If you’re thinking about improving your fitness and getting into shape, running is a brilliant cardiovascular exercise that will help to boost your energy levels, release endorphins and promote overall wellbeing, so we've put together the ultimate beginners guide to running for you.
Running is so popular in the UK that hundreds of races, challenges and fun runs take place throughout the country annually, welcoming runners of all ages and abilities to join in the fun. At Alder Hey Children’s Charity, we are so proud to have a number of supporters who help to raise money for our cause by taking part in charity runs and competitions. With this in mind, we’ve created the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Running, unlike other running guides, so that beginners to running have everything you need to take the first steps to becoming a runner.
If you're a beginner to running, check out these great running for beginners tips below.
How to get into running
Getting into running is easy – all you need to do is get out there and run! However, there are still a few considerations that you should make before you begin, that will help you to progress steadily and make sure you avoid injury.
No matter how keen you are to improve your running, the reality is that a beginner to running is not going to be able to run a marathon straight away. It’s important that you ease your body into a new physical activity in order to avoid strain and injury – especially if you’re not used to regular exercise.
The following running for beginners tips are all great ways you can help to ease your body into running at first:
- Stretching and warming up before a run
- Starting with small distances
- Starting with a combination of walking and running
- Increasing distances steadily (not too quickly!)
Invest in shoes
The shoes that you wear to run make a huge difference in a lot of ways. Not only can a good pair of running shoes help to minimise strain and injury on your feet and legs, but they can also improve your performance. As a beginner runner, it may be the case that you don’t own a pair of dedicated running shoes. If this is true, you should look to invest in some soon.
Set realistic expectations
As a beginner to running, setting running goals, and then developing a training plan to help you achieve them is a great way to track your progress and motivate yourself to improve. But, especially when you’re just starting out, it’s important to set goals that are realistic and achievable. If you set targets that are too high, then you risk disheartening yourself and losing the motivation to continue running. As always, there’s also the risk of injury if your push your body too far, too soon.
Tips for taking up running as a beginner
For a complete running beginner, the idea of running may seem intimidating or scary, and is not always as easy to get into as simply stepping out of your door for a run. Luckily, there are a few approaches you could take that might make getting out there that little bit less daunting:
- Find a running group – or even just a running buddy for support and encouragement
- Get a running app on your phone – track your progress easily
- Go early in the morning – before your day has the chance to tire you out
- Stick with it – your first run is probably going to be challenging, but it will only get easier from there on. Make yourself stick to a running plan of at least two or three weeks before you give up and decide running isn’t for you!
How to Improve Your Fitness
Whether you’re quite active throughout the week, you go to the gym or you’re completely new to working out, starting to up your fitness game begins with small changes to your weekly routine, including introducing exercise at least three times per week, changing your diet to include low-fat and high-carb ingredients and increasing your water intake. When it comes to those new to running, it’s best to take things slowly rather than push yourself too much, too quickly; as this can lead to injury. If you have any concerns or existing health conditions, speak to a medical professional before taking up running.
Here are a couple of ways to slowly improve your fitness and start to run on a weekly basis:
- Stretch before you work out
- Always carry water with you during a run and keep hydrated with small sips, often
- Always wait two hours after a meal before running
- Warm up for 10 minutes before you begin to run
- Mix up your workout routine with a range of different exercises or locations
It’s important to warm up for at least 10 minutes before you start to run to help prevent injury. A warm up can be as simple as a 10 minute walk or a few jumping jacks and jogging on the spot for a couple of minutes before you begin to increase your speed and intensify your workout. Some runners make the mistake of fixating on running and forget to take part in other exercises. This can also lead to injury as you are putting strain on the same set of muscles every time you exercise. If you feel in pain at any point during a run, you should listen to your body and slow down and, if necessary, take a water break and only continue if you feel you can.
What to Eat Before and After Running?
Diet is important when it comes to getting the most out of running and without the right nutrition and meals, you can quickly run out of energy or suffer a dip in blood sugar levels. Food is fuel and you’ll need to eat the right fuel to become a stronger runner. If you are hoping to get fit by running, don’t under-eat to lose weight. Increasing your weekly activity and eating a healthy and balanced diet is enough to become healthier. Under-eating can lead to fainting, irritability, sleep issues and a general feeling of exhaustion. Your body needs high-octane fuel to run at its best, which means high-carb, low-fat and low-fibre meals.
Some ideal meals to eat at least two hours before a run are:
- Red lentil soup
- Baked sweet potato and tuna
- Bagel with peanut butter
- Banana sandwich
- Low fat yoghurt, honey and strawberries
Experiment with different combinations of high carb, low-fat and low-fibre ingredients until you find the best meal for your body.
It is important to avoid fatty food and caffeine before a run as this can cause stomach upsets and disrupt your workout. After a run or workout you might want to eat a meal combining carbs, such as rice or pasta, with high-protein foods, such as salmon, turkey breast or lean chicken with a small side salad. High-glycaemic food will help to refuel your body after a long run or intense workout. If, however, you can’t stomach solid food, why not make yourself a glass of chocolate milk? This drink will provide your body with protein and carbohydrates, helping to repair tired muscles.
How to Choose a Race to Run
If you’re fairly new to running, you might want to pick a 5k run as a goal to work towards as you should be able to manage this distance within a few weeks of training. For those who are more advanced; if you can run 5k without issue, you might want to sign up to a 10k race or even a half marathon, which will push you to train a little harder to improve your stamina.
For more information on choosing a race to run, please follow the links below to our running pages:
Setting yourself a goal to work towards can help you to focus your training and encourage you to stick with your workout routine even when the weather is bad and you’re feeling tired. For extra motivation, why not buddy up with a running partner and encourage each other to run a little further every time you train together?
If you’re interested in running for Alder Hey’s Children Charity please feel free to download our fundraising pack.
If you’re getting started running for the very first time, there are a few things that you should consider before you start. There is much advice and information out there – especially about something as popular as running – so it can be hard to know where to begin. We hope our running for beginners guide will provide much help to you and when you're ready for a big step, check out our Great North Run training plan.