Before this year of shifting lockdowns and changing fitness routines, learning how to start running probably fell into the camp of saving for rainy days. Running may seem so simple that preparing to start a running routine may sound silly. But by learning a few basics about the sport—such as the different types of running and different gear options—you can increase your enjoyment and make your training more effective.
You’ll find plenty of information in this guide, from safety precautions to nutrition tips and more. It’s probably more information than you need to head out on your first run. You may want to bookmark this page and revisit as needed to guide your running journey.
Regular running can reduce your risk of long-term illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.
Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently and comfortably, and with less stress on your body and reduced injury risk. Proper running form reduces your risk of fatigue and ensures that you are getting the most out of your run. Follow these tips to work on perfecting your form.
Is running innate? It was hardwired into our species for survival and most of us picked it up naturally as kids—no coaching required.
Nonetheless, a quick Sunday morning drive will show you plenty of giraffe-like gaits and shuffling zombies who illuminate the fact that many humans are, plain and simple, bad at running.
Maybe they’re running with dogs, are just plain tired, or don’t even realize their hands flopping around. All the same, one thing is for sure: their form is bad.
Many beginner runners don’t think about their posture when they start running. After all, running is so freeing – the temptation is just to set off without a care in the world.
And this is completely fine to begin with, but over time as you clock up the miles you may want to give more thought to your running technique and form. Because if done incorrectly, it can slowly cause imbalances in your muscles and put you at higher risk of injury.
A common question I get from beginner runners who are looking to improve their form and technique is how to run properly.
Good posture involves you training your body to walk and run, and indeed sit and lie, in a certain way.
Positions where the least strain is placed on joints, supporting muscles and ligaments during movement are best.
How To Start Running Today
Establish A Base Level of Fitness
If you’re starting from zero, shooting out the front door and onto your first 10k will leave you frustrated, angry, and so sore you never do it again. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you start running with no prior exercise habits, you’ll probably end up hurting yourself and quitting before you ever really started.
The simplest thing to do would be to start walking. But it can be anything — as long as you’re getting physically active on a regular basis, your body will be able to handle the impending pavement pounding. Go hiking, swimming, or dancing. If it’s fun, all the better!
Get A Good Pair of Running Shoes
Some research suggests that barefoot running leads to fewer injuries than running in running shoes, even the fanciest ones. However, you’re probably not going to be running barefoot anywhere, unless it’s after chasing a kid or a meatball that rolled away unexpectedly. So look for a shoe that can simulate running barefoot. If you’re willing to rock those toe shoes (Vibrams), more power to you, but there are many minimalist running shoes that do not have toe sleeves. A good pair of shoes should not disrupt the way you run.
The last thing you want is shin splints, a pulled hamstring, or some other injury that can be avoided. Take five or ten minutes before your run to warm up. However, this does not mean stretching. In fact, static stretching beforehand can hurt you!
Instead, warm up your muscles by doing deadlifts, donkey kicks, lunges, and other similar exercises that stretch your muscles, but also get them working. Save the stretching for after the run.
Take The First Step
It seems easy to wait for the “perfect” time to start. Whether that means after the holidays, when the kids are back in school, or even just waiting for a Monday. Spoiler alert: it’s a trap! Putting off your first run, whether it’s your first-ever or just the first after a long layoff, is just a way of procrastinating.
As long as you’ve got a good pair of shoes on your feet, you’ve got what you need to start. Your first couple of weeks should include a few runs, and they only need to be 15 or 20 minutes each. Keeping the frequency and volume of your runs low will make the mental and physical barriers less intimidating. And you can stay at this level as long as you need to. The important thing is to just start somewhere!
Don’t stare at your feet. Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Not only is this proper running form, but it’s also a safer way to run because you can see what’s coming and avoid falling.
Is your head jutting forward as you run? This puts a lot of stress on the neck and shoulder muscles, which can lead to tension. To make sure you’re not leaning forward with your head when you’re running, hold it so that your ears are right over the middle of your shoulders.
Keep Hands at Your Waist
Try to keep your hands at waist level, right about where they might lightly brush your hip. Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up by their chest, especially as they get tired.
You may actually get even more tired by holding your arms that way and you’ll start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck. (However, if you are sprinting, your arms will naturally drive your hands further back and up.)
Know How to Move Your Arms
Keep your elbows at around a 90 degree angle, close to your body. Use a 110 degree angle for long-distance (except when you are working up a hill). Swing each arm forward and backward in time with the opposite leg; this provides momentum and prevents your body from twisting.
Do not tense your fists. It will waste energy and make your palms sweaty. Imagine that you have two fragile items in each of your hands and if you tense too hard, you will break them.
Don’t let your hands cross the midline of your torso, or you’ll create a twisting motion. This could cause cramps.
If you bounce when you run, known as vertical oscillation, your head and body are moving up and down too much, which wastes a lot of energy. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue.
Some experts say a cadence of 90, with your left foot contacting the ground 90 times per minute, is the turnover rate seen in the most efficient runners. Shortening your stride will raise your cadence.
Practice any changes in your cadence and foot strike for short periods only. They will feel unnatural at first and you don’t want to overdo it. As they become more natural you will be able to do them for longer periods of your running workout.
Pick Up Your Knees and Feet
Once you get to grips with the other parts of good form and posture as described above, you’ll find picking up your knees and feet much easier on your run.
Stand tall, look ahead, engage your core and concentrate on bringing your knees and feet up with each stride.
There are exercises you can do to get used to picking up your feet and making it a habit.
High knees – either standing or as part of a run – are great for this.
I recommend you include these as running drills in your warm up if you struggle to keep your knees and feet up during your run.
Control Your Breathing
Your breathing rhythm when running should fit in with the overall rhythm that the rest of your body is working to. The ratios with with you inhale and exhale will most likely vary as your intensity of exercise varies. Getting your breathing right is integral to your running technique and should be practiced so that you can maintain your composure on race day as your concentration is elsewhere.
Control How You Land on Your Feet
Have your feet land under you as you run. Try mimicking it when you go for your real runs at the gym or on the trail.
However, don’t be too strict in your control. It should feel natural. Don’t try to force a certain kind of strike as forcing it will add strain on your body.
If you’re sprinting, you want to stay on the balls of your feet as much as is humanly possible. The more you barely touch the ground, the more you’ll practically be flying. However, even if you’re running long distances, it’s best to stay off your heels. When you land with the back of your foot, the angle you create from foot to calf (you’re forming an unnatural “V” shape) can lead to injury.