Friday, 13 September 2013

Running: Tips For Beginners

I'm enjoying this whole running malarky a lot now. I mean- I'm still very much a beginner, I wouldn't describe myself as a "runner", and I'm absolutely certainly not perfect- but I enjoy it a lot. 

I know some people may be keen to start running, so I thought I'd share a bit of my wisdom- some of which is stuff I've just picked up from doing it myself, but a lot of this information comes from my big brother J, who studied fitness and personal training at university- so, fingers crossed, it should be fairly solid advice. That said, I'm clearly not an authority on this- and always listen to your own body and do what's right for it, particularly if you're just starting out.

SO. Here we go...

I wish I looked like this when I run. I don't. From here

1. Breathing. It's pretty important when you're running (funny that), and it's the thing I've struggled with most since I started. The best thing to do is to start by regulating your breathing- don't try to do it when you start to struggle. I try to breathe in through my nose for around four paces, and then out through my mouth for four, but it needs to be in line with your pace- you might need to breathe more or less regularly than this. But either way- regulating your breathing from the moment you start will really help, as you won't start panting, which makes you feel like you're struggling when you really aren't. Having good posture when you run will also help with this.

2. Stitches. We all get them. No one really knows why though- or at least, no one I've asked. However, it seems to me that they come on more quickly and more painfully if a) you've eaten not long before running, and b) if your breathing isn't quite right. With regard to the latter, J says that if you feel like you might be getting a stitch, put your hands behind your head (elbows sticking out), and get your shoulders back, and run like this for a while. This opens up your chest and allows more air in, so might hold it off for a while. His other brilliant tip on this is my absolute favourite. When you feel a stitch coming on, pick up a little stone and squeeze it in one hand while you run. Then swap it to your other hand, and keep doing this for the rest of your run. This will distract you from how much your chest hurts- J maintains that doing this is the only thing that got him through his first 10km race.

From here
3. Kit. Running is brilliant, because when you start of you need next to no kit- the only essential is a decent pair of running trainers, and a sports bra. Don't try to go for a run in your Converse?! Literally when I started, I would go out in a pair of leggings and a t-shirt, and a pair of running shoes that I picked up cheaply about four years ago. Now I run in a pair of proper running leggings, with a big oversized t-shirt, proper running socks (else I get dreadful blisters), and my trainers. Simple, right? However, J is right when he says that the right kit will make you feel like a runner. Once I had proper running leggings and socks, I was so much more excited to run, as I wanted to actually get some wear out of them.
You can go down the route of things like arm bands for your iPod, a Garmin, and so on, but it's certainly not essential. Next on my list of things to buy is a proper running top. Of course, always take the weather into account when you're getting dressed for a run.

4. Music. J's dissertation was actually on the effects of music on running performance. The upshot of his study was that what you listen to has a really significant impact on your performance- if you listen to something you find relaxing before you start, you won't do anywhere near as well as you would if you listened to something you find motivational. A good running playlist is essential, as far as I'm concerned- mine features such delights as Eye of the Tiger, Blurred Lines, One Day Like This, and an awful lot of Rihanna. But seriously- whatever works best for you is key here. 

5. Route. I find I run way better if I set out a route before I go- and personally, I like to run in a loop, rather than out and back, as I find if I lose motivation if I have to retrace my steps. However, I'm sure some people would say mapping a loop before I go stops me from pushing myself, so maybe it isn't the best thing to do. I'd recommend using something like Google Maps or Map My Run to work out where you're going to go before you start, as this will also help you work out how far you want to go. But make sure you have a few different routes, or you might get bored. My favourite way to combat this is to run in pretty places- I get distracted by the environment.  

Terribly cheesy, but true. From here

6. Progress. It might not feel like it straight away, but you will improve. Promise. Don't be disheartened if you have to walk. No one starts by being able to run for ages and ages without stopping- hell, I can barely run for more than 40 minutes without feeling like I'm about to die. Your speed and stamina will both get better the more you run, and again, using something like Map My Run, (or any other app) will help monitor your progress. Try to time your run- I use the stopwatch on my phone (as I always take mine out with me, I use it as an iPod and in case of emergencies- I run in very rural areas!)- as this will give you a really clear indication of whether you're getting faster, or able to run for longer. Everyone starts somewhere, and I promise that the other runners you might see out and about really don't care if you're going slowly, or stopping and walking. I always tell myself that anyone who sees me running has no idea of how far I've gone. For all they know, I could be on mile 20. Keep this in mind when you're feeling a bit embarrassed, and it'll probably make you feel better. But as I said at the start- always listen to your own body. Pushing yourself is great, injuring yourself is not. If you need to stop- stop. You can always try again another day.

So there we have it! My own personal top tips for new runners. I hope you've found this vaguely interesting and/ or useful- I appreciate this may not be a post for everyone, but I'm hoping some people might like it. And if you have any other tips, please share them- I'm always keen to improve my own technique!!


  1. Great post. My sister and I have just started the couch to 5k plan and I'm really enjoying it so far! We've just been doing it round the park and I'm hoping by the time I can run 5k I'll be more into it and buy some proper kit :) xo

  2. Great post. i am planning to download some form of app to get me back into running again. i was doing really well a couple of years ago, but just got completely out of it. i really want to start running again but i always find some excuse. ;)


  3. These are great tips for beginners Alice, especially the breathing one, something I struggle with sometimes, end up panting like a dog. My tip on avoiding injury is don't follow the 'no pain, no gain' theory. Yes, run through a stitch, that's different, but if you're knees are hurting 'while' you're running your best to stop. I suffer badly from dodgy knees, but I know as long as I'm not feeling sharp pain while I'm running I'm all good.

    Jenny | sunny sweet pea xx

  4. Great tips, super helpful!! x

  5. Great tips, thanks very much. The ones about what to do when you get a stitch sound really useful. I think the stone thing would also help when you're going through a tough patch and are on the verge of stopping. Anything to distract you when you feel like you've hit your limit is a good thing!

    I've recently started running again and am really enjoying it. I did the Great South Run in 2008 and although I ran it all non stop and it was a real achievement, I hated every second of the training and the race. But now I've started it up again, and for some reason I'm enjoying it a lot more. Maybe because I'm a bit older now (I've read recently that people in their 30's find running easier than people in their 20's).

    I'm running in the Brighton Color Run ( tomorrow and cannot wait!! This has to be the most fun fun-run ever!!


  6. Ooh thanks for this! I am doing a 10k in 9 days. I can barely run 1k and I have a huge full on cold. People keep telling me I'm mad!I may well have to do the stone trick to get me through it! xxx

  7. Rihanna is my running guilty pleasure too. I love that. Also good on you for going running, it's quite freeing. I used to love it, but now because I have timed myself I know how slow I am now which is depressing so I don't anymore. I miss it.

    Em x

  8. These are brill tips! The one about regulating your breathing has been a revelation for me - I've made sure to focus on this on my last two runs and I can't believe the difference it's made. I did 4 miles today, and 3 of them were sub-10 mins, all because I was breathing properly - I'm so chuffed! Thank you, and happy running :)



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