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Sometimes I read running tips for beginners and think, ‘Wow, I wish I head known that when I first started running!’ and sometimes I read them and think, ‘Wow, I should really remember to do that now!’ Whether you’re just getting into running, coming back after a break, or you’re a long-time runner who has fallen into some bad habits, these running tips for beginners will help.
Remember the important extras. Running accessories like hats, sunglasses, fuel belts, socks etc can actually be essentials. Having the right extras can make your run that much more comfortable and keep you focused on your training. It’s not all about the shoes!
Choose the right shoes. It’s a great idea to go to a specialty store that’s recommended within the local running community to get properly fitted for shoes. But also pay attention to how you actually feel in the shoes – how shoes fit and feel is based on so many variables, it’s nearly impossible for someone to pick the perfect shoe for you.
Size up. Nearly always, your running shoe size will be 1/2 size bigger than your regular shoe size. Your feet will swell a little while you run, making your regular size pinch uncomfortably and cause blisters.
Rotate your shoes (and don’t wear them for walking). Your running shoes are your running shoes, so don’t wear them to strength train or just for walking around. And rather than have one pair you run in until they’re trashed, buy two pairs at once and rotate them for each run. As well as switching them up from run to run, also make sure you’re not always running your long run in the same pair.
Track mileage on your shoes. Without tracking mileage, it’s hard to guess when you need to replace your shoes. They may be losing their spring or padding before you actually notice physical wear and tear. Some apps like Runkeeper will track your mileage on your shoes for you, or you can just note which shoes you wear in your training log.
Dress as if it’s 10 degrees warmer outside. Remember you warm up and stay warm quickly when you’re running. If it’s 60 degrees out, dress as if it’s 70 degrees and you’ll be comfortable on your run.
Wear breathable tech fabrics. Cotton equals chafing. Nine times out of ten your new race t-shirt is made of cotton. It may make no sense, just know that if you wear the cotton shirt to run in, you will pay for it as soon as the shower hits your body. Ouch. Speaking of chafing…
Avoid chafing. Wear Bodyglide. Aquaphor works too, or Vaseline in a pinch (although I find that rubs off too quickly). You can’t put on too much, anywhere your skin is rubbing against fabric, or against other skin.
You can always walk. You can try a run/walk technique (which is a great way to start running or come back from a running hiatus). But just knowing that you can always just walk can also be a mental boost for you.
You can run for minutes instead of miles. Nearly every training plan or mention of training schedules you’ll see is in distance, whether you use miles or kilometers. But when you’re a beginner, it can be beneficial to run for minutes rather than miles – it takes some pressure off you, you know exactly how much time you need to schedule for and it can make you focus on form and effort rather than pace, which will help you in the long run.
Stretch afterward instead of before. Static stretching before you run is not an effective way to warm up. You’re actually priming your muscles to relax, rather than be ready to perform. Save your static stretching for after your run.
Find some dynamic warm up moves. This is a much more effective way to warm up. There are lots of dynamic warm ups you can utilize to get ready to run. Things like butt kicks, high knees, lunging, leg swings and more are a great way to get your muscles and joints warm and primed to perform.
Practice your goal pace during training. If you want to run a certain pace in a race, you need to run at that pace during training. Try several miles at goal pace in the middle of a long run, or do intervals at your race pace. Get your body accustomed to how your goal pace feels.
Run the slow runs slowly. It’s okay to run slowly for some of your run – in fact, it will benefit you. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to maintain a race pace over your distance when your event arrives. There are lots of physiological reasons to keep your recovery runs super easy. It can be a great idea to leave your watch at home during these runs to take away any temptation to pick up your pace.
Keep a training log. Keeping a log of mileage and pace can be a motivator, as well as an easy way to see when you’re progressing and when you may be in need of a new training approach. This tip will help you avoid overtraining, as well as pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses so you can work on them.
Build up your mileage gradually. You often hear the 10% rule used – that you shouldn’t add more than 10% of your total mileage per week. The problem with this is it doesn’t really work for true beginner runners – you’re starting out with no mileage or a very low mileage. If you’re training by time, you can start with two 20 minute runs, then two 30 minute runs and build up from there.
Quality over quantity. There are conflicting theories about whether ‘junk miles’ – miles run with no real plan, just to add to total weekly mileage – are a good idea or not. But when you’re first starting out running, just focus on having a plan for each run. Remember that even running two quality workouts twice a week is way better than running more often without any plan or specificity.
Finish fast. Whether you’re training for an event or you’re not quite there yet, it’s a great training habit to get into to practice a fast finish. You can make the last mile of a long run faster than usual, or throw in a few minutes of fast running towards the end of any run. Get your body accustomed to pushing itself when you’re feeling tired – it will only help you when you do start racing.
Practice your race during your long run. This is not just a tip about pace – we already mentioned making sure you run some miles or intervals at your goal pace. Practice your race means try out everything you’re planning on doing or using on race day when you’re in training, specifically in your long run. From the clothes you plan on wearing, to the fuel you’ll be using, take them on a trial run (literally!) and make sure everything feels comfortable so you don’t have any nasty surprises during your event.
One day the PR’s will end. It’s easy to forget this fact when you’re a beginner runner. For a while, every time you go out you set a new record, whether it’s distance, time, or pace. And when you first start racing, PR’s are almost a guarantee. And then, they may be fewer and farther between, or at least harder to achieve. You should mentally prepare for when the slowdown happens, once your body adapts to being a regular runner.
Set a goal. It’s important to have something to work towards. A lot of new runners have begun to get healthy, or to lose weight. But once running grabs hold of you and you fall in love with it, it’s important to have a more concrete goal to strive for. Usually, that ends up being some form of race, but if racing isn’t your thing, you can set yourself certain time goals or distance goals to hit at certain times.
You will run faster on a treadmill. If you’ve started out running on a treadmill in the gym, you may be surprised when you first run outside that it actually harder. There’s a lot of talk about how tough it is to do a long workout on a treadmill (I’ve certainly mentioned it before!) but it’s more that it’s mentally tough. The treadmill offers you a uniform pace, no hills unless you program them, no wind resistance, or uneven terrain. Don’t be discouraged if your pace is slower the first few times you run outside.