In times when a great deal of change makes everything different at once, people’s needs evolve quickly, and behaviours adjust to keep pace.
Perhaps that’s why there are so many new runners out on the road. Running fulfils many of our new needs at once – it’s a great way to blend regular exercise with a quick change of scenery, all while maintaining a safe social distance.
If you’re new – or returning – to running, you may be wondering if you’re doing it right. If you’re getting what you need out of your new running routine, there’s no way to be “wrong.” But in case you’d like a little guidance, we’re here to help. So, let’s start with just the basics.
Setting a Target Distance & Pace
If you’re just getting started (or restarted) as a runner, you might be wondering how far or how fast you should go.
As with any form of exercise, there’s a tendency to overdo it at the beginning. And just as sure as putting too much weight on a bench press or playing soccer for four hours on your first day can leave you too sore to work out again for a while, running too far and too fast can leave you side-lined for longer than you want. To avoid the initial impulse to overextend yourself, it’s best to begin with manageable goals.
Since everybody’s different, there’s no set answer for ideal distance and pace.
Start with a 30-minute walk or very easy jog. Time yourself for 15 minutes, then turn around and come back. You can download a tracking app beforehand to measure the distance you’ve travelled, or just plot out your route later to find out.
From here, you can either shoot for increasing distance or decreasing time, as you gain a level of comfort. Add distance up to 5 minutes each trip at the same brisk walk pace. Or add pace up to a level of exertion where you’d still be able to carry out a conversation.
A lot of beginners practice the walk-run-walk method, where instead of running or walking for the entire duration, you alternate at regular intervals – say ninety seconds of walking then 45 seconds running – and adjust the ratios toward more running until you’re able to sustain a jog throughout.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not doing anything wrong and there’s no set mark other than getting some good exercise.
Of course, if you try it the easy way a few times and feel too bored to stay motivated, you can try pushing a little harder, and take it extra easy the next time.
Just don’t shoot for a new world record on your first time out. A slow, sustainable pace is the best way to enjoy your run. And keep in mind that it’s okay to stop and walk if you need to!
Introductory Stretching & Hydration
Figuring out how much you should stretch and hydrate before, during and after a run is another area where everybody has different needs. Finding them is usually just a matter of some early experimentation on your journey as a runner.
The current attitude on stretching among most runners is that not everybody has to stretch, some should, and in either case, it never hurts unless done improperly. So as a beginner, you should at least try a proper stretching regimen before making a more informed decision.
In terms of hydration, don’t drink unless you’re thirsty. That may sound simplistic, but dehydration is generally less of a risk for beginning runners than over-hydration. Sip water until you’re no longer thirty before a run, but don’t overload.
For the sake of peace of mind, you can also carry a small water bottle with you. Pace your runs more forgivingly in hot weather. And after your run, slake your thirst with water, juice or a sports drink.
Gear & Shoe Primer
In terms of running gear and clothing, choose what’s right based on your comfort and budget. Like any other aspect of getting started with running, it’s easy to go overboard in the beginning with gear.
All you really need is running shoes, socks, and comfortable clothes in which you won’t mind working up a sweat.
You will at least want to start with a reliable pair of running shoes, with features that work for your specific gait. These can include stability-added features to reduce pronation, or variations in cushioning. Under usual circumstances, the best way to find the perfect pair of running shoes is to go to a specialty retailer that offers gait analysis and professional fitting.
If this isn’t an option for you right now – you might want to follow our home-fitting guide to finding the right running shoes.
Beginner Running Form & Technique
Now that you have the logistical aspects (how far, how fast, how to prep and recover, and what to wear) sorted, you might be wondering if you’re running “correctly.”
For relative beginners, overcorrecting your natural running form is not advisable. That’s because whatever running form your body instinctively follows is attuned to your specific physique. Some studies suggest trying to alter this form as a beginner could be harmful. If that’s not a comforting thought, know that your running form will evolve naturally to increase efficiency as you add speed and stamina.
Generally, try to “run tall” and lean slightly forward. Keep your strides short – you don’t need to make long, bounding steps, and it’s usually preferable if your feet land under your centre of gravity with your knees bent. Keep your arms relaxed and swing them naturally to the same rhythm.
Overall, for now, put the whole idea of “proper running form” and “maintaining the best running technique” out of your mind. As a beginner, the most crucial aspect of running is enjoying each step in the process, so you’ll keep at it and keep improving. Form will come with that.
In the meantime, as long as you’re running, you’re running right.
We’ll see you out there. It’s Time to Fly.
When I first won Ironman New Zealand in 2001 I finished in a time of 8:24:25hr 19yrs later I finish 6th in 8:14:36 as a 47yr old! At least I'm going faster and faster!
I know I can go so much better after such a limited build up in my running preparation so I'm looking forward to when we can race again, and full of motivation to race to my potential and keep pushing the boundaries as a nearly 48yr old!!
Part of the beauty of trail running is that even when the run doesn’t feel so good, being in nature can have its own positive impact on our sense of wellbeing and inner peace – even with no races on the calendar for the next few months.
Whether you’re an experienced trail runner, or a runner looking for the right shoes to start running trail, we hope this guide helps.