Running can be a fun and flexible way to exercise – it can help keep you in shape and help you lose weight too.
This guide is designed to make running a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and to provide you with tips on how to stay motivated.
Before you start
If you feel out of shape, or you're recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, see your doctor before you start running.
If you've not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently by walking before you move on to running. You should stop and seek medical advice if you are feeling unwell.
Running requires very little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type will reduce the risk of injury.
There are many types of running shoes on the market. You may need advice from a specialist running retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.
The shoes' shock absorbers weaken over time, increasing your risk of injury. It's advisable to replace running shoes every 800km or when you start to see obvious signs of wear and tear on the soles of the shoes.
Plan your runs. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you're going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it won't slip your mind.
To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it's essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.
Start each run with a gentle warm up of at least 5 minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs. A warm up will help increase blood flow to muscles, increase muscle suppleness and prevent unnecessary stress and fatigue being placed on your heart, lungs and muscles.
Walk at first
Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable (anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes). Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, include some running intervals of one to 2 minutes into your walking at a speed that feels comfortable. As time goes on, make the running intervals longer, until you're running for 30 minutes continuously.
Run with style
Run with your arms and shoulders relaxed, and elbows bent. Keep an upright posture and a smooth running stride, striking the ground from heel to toe.
Give yourself a few minutes to cool down (to bring your heartbeat back to normal) after each run by walking followed by gently stretching your leg muscles.
Get into a pattern
Regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus. It's better to run twice a week, every week, than to run 6 times one week and then do no running for the next 3 weeks.
Set yourself a goal
Whatever your level, setting goals is important to stay focused and motivated. Make your goals realistic to avoid becoming demoralised. Training for a race, fun-run or a charity run is a good way to keep going.
Run with a friend
It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You'll encourage each other when you're not so keen to run. You'll feel you don't want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you.
Get your joggers or workout clothes out the night before so you are ready to go. The less you can think about it when about to start an exercise session – the less likely you will change your mind.
Keep a diary
Keep a diary of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. That way, whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back and be encouraged by how much you've improved.
There are also many running apps that can help you to chart your run time, pace, kilojoules burned, and a GPS that will give you a map of your run. Tracking your workout might motivate you to keep going so you can beat your personal records. Try Endomondo or Map My Run, both available free on iTunes. There’s also the Couch to 5k app, which is a free training app that coaches you to run a 5-km distance in eight weeks.
Mix it up
Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances and routes. Try adding bursts of jogging to your usual walk or if you are already jogging try adding short sprint intervals. This will increase your metabolic rate for the next 24-48 hours and achieve greater health and fitness benefits.
Join a club
A running club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels, including beginners. Clubs are also a great way to find running partners to run with outside of club sessions. Check out Park Runs: these are weekly, 5km timed runs around the world, and there are Park Runs all over Australia. They are open to everyone, free, safe and easy to take part in.
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Last reviewed: August 2020