Running Tips For Beginners (For When Running Doesn’t Come Naturally)
Use these running tips for beginners to get started on your running journey! These running tips for non-runners are practical to implement and a great baseline for getting started when running doesn't exactly come naturally to you.
While running may seem like a natural form of exercise in theory, it doesn't exactly come naturally to everyone.
In fact, learning to run can feel awkward and overwhelming. Most people who want to learn to run struggle with answering the following questions:
- how many times per week should you run?
- where to start
- how long should a run last?
- how to get better at running
While there are many ways to tackle all of these questions, this blog post is going to go over the practical stuff and really focus on the running tips for beginners that most people never chat about (like these life lessons I've learned from being a runner!).
Don't want to read the behind-the-scenes stuff? JUMP directly to the tips.
Why I Took Up Running
I was never a runner. Ever.
It was a big joke with my strength clients that if I was being attacked I'd stand a better chance of survival by fighting than running away.
In my childhood, I simply wasn’t active and, in my teens, and early twenties I was a smoker (learn more about my personal fitness journey). So, there was zero physical activity let alone running!
Who the hell wanted to be one of those fitness weirdos anyway? They’re crazy 😀
Once I got into working out and lifting weights, running was still pretty far down on my “I’ll do when hell freezes over” list.
I was one of those trainers who believed that running killed #gainz and more than that; it was horrible for you, you’re prone to injury and your joints will hate you. And while all of the things can be proven true to some extent, running is not the worst thing you can do in this world 😛
Injuries can come from any kind of training and truthfully speaking before we allowed ourselves to get to this point of laziness, running was pretty common on the “I have to survive front”. So, a case can be made both ways.
Alright so back to running. Part of the reason I refused to run (aside from not being able to breathe, run down the block or enjoy it) was that my knees hurt. This is kind of a blanket excuse (more on it below) and a crappy one at that (here's how to boost knee strength).
Why I Decided To Learn To Run
When I was pregnant with my first, I hated not being able to do everything I loved the way that I wanted.
So, at about 30 weeks pregnant with baby bear, I promised myself I was going to do something I’d never done before. I was going to push outside of my comfort zone, smash a goal, and push as hard as I could.
I was going to run a 5k. (you can read more about my running goal and it's hilariousness here on my training website)
My husband laughed.
Part of the reason I picked running stems from The Walking Dead. So, before you read further: I am a TWD fanatic. Seriously fanatic. I love that show. But have you ever noticed how much running you have to do in a zombie apocalypse?! Seriously, there’s a lot.
And while I like to think my strength would help me in that kind of world (I can climb, I could probably fight a bit, I could carry) one of the flaws in my approach is the ability to run. Seriously, I couldn’t. not even one block!
And so my running journey began. For the sole purpose of being able to outrun zombies if the need arises.
My First Experiences Running
I used the app Couch To 5k as it was recommended and jumped right in. in my stubbornness, I refused to alter the rest of my training to accommodate this ridiculous goal. So, I was putting in an insane amount of training hours!
The first time I ran, I couldn’t even make it thirty seconds.
By the second week, I got horrific shin splints. That shit is real ladies. It sucked.
But I pushed on. Once I’m committed to a goal, I have a tough time letting up. I ran in heat, rain, before bed. I got it in.
I’ll save you the rants about my hatred while completing this goal… there were a lot. In a blog on my training site, I remember actually writing “what the eff is wrong with you people” coming home from a run. But know that little by little it got better. Hard. Sweaty, challenging. But better.
The first time I put in the full 5k I came home and felt like vomiting. But I did it.
And I did run my first 5k when baby bear was just ten months old. It was hard but I had done it. And after that goal was when I realized… I actually didn’t hate running (GASP). Trust me, no one was more shocked than I was!
For the rest of the year, I ran sporadically when I wanted to and not for a full five kilometers. Without the goal, I found I liked running even more. Actually, it helped clear my mind.
Then it got cold here, and I got pregnant again, and running ceased. Once I had my second I (oddly enough) itched to get back to it. And here I am, running once again.
The Benefits Of Learning To Run
When I initially set my running goal, I never imagined I'd continue with it. However, somewhere along the way after my second pregnancy I realized I actually enjoyed it.
Running has a lot of benefits but here are the biggest ones I've noticed:
- it's a great way to clear your head
- when done properly with strength training, running can help immensely with weight loss or body composition goals
- being able to run allows me to chase my kids easier which makes me a better mom
Running Tips For Beginners
There are many programs on the internet that will give you the details on how and when to train or cater your running program for your results.
However, if you're a complete running beginner, there is so much more to learn than to just go out and run!
These running tips are geared towards complete novices, the non-runners who laugh at the thought of running down the block.
I love the couch to 5k app. It’s amazing. But it also has you starting off running 3x per week.
While this may be ok for some, I refused to adapt my regular workout routine for my initial goal. And since I had never ever run, this caused the worst case of shin splints of my life.
I scaled down to twice a week afterward, but it was a good lesson.
Start slowly in terms of how frequently you’re running and also how intensely. If your body isn’t used to it, give it a chance to build up!
The couch to 5km app is wonderful because it has you start with walk-to-run intervals and slowly work your way up. The first time it asked me to run for three minutes straight, I freaked out... but I was able to do it!
In my opinion, if you're a beginner runner, start with once per week and do walking and running intervals. Scale slowly.
Learn About Shoes & Choose Good Ones
Just grabbing a pair of sneakers and hitting the pavement if you’re not a runner may not work out well. (read more about achieving running goals!)
In fact, running shoes not specifically geared toward your stride can cause:
- ankle pain
- hip pain
- shin splints
- knee pain
- poor running performance
Many females are natural heal strikers. Thus, we require running shoes with forefront cushioning. This made a world of difference to my runs. Mainly, it reduced a lot of pain.
My personal favorite brand of running shoe is Asics. However, I'd recommend someone taking a look at your stride to determine the best fit for you.
Running Tips For Beginners: You Need To Be Strong To Run
This is easily my biggest piece of advice when people ask me about running tips. As much as I hate to admit it, you really do need to have a base amount of strength in order to be runner!
The complaint of “me knees hurt” way back when was because my glute strength sucked (here’s why you want to strengthen the glutes!) and I had poor ankle mobility. All of this led to my knee caving in and not tracking right upon impact which caused pain.
The glute muscles are one of the most important muscles to keep strong when it comes to running. I'm a fanatic about glute muscles (read more on why and how to train them at home). And it was stronger glutes that made the biggest difference for me personally in reducing pain in my knees.
If you have poor mobility or strength, running is a terrible form of fitness for you to start with. Because the repetitions are so high, the repetitive nature causes a lot of pain if your form is off and your body isn’t performing properly.
Your time would be better spent addressing these issues first. Below are some great follow along options to strengthen the glutes as well as improve lower body mobility.
- 20 minute mobility to decrease hip pain
- 20 minute deep stretch for athletes and runners
- 15- minute glute workouts
If you’re looking to get strong, reduce back pain, and carry kids easier check out my Stronger Glutes For Busy Moms E-book. This 25-page E-book provides you with everything you need to strengthen your glutes at home. You’ll learn about the fundamentals of glute training, and have access to my progressive glute training program. This e-book will take you through: The difference between these glute workouts and sporadic, glute exercises you stumble upon is that these training programs are progressive. Meaning, they build on one another! You’ll learn: Take the guesswork out of your glute training and follow a plan. Learn the best practices to implement when it comes to strengthening glutes and reap the benefits of less back pain and the ability to carry kids easier. Because being strong isn’t optional when you’re a mom. Grab the Stronger Glutes E-book today. (when you click on the button a new window will open that will take you to securely process payment)
Want To Run Pain-Free? Strengthen & Tone Your Glutes… At Home!
If you’re looking to get strong, reduce back pain, and carry kids easier check out my Stronger Glutes For Busy Moms E-book. This 25-page E-book provides you with everything you need to strengthen your glutes at home.
You’ll learn about the fundamentals of glute training, and have access to my progressive glute training program.
This e-book will take you through:
The difference between these glute workouts and sporadic, glute exercises you stumble upon is that these training programs are progressive. Meaning, they build on one another!
Take the guesswork out of your glute training and follow a plan. Learn the best practices to implement when it comes to strengthening glutes and reap the benefits of less back pain and the ability to carry kids easier.
Because being strong isn’t optional when you’re a mom. Grab the Stronger Glutes E-book today.
(when you click on the button a new window will open that will take you to securely process payment)
Foam Rolling To Reduce Tension
Foam rolling can help immensely when running. While I believe that focusing on mobility is crucial (if you think of the glutes, you cannot strengthen a muscle that doesn't move through a full range of motion- which is discussed in this podcast on back pain),
However, I've learned from experience that foam rolling is crucial to my running season. Foam rolling helps:
- reduce muscle soreness the next day
- relieve tension
Once I learned more about how foam rolling is much more about trigger pointing than anything, I learned that spending adequate time a few days per week on my calves, IT band and quads made me completely pain-free (learn more about how to foam roll).
You can grab a foam roller from ProSource.com and use code mamabearfit to save some money!
Make A Good Playlist
This is actually the most crucial out of all the running tips for beginners.
Having a solid running playlist can help you almost zone out and slightly meditate/daydream while running. It took me two years to get to the "zone out" point though so don't rush yourself!
If you have crap music, about four minutes into your run you’ll wonder wtf you’re doing running. Instead, take the time to craft a playlist or two so you don’t weep about the fact you’re trying to run- especially if you're winter running!
Running Tips For Beginners: Have A Goal & A Plan
Just like lifting weights, if you don’t have a plan you kind of just aimlessly do crap and never really achieve much.
My goal was to run 5k, no more. This time around my goal is the same: run five kilometers. To me, this is just a good amount.
Each time I run, I try and progress a little; push a bit longer, change my intervals etc. If you’re not progressing your workouts your body won’t adapt to them. If you’ve not idea how to progress your running workouts, snag the app: couch to 5k – it actually does a really great job!
Update: I've used a lot of tracking apps in the last year. I adore the couch to 5k app when you're LEARNING to run.
From there I use an app called Runkeeper (again loved it) to track my distance and pace. This past year I broke down and got a Garmin Forerunner35 which is so far my absolute favorite tracker because I can look down and see my pace (or set it to the pace I want and follow my watch).
I've also used AISportage Smart Shoes which tracks everything from your feet and transfers it to an app. Trial and error trackers and see which one works best for you.
Warm The Eff Up
Another area I liked to skip thinking that walking for a few minutes would be enough. It's not. Grab a five minute warm-up and make sure you do some dynamic work and mobility drills before your run.
This will help the proper muscles know they should be firing and reduce discomfort and injury.
Pay Attention To Your Body
It turns out, while I have an ideal body to run my body actually hates running. Seriously, it is just not something that comes naturally to me. So not only do I need to pay attention to how I’m running while I’m running.
But it also means that I need more recovery between runs.
My issue with workouts is that I love them. I love pushing or escaping or just the sheer physical-ness of them.
Unfortunately, my body doesn’t tolerate this and I’ve learned (the hard way) that I can’t run on back-to-back days or do two five-kilometer runs in a week (though hill sprints + one long run works).
You know your body best, so pay attention to it! If your ankle/hip/knee is just feeling a bit off, instead of heading out for your run and placing a bunch of repetitive impact on it, opt for something else. Foam roll, stretch or do some mobility work but listen to the signs and cues your body gives
Don’t forget to pin these running tips for beginners!
Honestly, there’s a lot that goes into learning to run as a non-runner. And for most of us, it doesn’t come easily. You’ve got to work for it.
I never (seriously ever) in my life thought I would say I enjoy running but I do. But in the last few years, there have been many lessons learned! Hopefully, these running tips for beginners can help you not make the same silly mistakes I did when learning to run.