Home Fitness guide How to start running: tips for beginners

How to start running: tips for beginners


When it comes to starting a running program, there’s one thing Dr. Paul Ochoa, physical therapist and owner of F Squared Physical Therapy in New York City, wants beginners to know: running is a sport. And like any sport, take time to progress and expect some pain and discomfort along the way.

“All of this accompanies any physical sport that you are going to start,” Ochoa told TODAY Health. “Why? Because it puts extra stress on your body that you’re not used to.

However, if you experience pain that “stops you in your tracks” or is “really constant” and “doesn’t quite go away”, even if it seems tolerable, you should seek help from a physiotherapist, a advised Ochoa.

Many new runners make the mistake of jumping into racing completely unprepared, he said, although the amount of preparation they need depends on their unique athletic and medical history. But generally, new runners have to give themselves time to progress or risk increasing their chances of developing injuries that can hinder their progress.

“It’s about creating a habit,” Ochoa said. “That’s what I try to tell my patients. It is best to create a habit of timely types of exercises that you do frequently.

If you’re new to running, you may not know how to develop an effective running habit. After all, the internet is full of all kinds of advice, and not all of it good. But generally, you should look for a plan that avoids overdoing it too soon, and if you can, hire a running coach. If you’re a beginner and wondering where to start, follow these tips.

Start with a walking program

Beginners should start with a fitness walking program, which will help prepare their muscles and tissues for the stress of running, according to Chris Johnson, a physical therapist, endurance trainer and owner of Zeren PT LLC in Seattle. “And when I say walk, I’m talking about what I call power walking, which is brisk walking with your arms pumping out 3 to 3.5 miles per hour,” he said.

Generally, your walking program should consist of about 2 to 3 weeks of power walking for 30 to 45 minutes a day, with slightly longer walks on weekends, he said. “It would slowly turn into a run,” Johnson said, “and then eventually into a continuous run.”

Ease into a walk-run program

According to Johnson, your walk-run program should start with short running intervals followed by short walking intervals. From there, slowly progress to longer running intervals and shorter walking intervals. A good guide to start, he added, is the “rule of two”: 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking, 6-7 times, for about 30 minutes.

As you get used to it, increase the ratio to 3 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. When it starts to feel easy, increase your run to 4 minutes followed by a minute of walking. “You’re just pushing gently,” Johnson explained. “You give the body time to adapt.”

Shorten your stride

The longer your stride, the more cumulative load you put on your legs because you cover more distance between steps. As a result, long strides are less effective and can increase your chances of developing injuries that will hinder your progress. According to Johnson, taking shorter, faster steps per minute is “more forgiving on the body.” There are a number of running apps that can help you track your steps per minute, also known as cadence.

Give your body a chance to adapt and recover

To condition your body for running and limit potential injury, Johnson advises running three to four times a week on non-consecutive days. This will help you progress with regular training while giving you plenty of time to recover well. You should also stick to a slower pace for the majority of your runs to avoid overtraining. “No high intensity intervals, no hills, no strides,” Johnson said. “Because if you’re going to run faster, you have to hit the ground harder, and that’s simple physics.”

Develop a rhythm, then layer the intensity

Once you’ve developed a good running tolerance, you can begin to increase the intensity. “My goal is to get someone running four days a week, every other day, and from there work them up to maybe an hour of continuous running, if that fits their goals. “, Johnson said.

From there, you can start layering the intensity. Start with a simple negative split in which the second half of your run is slightly faster than the first. For example, let’s say you start with a 45 minute run. The first 30 of those minutes would be at conversational pace (in which you run slow enough to be able to comfortably speak in full sentences), and the last 15 minutes you would run about 10-15 seconds faster per mile, followed by a five-minute walk and recovery, he says.

Warm up before running

Although stretching has some benefits for runners, such as increasing your blood flow and helping you relax and cool down after a run, it hasn’t been proven by research to prevent injury, according to Ochoa et al. Johnson.

A better way to reduce your risk of injury is to warm up before your runs. An example of a warm-up for a beginner might be a brisk walk for 5 to 10 minutes at a low to moderate difficulty level where you “build up a nice little sweat” before running, Ochoa said.

A good pair of sneakers will also help reduce injuries. While there are no perfect sneakers for every runner, shoes should be comfortable, not too heavy for your feet, and allow your foot to move fairly freely, according to Ochoa. He said he should also have a mid-level cushion.

When shopping for sneakers, Johnson advises removing the inner liner (if possible) and stepping on them. “If your foot stretches over that inner liner, the shoe probably won’t work,” he said. “This interior should capture your foot.”

Muscle training, especially below the knee

Both Ochoa and Johnson have said that strength training is a great way to reduce injuries. While strengthening the muscles above the knee is important, including the hips, quads and glutes, be careful not to neglect your calves, which take a disproportionate load while running, according to Johnson.

“The below the knee is key when it comes to conditioning or running the musculature,” he said, noting that calf raises can strengthen these muscles.

While a strength training program will look different for everyone, Johnson said most people should train about 2-3 times per week at around 70 percent of their maximum effort.