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Running can seem like a daunting task for beginners. But rest assured, it doesn’t have to be!
Nothing used to make me feel unfit more than running. I could climb stairs or cycle or dance for an eternity but a single minute of jogging and I was breathless.
I felt like running just wasn’t for me. I’m still not a great runner, but I’m no longer useless either.
We often feel like running is something we just know how to do. And for a lot of people, that’s true. But some people, like myself, need to put a lot more work into proper breathing and running form.
Let’s get started!
Get Started with a 5K (3.1 miles)
Even if you never decide to formally join a 5K, running a 5K should be your beginner running goal.
Find a place that’s 2.5 kilometers from your home. Your goal is to run there and back. It’s not going to happen overnight. If you run 3 times a week, it should take you around 8 weeks to reach that goal.
Tip: Find more than one place that’s 2.5km away. For example, I have 3 different markers from my home that are all 2.5km away so I can rotate my route and decrease boredom.
5K Running Plan for Beginners
Choose 2 days a week (not in a row) that you can run for 30 minutes. Mondays and Thursdays are my preference.
On those days, head towards your 2.5km marker.
Walk for the first 2.5 minutes to warm up your muscles. Then proceed to follow a run/walk plan. Run for 60 seconds and walk for 120 seconds. Once you’ve been out for 15 minutes, turn around and head home. Walk for the last 2.5 minutes to cool down your muscles.
Every session you should be trying to increase your running time and decrease your walking time until you find yourself running for the full 30 minutes.
Choose a third day that you can run for longer (40-50 minutes). I use Saturday.
Today, you’re going to go all the way to your 2.5km marker.
Follow the same run/walk plan you’ve done the rest of the week: 60+ seconds of running and 120- seconds of walking.
An Alternate Plan: Get An App
If you want an App to follow, I’d recommend Couch to 5K app (C25K is available on iphone or android). It will tell you when to run and when to walk. It tracks your history for you.
However, it does progress a little quickly and you shouldn’t hesitate to redo a day or week if you’re not feeling reading to increase the running times as much as the app suggests.
What’s Next? Increase Distance / Decrease Time
When you’re successfully running 5K, you’ll have well surpassed the title of Beginner Runner. Congratulations! It’s time to increase your distance and/or decrease your time. Your next goal should be a 10k in under 60 minutes.
Choosing Your Running Gear
The only question you need to answer when buying running shoes: ARE THEY COMFORTABLE?
Seriously. These are your shoes on your feet, choose the ones that are comfortable.
I wear Vibrams when exercising. They’re the best shoes for me. That doesn’t mean that everyone would feel comfortable wearing them. Although, I recommend you give them a try!
Running, Cross Training, Trail, whatever the shoes are called doesn’t matter. Go to a store and try on a variety! Jog around the store in them, do some jumping jacks and lunges. Move around to try and simulate the ways you might move in them while exercising.
Buy the shoes that fit properly and you find the most comfortable.
I’m going to say it once more: BUY COMFORTABLE SHOES FOR RUNNING!
A note on Vibrams: if you’re going to buy a pair for the first time, go into a store and try them on. I currently have 2 different styles (including the ones from Amazon displayed above) and they’re different sizes.
As I said above, I wear Vibrams so I go without socks.
But, if you’re buying a more traditional shoe, you’re probably going to need socks. Choose them wisely.
You should look for a sock that has minimal (or no) seams. If you can afford them, socks that wick away moisture are ideal. Make sure your socks fit properly and fit in your shoe properly. You don’t want blisters because your socks rub the wrong way.
Don’t invest in 10 pairs of socks before you’ve tried them out. Buy one pair of two or three different socks and find ones that actually work for you. Then stock up!
Something to Listen to
Sometimes I listen to music while running, sometimes I listen to podcasts. Either way, I’m always listening to something.
I’ve been using Bluetooth headphones for years. YEARS. The quality has come way up in the last year or two and the price has gone way down.
I prefer ones with a cord around my neck. But again, this is personal preference. If you go this way, I would advise that you get ones that do not have controls on the cord – the controls will weigh down that side of the earbud and pull it out of your ear a bit.
Again, buy what you find comfortable. Want Apple Earbuds? Go for it. Want something subtler? That’s okay. Corded or not corded, buy what you want (and can afford).
Fueling & Running
You should eat something small (carbs and protein) about an hour before a run and again within half an hour of ending your run.
If you’re not doing a grain-free life, go for a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Eat half before and half after. It’s a great choice and it’s easy to pre-prepare and eat anywhere.
If you’re doing a grain-free life (keto, paleo, etc) it’s a bit harder because your carb options are more limited. Go for a few berries, nuts and a protein (nut butters, chicken or eggs are ideal).
Drink water during a run when you feel thirsty. There’s no need to gulp down extra water pre or post-run. While you’re running, when you’re thirsty, drink water. That’s it.
As a beginner runner, you won’t need sports drinks or extra electrolytes. Once you get into running (not run/walk-style but constant running) for over an hour, you’ll need to look into electrolytes.
Proper Running Form & Breathing
You want upright posture. Don’t slouch or round your back. Keep your shoulders down and back, as well. They shouldn’t bunch up to your ears or round forward.
Your head and neck should be up, looking forward. You should not be looking at your feet or down at the ground. Keep your eyes on the ground about 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) ahead of you.
Your arms should swing at the shoulders with a 90-degree bend in your elbows. Keep your hands relaxed.
The way your foot hits the ground is called your footstrike.
Ideally, you want to land on the middle of your foot and roll into the front of your foot. Landing on the front of your foot can cause tight calves and shin pain. Landing on the heel can cause stress on your knees.
A lot of people do not run in this ideal manner. It can take months to change your footstrike (if ever) and it may or may not be beneficial.
But, you should be aware of your own footstrike and strive to make corrections to minimize your chances of injury.
If you land on the back of your foot, try taking shorter strides. If you land on the front of your foot, try taking longer strides.
When you’re running you need as much oxygen as possible so you should breathe through your mouth.
If your mouth gets dry, you may dehydrated so take a drink. If you’re certain it’s not just dehydration, you can try to chew gum or suck on a (sugar-free) candy while running.
When walking or jogging slowly, breath through your nose. You only need to breathe through your mouth when running!
If you feel out of breath, make sure you’re breathing through your mouth! If you are, I hate to say it, but you’re just out of shape. Your breathing will get easier as you get fitter.
Fixes for Common Running Pains
Stomach Cramps / Side Stitches
This is generally because of bad posture. Make sure you’re running upright. Don’t slouch your back while running and you should avoid feeling these.
If it happens while you’re running, slow down and arch your back for a minute. It should fade away.
Leg cramps are usually the result of fatigue. Set a reasonable pace for your level and increase it gradually over time.
If it happens while you’re running, stretch the muscle that’s cramping. It’s a sign you’ve overworked your muscles so you should seriously consider ending your run.
Is stretching necessary?
No, it’s not. If you like stretching, go ahead. Walking briskly at the start of your run is all the warm-up you need.
Get Started Today!
Running doesn’t have to be hard. It’s not special. Runners are made, not born. Everyone starts as a beginner.
Follow the guidelines above and get started today. You don’t have to be the best, just put one foot in front of the other!
Let me know how your running goes in the comments.
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