will improve your mobility and also your mental health through the production of endorphins. Plus, it’s a very affordable form of exercise to take up, as you don’t need much specialist equipment and you don’t need to join a gym or a specialized facility to do it.

However, it can be difficult to know how to start running as a beginner. When you are used to seeing people on social media who can knock out a 20-mile run without thinking about it, it’s super intimidating to take the plunge and start running – but the truth is that everyone has to start somewhere, and even the laziest couch potato can get up and about and start getting fit through running.

Dr Handicap - group of runners

The first thing you need to do is to invest in good shoes. Everyone needs a different kind of shoe to keep their foot supported and to ensure that they are kept as safe from injury as possible. Due to the differences in people’s bodies, you can’t just pick a shoe at random that works for someone you know. Visit a running specialty shop where they can advise on the best type of shoe for your body and for your running style. Usually, they will have you run on a specialist treadmill, which will track your weight distribution and the way you run; then they’ll be able to make a recommendation based on your performance. Some people will need supports on different sides of their feet or specialized shoes to prevent shin splints. Shin splits are a painful condition characterized by pain in the front of the lower leg, or shin. They are usually caused by unsupportive shoes or by runners pushing themselves too far.

It is also important to make sure you have the right clothing. Cotton is not a good idea for running as it will store sweat, which can cause you to chafe in painful areas such as the underarms and groin. Wicking materials will keep you warm and as dry as possible, to make sure you don’t end up in more pain.

Dr Handicap - runner

When you’re ready to begin running, keep it slow and steady. Apps on your mobile phone, such as Couch to 5K or Couch to 10K, can teach you how to start running by giving you a goal to work towards, while keeping your progress slow and steady. You commit to three runs a week, which are made up of timed intervals of running and walking to get your body slowly used to the exercise. These runs can be done either on a treadmill or outside, depending on what works best for you. This method means you’ll be able to prevent your body from being shocked by a rigorous new exercise method.

If you’re nervous or unsure how to start running by yourself, another great way to start is to join a beginners’ running group. Most bigger towns and cities have established running clubs, most of which will have groups catered to beginners. This means you’ll be with people who are more on your level and you won’t feel like you’re the runt of the pack. It also means you’re likely to be coached by a more established runner or coach, who will be able to give you tailored advice on the best way to run. They will also give you advice on how to care for your body post-running, especially your feet, which will need specialist care and attention in the aftermath of long or grueling runs. You don’t always need to go to a foot specialist for this, but more established runners will be able to give you tips on fighting injuries, such as losing toenails.

It’s also good to set a goal and sign up for a race. This gives you something to aim for in the future and means that when you cross that finish line, you’ll feel like the awesome athlete you’ve become. If you decide to join the running club, you’ll cross the line with your newfound running pals, comfortable in the fact that you’ve picked up an awesome new exercise habit to keep your body fit and healthy and your mind active and happy.