RW’s 60-Second Guides:  Beginners’ Running

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.