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Running for Beginners - Starting out

Let's address some of the fears that you may have if you want to start running. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing advice and tips that will hopefully give you the confidence to lace up your trainers.

Over the last 5 years I've worked with ladies who have either taken up running or returned to running after a long time off (I mean - for some, we're talking school cross-country, which, in all fairness, was enough to put off even the kids who were good at running!)

As I worked with, and trained these lovely (petrified) ladies, the same points were discussed - the apprehension, the worries, the time restrictions, the safety... the list goes on. So the information that will be shared will give you some knowledge in the fact that your concerns are not yours alone and we can work through them together.


Feeling self-conscious can be a huge element of fear when you are starting out. So you need to take the pressure off yourself. Firstly, don't make 'going for a run' into a big thing; don't stress about announcing it to the office or your family. Put on something comfortable and some trainers with a bit of support (not your shiny white Converse!) and tell yourself that you're off for a walk.

After 5 minutes or so, find a quiet street, pick a lamppost and have a steady jog to it. Then have another minute or so to walk before picking your next marker. Just aim to be out for 20 minutes, mostly for a walk, but with an occasional steady jog when you feel like it.

Give yourself small, achievable goals and only go for a short amount of time. That way, when you get home, you'll have a bit of a glow, will feel amazing and you'll want to do it again.

Setting really high expectations is a common mistake for many who return to running after time off. They often head off at a pace that Mo Farah would struggle with, wonder why they feel exhausted within minutes, go home and swear they'll never run again!

So be kind to yourself. Take the pressure off. Build up slowly - aim for a couple of times a week to start. Choose your markers carefully. You've got this.

What about all those people who might see you? What might they think of you puffing and panting your way down the street?

Get yourself into the mindset that you are doing this for YOU. It doesn't matter what other people think.

Do it for you!


Fancy trying an early morning run? Then lay your kit out the night before - all of it. Comfortable clothes, supportive underwear, good socks and your trainers by the door. The early alarm needs a bit of willpower to not snooze it and roll over, or be tempted to take a sneaky peek at your phone - just roll out of bed, and into that kit.

Grab some water, get your trainers on and go!

Try not to procrastinate about the weather or the kids not getting up in time. Don't worry about the work you need to start (you'll be way more productive once those feel-good hormones have kicked in).

You know you'll feel amazing.

The same scenario of laying out your kit is necessary for evening runners too. As soon as you get in from work, regardless of all the things you need to do before you head out, get changed and ready. There are always a million and one reasons not to go - but you deserve that time for you. It only has to be 20 minutes - gives a good excuse for the other half to cook dinner for when you get back!

If you have to spend time searching for socks or shorts before you run, it's another obstacle to get past. Make it as easy as possible for yourself, so there are no excuses.

And, as I mentioned in my first post about 'taking the pressure off', even if you don't run, just go for a 20 minute walk instead. You might surprise yourself.


It's definitely worth taking a bit of time to plan the route you are about to run. There's no need to start your run from your doorstep - instead walk to somewhere flat, or slightly downhill to start. Use the walk there as part of your warm up.

Consider your options. It's good to have a rough idea of a loop that you can walk and run and it's even better if you have a contingency plan too! The obvious one, is that you just turn around and come back the same way. This is often known as an 'out and back' run. However, they can be hard mentally, as you feel yourself getting further away from home, the return journey can sometimes feel so much longer!

A flat-ish loop is always a good option, if there are multiple ways home too, that can help. You may find that you start out for a short time, but feel quite good; if you have made a plan, you can give yourself choices to extend that run. On the other hand, if you are starting to struggle, and feel like you need to head home, having a short cut can be beneficial.

Vary your routes. Predominately for interest - but also, sadly, for safety. It's terrible to have to even mention it, but by running the same route at the same time on the same days, you can leave yourself vulnerable. So have a few different ideas mapped.

Remember to give yourself permission to run and walk whenever you feel like it. You're not answering to anyone. There's no-one to judge you or compare yourself to.


What about the running bit?!

One of the easiest ways to start running is not to run at all! Just walk. As you walk, your body will start to warm up and the muscles will start to activate. Try not to dawdle though - walk with purpose; walk like you are about to miss the train.

The next step is to pick a marker - a lamp post, a tree, or the end of the road; and start to pick up the pace. By this, I don't mean to startle yourself into a sudden sprint, just lift your knees slightly and have a bit of a jog. Tell yourself that if it doesn't feel good, you can always go back to walking again. Whatever you choose to do, start slowly.

Pacing is hard for all runners - even those with oodles of experience. It's always better to start slower than you feel like you should. It's far easier to gradually pick up the pace than to start off too quickly and totally run out of steam.

It's really common at race events where people get caught up in the excitement of the moment, then get to the half way point and find themselves with not much left in the tank. You don't want this to happen.

The best way to judge your steady pace is that you should feel able to hold a conversation as you run. I'm a huge advocate for 'chatty running' (it's not just that I love to chat) it's actually a good measure of exertion.

*It is best to find a friend rather than practising chatty running to yourself!

If you've got the pacing right on your run, there's no harm in finishing strong. It's always a good feeling to feel like you've got the power as you are close to home. In a race, you're encouraged to run faster in the second half (negative splits) but to be totally honest, it takes a lot of practice.

So for now, as you start out - always start slower than you think you should, there are no prizes for tiring yourself out before the end of the road. Walk when you need to. Find a friend or local group to chat to. End your run with a finish like Farah!


What tips can help take away the pain?!

The power of distraction! Listening to music or podcasts often divides opinion in runners. There are those who like to use their time running to clear the mind - to tune in with how they are feeling and use the time and rhythm of their feet to zone out. There are also those runners who struggle to run at all without the blasting of motivational tunes ringing through their ears.

Listening to podcasts has become another popular means of distraction whilst out running - there are so many to choose from.

To both camps, I say, find what suits you. Consider the time of day you run, and where your route takes you. If it's rush hour and you're weaving your way through the streets, be mindful of those very quiet electric cars that may sneak up on you! Alternatively, if you are heading off the roads and onto the trails or woodland, it's a good idea to keep one ear open for cyclists, dogs, other runners etc.

Whatever you choose, be safe.


There are so many apps that are linked with running it can sometimes be confusing as to where to start, or whether you actually need one in the first place.

If you own a smart watch, you'll probably already be monitoring step count or your activity level for the day, and often this is enough.

With regards to running apps - Strava, Garmin Connect, Nike +, Map my run etc, some runners find them useful to check out their stats, whilst others find them an unnecessary pressure to compete with themselves and others. My guidance for this, is to choose what suits you and what you want to achieve.

The Couch to 5k is an app that can guide you through the process of starting out as an absolute beginner, to building and running a 5km. It guides you through when to walk and when to run by talking you through as soon as you step out the door. It builds you up slowly each week and there is always the option to take a step back if you need to.

What if I don't want to follow instructions?

With my small beginner's groups I tend to encourage a more intrinsic method; for the individual to focus on how they feel. This way works in the sense that there is no pressure or timings to dictate what you should be doing and when you should be doing it. It loosely follows the idea behind the Rate of Perceived exertion scale where you monitor how much effort you feel that you are putting in on a scale of 1 - 10.

There is no right or wrong with choosing whether to use an app or not. Do what suits you.


Here's the truthful bit!

Don't expect to feel amazing! Sorry! But starting out might not feel very nice, especially if you haven't run for a very long time.

Your muscles will ache. Your legs may feel heavy. Your chest may feel tight. You might sweat. I know that this is stating the obvious - but the emphasis is to just let it be.

It is what it is. The important factor is not to compare yourself to others and especially don't compare yourself to what you USED to be able to do.

Running is something that most people can do. But it isn't easy. It never gets easier! You just get better, with time. If you've had a long break, don't compare your half marathon time from 15 years ago, with where you're at now.

Start where you are; recognise that you need to start somewhere and now might be as good a time as any.

If you do give it a go. I'd love to hear how you get on.

Joining a local group is a great way to build confidence when you are starting out running. Although it might seem daunting - most Running Clubs put on programmes for Beginner's and they tend to be really friendly places to get started. Alternatively, find a friend (preferably one that won't ditch you when it rains!) so you can put the world to rights as you pound the streets.

Did any of you start out at a running club as a beginner? Give them a shout out here if you did!

Happy running


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