The Beginner Runner

EVERYONE was a beginner runner at some point so why not learn from the mistakes of others and enjoy a long and rewarding running career?

It’s very inspiring to see folks who have finally mustered the courage and motivation to make a change, get out the door and begin their personal running journey. It’s also disheartening to see that after a short while, some are discouraged with slow progress or sidetracked with an injury, often meaning the end of their would-be running career.

Add to this the well-meaning but uneducated input from non-running friends and family members who say such things as ‘Maybe you just weren’t built for running...’ or ‘Running is hard on your knees...’.

Whether or not you’ve experienced this first hand, let’s look at some very fundamental strategies that you should give some serious consideration so that you get off on the right foot towards your new life and running career.

  1. Pick a goal. This is SO absolutely critical to your success. In order to know if you have succeeded, you need to know what it is you’re after! Pick a goal that is challenging yet not too far away. For example, a 5k run that is about 6 weeks away. Read more about setting SMART goals, then move forward!
  2. Follow a program. Even if you are a foot loose and fancy free kind of person that likes to run when you feel without a watch or training program, at least look at keeping some of kind of record or log of your work and progress as you go along. Running without structure of some kind, particularly if you have specific running goals, will either under prepare you or worse, set you up for injury.
  3. Avoid friction. You’d like to give running a try so you muster up what ‘workout’ clothes you have lying around including a pair of cut-off jogging pants and a well worn cotton t-shirt. You only need to get bloody nipples or a skin rash between your thighs ONCE to know what a deterrent these conditions can be for future planned runs. Shorts, shirts and socks that are ‘Dri-fit’ or other brand moisture wicking material are widely available, light and very affordable these days. They will also last you years and so they are well worth the investment!
  4. Avoid sidewalks. Like the above example, one of the biggest challenges when you’re just starting out is taking quick advantage of the spontaneous motivation to just get out there and run! Often this will mean a run around the neighbourhood sidewalks. While it’s good to mix up your running surfaces, running sidewalks particularly without good shoes, running form and extra weight is an injury waiting to happen. Concrete is 6 times more dense and unforgiving than even asphalt. This translates to just way too much extra shock being absorbed by your unsuspecting virgin joints.
  5. Run softly. Enough just can’t be said about the importance of running form as it pertains to your long term running future. Yes, we are all born with our unique physiology which affects our biomechanics, but running technique is about learning to make the best use of your individuality. In tennis, there is proper technique to a back hand whether your arms are 18” or 22” long. We tend to accept the biomechanical movements that naturally result when you start to run as acceptable running technique. To go from beginner runner to great runner, you need to consider the best ways to maximize your running economy. This means reducing impact, friction, resistance, and the overall effort that it takes to propel you forward. Check out the page on correct running form to learn more. The great advantage that a beginner runner has over a veteran with bad form is the lack of bad habits and the opportunity to learn things the right way from the start!
  6. Build gradually. The road to running fitness, or any fitness, is paved with adaptation. Like with any new sport, your body needs time to get accustomed to running and all of the stresses that it brings about. Remember that stress is essential for growth, but only if your body is given the opportunity to respond and re-build from that stress in order to make you stronger. For a beginner runner it’s easy to get excited from the new experience of an invigorating runner's high but don’t let it lead you to an injury. Rather than going from zero to 5 days a week of running or even back to back days, allow yourself 1 day breaks or cross train in between each workout while your body repairs from the previous day’s run.

In addition to these running fundamentals, you can read up on many more great running tips for beginner runners and veterans alike to help keep you on the right track!

Let's end with this great quote by Ethel Waters:

'We don't pay the price for success, we pay the price for failure.

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