I think that everyone is a runner! That said, there were definitely a few things that I wish I knew when I started running that would have helped me avoid some pain and discomfort. After running consistently for a few years and helping a number of clients start running as well, here are my top running tips for beginners (and maybe for those seasoned runners too!)
Tip 1: Understand How Your Body Changes When You Start Running
The first thing that I wish I knew was how my body would change and the timeline for this change.
I see a lot of clients and beginner runners with the desire to run all of the time thinking that that’s going to lead to faster progress. However, our bodies need rest and recovery in order to actually adapt to the training that we’re putting them through.
For instance, your blood volume is going to go up within two weeks of you starting running. So let’s say you’ve never run before and you’re starting a brand new running program. Within two weeks, you’re going to find that you’re catching your breath a little bit easier and that things aren’t as hard as they were before when you’re out on the trails.
But your muscles are going to take longer than that to adapt. And even more so, your connective tissue, your ligaments, and your tendons are going to take a matter of months to adapt to the changes of your new training.
So even though a 5 km is feeling easier, our body might not be ready just yet to bump up the volume or to run a 5 km every day for a week.
Tip #2: Beginner Runners: Use Running Streaks With Caution
A run streaker is someone who decides they’re going to run for X number of days in a row. So maybe it’s a month, maybe it’s a year. I’ve seen people keep them going for a very, very long time, which is really cool.
However, the only drawback to a running streak is, again, it takes our muscles and ligaments much longer to adapt than our energy systems. So we have a higher chance of overdoing it if you decide to hit the pavement every single day.
That said, if you want to do a run streak, my advice is to reduce the distance your running compared to your goal. For example, if you want to run 30 days in a row and you can run already run a 5 km easy, don’t run 5 km every single day.
Instead, do only a tenth of that 5 km, so 500 metres, every day. That’s going to make it easier for you to run every day and reduce the likelihood of overdoing it and potentially injuring yourself. I also recommend talking with a coach if you’re wanting to do a big run streak.
Tip #3: Cross Train To Help Build Strength if You’re a Beginner Runner
If you want to be an endurance runner, then you’ll likely not be doing any strength training for your running. However, most beginner runners need to build up some strength when they are just getting started.
You can experience some amazing gains when you integrate specific exercises fit for your body and how you run.
Tip #4: You Don’t Need New Gear to Be a New Runner
I totally understand why you want to buy near gear when you’re starting. But, the reality is that you only need a couple of things to get started.
My thought is to keep it simple to start so you can change one thing at a time.
Something I didn’t have when I was a beginner runner was a running vest. I actually didn’t get one until after I did my first 50 km trail ultra (which I learned some things from as well!)
The only thing I would say you should invest in is a really affordable heart rate monitor and watch. This will help you understand your intensity and identify where you are and where you want to make progress.
Tip #5: You Are a Runner Even Without All the Fancy Gear
Building off the last tip for beginner runners is: don’t think you aren’t a runner because you don’t have all the fancy gear. I hear a lot of people say, “I’m not a runner until I buy this brand new watch,” or “I’m not a runner until I run 18 km at once.”
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to do a certain distance, do certain trails, or have certain things to actually be considered a runner. Don’t think that you have to reach a certain milestone before you can call yourself that.
Tip #6: Don’t Use Pace as an Indicator of Intensity
Again, I’ve seen people make a training plan that consists of 3 km every day. It’s the same route and they’re going to see how fast they can do it. As their speed increases during this 3 km, they recognize the progress and feel like they are getting better.
This is totally a great feeling but it’s so important to incorporate slow, low-intensity runs too. These are really important for helping change your physiology when you are a beginner runner. And that is going to make you a better runner in the long run.
Instead of pace, use heart rate as an indicator of your intensity. For example, a run uphill is likely going to be slower than a flat road run, but that does not mean the uphill section was a ‘bad’ run.
Pace does not equal intensity!
Tip #7: Include a Warm-Up and Cool-Down
Including a warm-up has massive benefits when you actually start running because your muscles, ligaments, heart, and lungs are now ready for what you’re about to do. And, you’re going to get more out of that run.
A trick I sometimes use if I’m running with a friend is to warm up at home before meeting them at the trailhead. Once you get your heart rate up and introduce some movement to your joints, those benefits are going to stay with you for at least an hour. So as long as you’re not driving more than an hour to your trailhead, you’re good to go.
And don’t forget the cool down after. I can be bad for this cause sometimes I just want to sit and relax. Even if you take a few minutes to scan your body and pick one area that you’re going to do a little recovery on, that is going to help you massively on your next time out. So make time for warm-up, make time for recovery afterwards.
Tip #8: You Likely Don’t Need Gatorade
If you’re not running for more than an hour and a half, you likely don’t need Gatorade (or any other sugary drink.)
Of course, there are some caveats for this such as if it’s really hot out or you’re pushing at the top end of your intensity. But, I often see the overconsumption of these high sugar drinks when you don’t need them during shorter runs.
This will take some time when you’re a beginner runner, but you’ll soon understand what your body needs for fuel and if you do need extra fuel during your run.
Tip #9: Running is a Skill!
I’ve said this tip somewhat, but I still think it’s one of the most important tips especially for beginner runners.
Running is a skill!
Especially pacing yourself, in particular, is a skill. And the only way you’re going to get better is by going out there and doing it.
You can consciously work on your pacing and review your runs for things you’d like to try next time. If you include some skill-building runs into your training, these will help you test your body. You’ll find that it helps your running in the long run.
And I’ve found that with beginner runners, skill-building runs make a massive difference in accelerating progress. Running is mental as well as physical and so knowing how to push yourself is important!
I’d love to hear from you. Is there something I missed, something that you want to know more about or a mistake that you made when you were a beginner runner? Please share below and make sure to have a WILDR day!
If you’re wanting to get into Trail Running shape, check out our WILDR Trail Running Ready 8 Week Online Program: https://www.wildr.ca/product/trail-running-ready-8-week-dumbbell-program/