RW's 60-Second Guides: Beginners' Running

If now is never soon enough for you, you need our 60-second guides. Shallow but helpful, with five articles to print and read...

Posted: 17 August 2005

These guides are for people in an insane hurry. There’s some jolly useful further reading at the bottom of the page...

Congratulations! You’ve decided to start running. Before you tear out of the door in a fit of boundless enthusiasm, take just a minute to find out the beginner’s basics. You’ll go faster, further and happier, we promise.

Starting at the ground, possibly the only thing you really need in order to run is a pair of decent running shoes. They vary as much as prescription spectacles do, so go to a specialist running shop and get a free expert assessment, The best combination of value and comfort is usually at £60-£75, but if you’re not heavy and you have no special biomechanical needs, a £40 or £50 shoe might be fine.

Clothing: There’s no set running uniform: pick what you feel comfortable in. Women often choose Lycra shorts or tights; and non-cotton clothes help you stay drier. Women should buy a high-support sports bra (the more comfortable you are, the more you’ll run!).

Now you’re almost ready to go. Here’s you’ll find out where the phrase ‘don’t try to run before you can walk’ comes from. Unless you’ve been doing a cardiovascular sport – something like tennis, football, or regular aerobics classes – you should almost definitely start with a walk/run programme. That means alternating two minutes walking with one or two minutes jogging; go for 10-20 minutes the first time, then build it up over a period of weeks, gradually increasing the total time and the proportion of running.

Get a friend to join you – running is a sociable sport, and it’s easier to stay motivated if you have someone to compare notes with.

Within weeks you’ll be feeling fitter and more energised. But if part of you hurts during or after you run, take a couple of days off, or more if you need. If in doubt, rest: don’t let a niggle become an injury. Injuries are most commonly caused by going too far or too fast too soon; not easing into a run; and running on hard surfaces or with the wrong shoes.

Soon you’ll be comfortable to do three or four sessions a week, and you’ll find that running is becoming part of your routine. Some runners get into a groove and are happy to stick with it, but most people run better if they have a goal to focus on. It could be to complete your local 10K in an hour, or to enter a race and raise money for your favourite charity. What are you waiting for?

Still pushed for time? Five rules, with key articles

(RW+ indicates magazine subscriber only)
  • Choose the right shoe More
  • Out of breath? Run-walk for best progress More RW+
  • Follow a smart schedule More
  • Stay motivated: set a target More RW+
  • Avoid injury: warm up, cool down, stretch More
Or see the Runner’s World BIG Beginners' Index for more articles.

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Discuss this article

It's an editorial conceit, we confess, but we've written an occasional series of 'shallow but helpful'guides.

Our first one is for beginners (the link is above). What would *your* one-minute guide say?

Sean, RW
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:06

Take it slowly - tortoise not hare
Buy appropriate shoes
Set goals that are aceivable
Find a partner
Have fun
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:21

plan when you want to run so you will have time to do it
don't give up if you have to have walk breaks
don't give up if it feels hard and don't look for excuses not to run
join a club
expect to be tired at times

Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:26

Start slowly - even if you think you're going too slow, you're probably not

Get good shoes!

Choose your first race carefully, so you're not put off by the speedy runners

Listen to your body - if it hurts, rest!

vary your routes so you don't get bored

Enjoy yourself and feel smug that you're getting fit and not sitting in front of Eastenders eating crisps
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:27

1. Put one leg in front of the other quicker than walking, it's called running.
2. Try not to do too much too soon (but just making yourself breath hard/sweat is not necessarily too much!)
3. Start on soft surfaces.
4. Don't go out and running gear until you know you enjoy it and want to continue further.
5. Set targets.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:28

It's not a crime to walk.

In fact it's positively beneficial sometimes.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:30

Proper shoes
start slow
increase slowly
walking is GOOD
rest days are a MUST
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:36

There are better races to do than the commercial, overpriced races (I'm not going to name). Try a local, lower key race. Not only are they cheaper, but they are normally better organised and friendlier.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:39

The only other thing I'd add is to try to stick with a plan - or to a goal, and that if you don't feel like going out for a run, go out for a walk in your gear anyway and you'll probably end up running!
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:43

Don't do it. It will take over your life.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:44

How about the slightly more off the wall ones:

1. Always plan your route so you know where there is a toilet that you can use in an emergency.

2. Tonic water is brilliant for easing cramp, gin not included :-(

3. Cheap kit is just that.... cheap, not inexpensive.

4. Motorists, pedestrians and (deep intake of breath) cyclists are not as considerate as you would hope.

5. All the people who pass comment when you are running are just jealous.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:46

Dont push too hard too soon & enjoy
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:54

Even at your slowest, you're faster than 95% of the population!
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 12:54

Improvement is about consistency, don’t push too hard so to injure yourself or over train and thru constancy you will achieve
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 13:04

Never be afraid to stop or walk - It's a real buzz the first time you are able to run past points where you used to have to have a breather.

Keep things in perspective - if you were ever going to run at "Olympic Gold" pace, you would have not spent the last few years on adiet of beer and curry. Relax and enjoy realistic targets.

Find a friend to run with - it's great to have someone to pull you through when the lure of the sofa gets too strong. It works well for them too!

Don't buy a stopwatch.

Posted: 17/08/2005 at 15:40


Then - start slow - run/walk - enjoy
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 16:32

Dont think I could say much different to whats here already.

I definately agree with the good shoe thing it made a big difference to me.

Patience is a virtue!!

Walking is nothing to be ashamed of.

Find an achievable aim to work towards.

Dont use a watch or concentrate on time use distance as a guide instead!
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 17:53

Oh and as pixie said, get a good sports bra (if your a girlie)
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 17:55

I think one of the most important things that I do not think (correct me if I am wrong) anyone has mentioned...


Thoroughly too or you will end up with very tight inflexible muscles which will be more prone to injury!!!
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 18:51

Dont use a stopwatch and try to "beat the clock" every time you run. If you want to keep an eye on your progress maybe time yourself over the same course once a week.

Aswell as buying the correct shoes, dont forget about the right socks too, these can cause blisters too!

Do not run through niggles, they could turn into serious injuries.

The first month or so of training is the hardest. Persevere and you will be rewarded, in no time at all you will be running a 10k effortlessly and you will be so proud of yourself!
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 21:45

If you get out of breath on your first few runs, walk for a while. All the people I've met who said 'tried it - didn't like it' are those who thought they had to go fast and keep going from day one.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 21:57

If you haven't exercised in a long time and suspect you may have problems with blood pressure etc. You really should speak with your doctor. It is however unlikely that they won't support you in your endeavours!

Best advice?

You can't start out too slowly and don't be afraid to build gradually from Jog /Walk to Run /Walk and onwards.

No matter how hard you find it to believe, you WILL get to a point when it suddenly clicks and you find it all comes together mentally and physically.

There really IS a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (corny eh?) if you can get through the first few months ;0)
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 22:03

The first ten minutes of a run are the worst - I've been running for a year and that still applies.
Posted: 17/08/2005 at 23:25

Beware running is addictive, it can take over your life.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 05:31

Keep a running log. When things get tough and motivation is lacking, look back and see what you have achieved since you started. It soon puts a smile on your face and makes you want to pull on your trainers again.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 05:55

remember, your life as it has been

IS OVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 06:00

Dont worry about what other people are thinking
if it does bother you-run EARLY am

there is no such thing as too slow
There is no such thing as wasted miles-something is alwyas better than nothing
Dont compare youself with others-you may get disillusioned
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 06:17

The hardest part of running is putting your kit on.

Always compare how you feel before your start to how you feel when you have finished.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 08:31

yeah thats a good one halo
you will never regret going for a run
(i didnt say ultra i DIDNT)
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 08:38

get proper shoes from a proper running shop
walking is good
the first 10 minutes are the worst
you don't have to run eyeballs-out
run in different places and off-road
have a running buddy or an MP3
enter an event to give yourself a target
don't run every day to start with

Posted: 18/08/2005 at 10:06

Remember that you will have good days and bad.

Just because you suffered in your last run, doesn't mean you will in the next one xx
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 11:26

Get good shoes from a reputable running shop.

Learn to stretch properly and practice what you learn EVERY DAY, even if you don't run.

Enjoy it and ignore anyone who catcalls or tells you you're mad (including yourself).

Being slow isn't a crime - in fact it's a bonus becuase you get to enjoy the view.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 11:44

The first 10 mins will always be the hardest while your body adapts to a sudden increased effort, keep going it will get easier
Wear good shoes
Take REST days
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 11:54

Don't be afraid to ask for advice.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 11:56

Make sure you are well hydrated and well fuelled.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 11:56

Good shoes are THE most important thing
Comfy clothes that don't rub (if they do apply vaseline!)
Get through the first ten minutes jogging/walking if needs be and wait for those endorphins to kick in....then it gets easier, honest (first 10-20 minutes is still hardest for me too even after 3 years)
Be prepared to get addicted!!
Take music with you.
Enjoy, especially when the sun is shining;-)
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 12:06

Dont believe race organisers when they describe the route as "flat and fast"

Seriously,listen to your body,a day off won't hurt as long as one day doesn't end up being 6 months.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 14:25

Try not to think too much about how you are running, how hard it is, how slow you are going, how far you have got to go and so on. If you have trouble divorcing your thoughts from your actions try counting your steps as you run. By the time you reach 100 you will might still be counting but you will probably also be thinking about something completely different. You will also still be running. If you are going through a tough patch in your run try starting the counting again.
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 15:38

Dear God, some of you talk bloody fast!!
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 15:41

Faster than I run!
Posted: 18/08/2005 at 15:46

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