How To Start Running For Beginners, From Running Coaches – Women’s Health
How To Start Running For Beginners, From Running Coaches Women’s Health
I’ll say it: Running is the best form of exercise for my mind. Whenever I’m in a bad mood—depressed, stressed, sad—there’s nothing that makes me feel better like going for a run. And on the good days? It only adds endorphin-induced euphoria to my already-happy mindset.
“Running is one of the most basic forms of exercise,” says Hollis Tuttle, an RRCA-certified run coach and Lululemon studio trainer. “Because of this, it is a unifying activity that can transcend age, gender, and socioeconomic barriers,” she says. Tuttle also loves that running allows you to get outdoors and explore new places. (Same!)
Running is also associated with benefits like a reduced risk of cardiovascular illness and neurological issues like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, studies indicate. It can also improve your sleep and concentration, according to other research.
Meet the experts: Gordon Bakoulis is an RRCA-certified running coach with the New York Road Runners. She has qualified for several Olympic marathon trials and has run more than 35 marathons. Hollis Tuttle is an RRCA-certified run coach and Lululemon studio trainer. Alex Larson, MS, RDN, is a certified dietitian who works specifically with endurance-focused athletes.
Even though I know that going on a run will make my body and brain feel good, sometimes it’s hard to get out there and do it. This was especially true when I was a beginner, and I had more questions than answers.
Sound familiar? I wish I had a beginner’s guide that detailed all the steps and tips from pros. Voila. The following is a comprehensive how-to-start-running guide with everything you need to know about form, motivation, training plans, gear, and more for your first run and beyond.
Proper Running Form, Explained
POV: You’re moving your legs and arms and it feels okay, but you don’t really know if you’re running correctly. When you’re starting out, it’s important to think about the running form that works for you. Why? “Every athlete is going to have their individual running style, however, improving your form can help prevent injuries and enhance efficiency,” Tuttle explains. Here’s what proper running form looks and feels like, according to Tuttle:
- Arm drive: Shoulders should be relaxed. Hold your arms slightly away from your body, elbows bent at about 90 degrees. Maintain relaxed hands to reduce tension in your upper body. Your arm swing should move forward and backward at about waist level.
- Foot strike: Aim to land lightly between your heel and midfoot to minimize strike impact, then roll forward through your toes. Your goal? You want to minimize the contact time with your running surface. (Whether it’s pavement, a dirt trail, a track, or a treadmill.)
- Body posture: Maintaining proper posture is essential when it comes to efficient running form. Focus on having your chin up and gaze forward. Try to keep your ears stacked over shoulders, and shoulders over hips.
Now, unless you’re always running on a treadmill with a mirror in front of you, you may not be able to fine tune your form. Here’s a quick trick: Either prop up your phone and record or have a friend record you while you run for a minute or so, says Gordon Bakoulis, an RRCA-certified running coach with the New York Road Runners and multiple Olympic Trials qualifier. You can also look online at videos of professional runners during races to get an idea of any tweaks you could make, or you can work with a certified running coach for one-on-one tips, says Bakoulis.
This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
How To Stay Motivated To Run
Even if you’re really enjoying your runs, odds are, there are going to be some days that you don’t want to do it. “Motivation is fleeting,” Tuttle says, even for seasoned pros. Knowing this, here are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to staying motivated enough to keep running, per Tuttle.
- Plan ahead. Schedule your runs one week to one month at a time. Add them to your Google calendar or jot them down in your planner and ensure your schedule allows for where and when you want to run—especially if you’re following a specific training plan!
- Find a running buddy. Running is also made easier when you have an accountability partner, someone who can make sure you don’t run alone. Knowing that you promised to meet someone at the gym or the park will help get you out the door.
- Sign up for a race. Running for a specific reason is pretty darn motivating. But before you sign up, consider the distance, remembering that longer races require more training time. You can also think about the time of year you want to run. Some people prefer to run in the cold while others prefer the heat. Will there be hills? If so, do you have hills to train on? These are the important questions to ask yourself before entering.
How To Choose A Training Plan
Trust: Using a training plan is beneficial for runners of all levels, especially when you’re starting out. “Think of a training plan as your recipe to success,” says Tuttle. “When adhered to, a well designed training plan will help you avoid injury and ensure that you step up to the starting line ready to run your best.” That said, it’s important to make sure you’re following a plan that’s specific to your race distance, running background, fitness level, and/or goal finish time.
Need some inspiration? Women’s Health has training guides for everything from a beginner’s four-week running guide, to treadmill workouts, to a half-marathon plan, to a full marathon plan.
You can also use running plans that are more dynamic, where you plug in every run you complete and the plan adjusts as you go, such as the NYRR Coaching Lab app. Regardless of your choice, most training plans will likely include various runs like speed workouts, easy jogs, longer (like 60-plus-minute) runs, or tempo runs that change up pace throughout the exercise.
That run variety helps you progress and avoid injury. Another important aspect of improving your fitness will be cross training with complementary workouts for running, Bakoulis explains. Why? Not only does cross training add different types of movement to your exercise schedule, but it also helps minimize strain on the body caused by impact workouts like running, says Bakoulis.
For example, if you want to do more cardio but also want to give your feet and knees a break from the pounding of running, you can do cross training like swimming, elliptical, cycling, rowing, and more—all of which will help you maintain your aerobic fitness level for running.
Cross training can also help you target other parts of the body that running misses, like the upper body, says Bakoulis. Weightlifting can be a form of cross-training as well. It will specifically help you build muscle that can increase your strength and speed—though it’s not necessarily aerobic, says Bakoulis. (Which is fine!)
Essential Running Gear For Beginners
The beauty of running is that it doesn’t require much gear to get started. But, there are some essentials that help you feel comfortable and stay safe, according to Tuttle.
This is the most important aspect of your running gear. Ideally, you can visit a local running store and find your perfect fit IRL. If you don’t have access to one, there are a couple things to note as you shop. You shouldn’t feel any hot-spots, finish a run with blisters, or have bruised or missing toenails. Your shoe should also match the type of run you are doing—trail, street, track, long distance, or racing.
Believe it or not, socks can make a huge difference in your comfort level during your run. You want your sock to fit properly and stay in place from start to finish, plus keep your feet cool, dry, and blister-free as you sweat throughout your run.
Select bottoms that are weather appropriate and fit comfortably, whether it’s shorts or leggings. If you’re running outside, choose an option that also includes a running pocket for essentials like your keys, phone, chapstick, or snacks.
What you choose to wear over your supportive, light, and moisture-wicking sports bra depends upon factors like weather conditions, distance, and if you are wearing a hydration vest or backpack. With all of this in mind, it’s important that the layer against your skin has smooth seams, is moisture wicking, and dries quickly so that it doesn’t irritate your skin or make you hot as you run.
Here are some expert-approved running essentials in case you need some shopping inspiration…
Running Fuel And Hydration Tips
Running takes a lot of energy, which is why it’s important to make sure that you’re fueling properly before, during, and after your runs. Here are some general rules of thumb for eating and drinking when you’re starting running, according to certified dietitian Alex Larson, MS, RDN, who works with endurance-focused athletes.
- Fuel up pre-run. Start your day with a carbohydrate- and protein-rich breakfast, such a scrambled egg and cheese wrap with fruit, oatmeal with nut butter, or a smoothie with protein powder.
- Eat on the run, too. For running that lasts less than 75 minutes, there’s likely no need to try to fuel during the run. For longer runs, consider adding in a source of carbohydrates (like a banana, applesauce pouch, sports gel, energy chews, or sports drink) to supply you with the energy needed to finish strong.
- Recover with food. After a run, it’s important to kickstart recovery by having a snack or meal that offers both carbohydrates and protein, such as a banana with a protein shake, or a greek yogurt parfait with fruit and granola. Aim to eat within an hour after finishing your run, as this will help your tired muscles refuel and rebuild.
- Drink up. Staying properly hydrated is essential for supporting your overall health and performance. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your run. A general rule for hydration is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day. (For example, a 150-pound person should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day.) Consider including electrolytes from a sports-based beverage to replenish those lost through sweat. (And PSA: The best way to check your hydration status is monitoring urine. You want it to be pale yellow in color.)
How To Prevent Running Injuries
Running is high-impact, and all that pounding can lead to serious wear and tear on your bod. There are a few common running injuries to watch out for: tendinitis, shin splints, hamstring injuries, plantar fasciitis, knee strain, stress fractures, and ankle sprains, Tuttle explains. All of these are usually caused by overuse (running too far, too fast), which is why it’s important to listen to your body throughout your workouts, follow that training plan, and rest when you feel you need it.
You can lower your risk of running injuries altogether. Here’s what the pros recommend to stay healthy and keep running, according to Boukalis and Tuttle.
- Warm up before each run. This includes dynamic movements and stretches such as butt kicks, hip circles, lunges, arm swings, and similar movements to prep your body for the workout.
- Increasing your running volume slowly. Take the guesswork out and follow a beginner-friendly training plan that doesn’t have you doing lots of mileage too quickly. And if you find that your plan is becoming too difficult on your body, decrease your mileage accordingly.
- Cross-train consistently. When you start running, don’t drop all your other workouts. Cross-training is an important aspect of lessening the impact on your feet and keeping you healthy and strong. Trust that taking time to cross-train instead of run will only help, and not hurt, your long-term goals.
- Cool down after each run. Doing a cooldown that includes jogging at an easy pace for around five to 10 minutes after each run will help acclimate your body to being done with the workout. It also helps to do some static stretching and foam rolling to mitigate any post-run soreness, lactic acid buildup, or strains.
Pro tip: If you find that you experience persistent or nagging injuries, see a doctor. Don’t push through abnormal discomfort—it’ll likely just cause greater harm and keep you from being able to run long-term.
Now that you know what it takes to begin your (super exciting!) running journey, it’s time to lace up those fresh sneakers and get outside. Ready. Set. Run. You’ve got this!
Madeline Howard is a writer, editor, and creative based in Brooklyn. Her work has been published in Esquire, Nylon, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. Among other things, she was formerly an editor at Women’s Health. Subscribe to her newsletter ‘hey howie’ at madelinehoward.substack.com.