I'm a beginner

Tips and advice on how to get started on your running journey, for complete beginners. 

I'm a beginner

Starting a new skill, hobby or sport is never easy. Breaking a bad habit is even harder. So, whatever your reason for tying up those running shoes, you are not alone!

1. Health comes first

The health benefits of running are huge, no matter the level, both physically and mentally. But that's not to say that you can throw caution to the wind. If you are starting exercise for the first time, or significantly increasing the intensity, see your doctor first. This is particularly true if you have underlying health conditions or a high BMI. Let your doctor know your plans and they can advise you on how to do this safely and if any medical checks are needed first.​

2. Access support

Would you quit smoking without any help? Would you start a stressful job without telling anyone? If running is something you are doing to break an old habit, or to start a new habit - tell someone! Find somebody supportive who can keep you on track and provide you with accountability. You don't physically have to run with somebody but have a 'buddy' to keep you motivated and support you. You could create a chat group between friends to share your progress or arrange runs together. Whatever works for you - do it! And, if you can't identify anyone that is willing to help you along, then get out an old fashioned notepad and pen. Write down your runs; write down your times; write down your feelings. Having to provide evidence on a piece of paper might be just as effective as a nagging friend! 

3. Start easy

Don't build up too fast! It's so tempting - you're feeling great, so why not keep pushing on and on? Or maybe actually you're not feeling great, but by now you should surely be running further than this, so why not add on some extra distance? Wrong! Rome was not built in a day and runners are not born overnight. A huge part of training is recovery. It's so important to listen to your body. Yes, running may feel uncomfortable sometimes but it shouldn't be painful. Build up gradually at a rate that works for you. Avoid injury and focus on getting stronger, and importantly - enjoying the process. 

4. Create a plan 

- Use some of the session ideas below and aim for 2-3 sessions each week.

- Try and run at the same times each week to make it part of your routine.

- Keep weekly mileage low, increasing gradually (i.e. by 5-10% each week).

- Plan rest days to recover between runs. This could involve either not exercising at all or doing something else (walk, cycle).

- Plan rest weeks. These are weeks with lower mileage than your average week to truly give your body some rest.

- Be flexible. You won't know what you're capable of until you start so be willing to tweak your plan as you progress.

- Create goals, ideally one that's specific and measurable and another that is more personal to you. 

5. Get good shoes

You don't need much for running but good shoes are vital. Make sure your shoes fit correctly and offer you good support and cushioning. There's no need for anything fancy, just make sure they are appropriate for running and that they are comfortable. If you've never had running trainers before it might be worth visiting your local sports store where you can try the shoes out on a treadmill. 

6. Warm up!

Always warm up the joints and muscles that you are going to be using. If you're just starting out with running then walking to raise your heart rate and activate your muscles will likely be enough. Start with a gentle walk, then walk more briskly, until you feel ready to start the actual running session. 

Some quick tips

- [5 min gentle walk, 5 min brisk walk] repeat until 25 minutes completed

- [4 min walk, 1 min run] repeat until 25 minutes completed

- 5 min walk, 2 min run, 5 min walk, 3 min run, 5 min walk, 2 min run, 5 min walk 

- 4 min walk, [2 min run, 2 min walk] repeat 4 times, 4 min walk 

- [1 min walk, 3 min run] repeat until 28 minutes completed

- 1 min walk, 1 min run, 1 min walk, 2 min run, 1 min walk, 3 min run, 1 min walk, 4 min run, 1 min walk, 5 min run, 1 min walk

- [1 min walk, 5 min run] repeat until 30 minutes completed

- 3 min walk, 8 min run, 2 min walk, 5 min run, 2 min walk, 8 min run, 3 min walk 

SESSION IDEAS if you're more advanced

- 3 min walk, 12 min run, 1 min walk, 12 min run, 3 mins walk 

- 5 min walk, 5 min run, 2 min walk, 10 min run, 2 min walk, 15 min run, 5 min walk  

- 3 min walk, [10 min run, 2 min walk] repeat 3 times, 3 min walk 

- 3 min walk, 10 min run, 2 min walk, 15 min run, 2 min walk, 10 min run, 3 min walk 

- 5 min walk, 30 min run, 5 min walk 

- 3 min walk, 20 min run, [30 seconds uphill, walk down] x 5, 3 min walk

downloadable training resources

Below is a downloadable ten week training plan to provide an example of how to approach running for the first time (Level 1) as well as a more advanced running plan for those that already have a baseline fitness (Level 2). There is also a blank template to try and design your own training plan around work and other commitments you may have. Use the session ideas to do this, and remember to build up by around 10% each week. More session ideas are available below. 

In case I haven't convinced you that 'YOU CAN DO IT', then there's lots of other resources out there to help you start your running journey. A popular one is the NHS Couch to 5k. It has podcasts and an app to help you along the way!

couch to 5k