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The beginner’s guide to running

by | Nov 10, 2015 | Last updated Feb 15, 2022

Running is one of the most popular sports simply because of how accessible it is: all you need is a pair of shoes and the will to run. But because it’s so simple, some people find themselves injured after running without doing a little research first.

Running can be both relaxing and challenging. Some people run for competition, others run for enjoyment. Some feel an obligation to run because “it’s so easy” but you should never feel pressure to run. It can be intimidating to start, but you may find yourself coming to enjoy it more as you improve and get used to it. If you’re ready to give running a try, or you’re looking to spice up your routine, check out our guide below to getting into running.

Buying Shoes
Shoes are the most important piece of equipment for running. You can run in almost any clothing (although you should definitely avoid cotton unless you want lots of sweat stains), but shoes can prevent a host of different running-related injuries.

It’s virtually impossible to guess what shoes are right for you, even with a lot of research. This infographic is a good start, but your best bet is to go to a running specialty shop (like CitySports or Runner’s Depot) and let them know what you want. Now, if you’re a total beginner, you might not have any clue of what you want! That’s totally fine – employees at running stores are very well-educated and will have tons of advice for a novice.

Before you head into the store, you should consider a few factors: where will you be running? Pavement, trails, or treadmills are all an option. How often will you be running? It might be hard to guess, but it’s not bad to overestimate. Think your feet and past sneakers you’ve owned: what are your arches like? Do you prefer light or heavy shoes?

Taking all of this into consider, the folks at the running store will likely ask you to walk and/or run on a treadmill so they can see how your feet move. From there, they will have you try on a few shoes and see what you like. Ask them about optimal lacing techniques for your feet to get the most out of your shoes.

Plan Ahead
You have your shoes – now what? You might be feeling a little intimidated. One of the best ways to make sure you stick to your plan (and get excited about it!) is to create some goals. Do you want to run a race? Do you want to run 5 miles by a certain date? Do you want to decrease your mile time? Any of these is a great, specific goal to set.

If you pick a race, there are tons of guides out there that can help you through the process. Couch to 5K is one of the most popular and effective training plans out there. There are also plans for half marathons and everything in between. If you’re not looking to do a race, these programs can still help! But if you want a more generalized plan, Running for Beginners has loads of resources that can guide you.

No matter what program or goal you set, it’s important that you create a schedule around it. Don’t say “I’ll run twice this week;” pick the days ahead of time. Every Sunday you should know what’s coming for the week. Plan your workouts AND your rest days for optimal strength and recovery.

Getting Started
You’re almost there! Now that you’ve got your shoes and have planned your goals, you’re pretty much good to go. A word of advice: if you’re over the age of 40 or more than 20 pounds overweight, you should first consult with your doctor to see if running is right for you.

Now, there are a few things you should know about running before you set off. First: STRETCH. Stretching is one of the easiest things to let fall to the wayside. When you finish a run and you’re sweaty and tired, it can be hard to motivate yourself to stretch. But it only takes a few minutes and is crucial to muscle recovery and injury prevention. Active.com has a great guide for pre- and post-run stretches.

You should also expect to have a few bad runs. Even professionals deal with bad workouts throughout their entire career. It’s just part of the package. Some days your body is tired, others your mind just isn’t in it. What can you do? Push through it. There will be times when your alarm goes off early for a run and it feels like every part of your body is begging you to stay in bed. But the more you fight that urge, the easier it will be the next time you get up. If you’re truly exhausted, don’t push it. Be smart and listen to your body. But if it’s just the lazy part of you talking, ignore it, and get running!

Paying attention to your body, particularly when getting into a new routine, is very important. If you start to feel pain, don’t keep running. Try to figure out where it is, do some research, and head to the doctor if it seems serious. Too many athletes let pain persist for too long and end up with serious, sometimes career-ending injuries. This list of common injuries will help you stay alert and prevent getting these injuries yourself.

Finally, don’t forget to have fun! Running is meant to be enjoyable. If you get a few months into it and still don’t like it, you might want to consider a different activity. The first few months will be tough – but if you persist, you’ll hopefully find yourself enjoying the runs more and more. Don’t forget to drink and eat enough before AND after your runs. Enjoy!