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Running tips for beginners

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 800 kilometres.

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.

Starting out

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 five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.

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 two 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 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.

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 half a dozen times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks.

Staying motivated

Set yourself a goal

Whatever your level, setting goals is important for staying focused and motivated. Make your goals realistic to avoid becoming demoralised. Training for a race 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.

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.

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.

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.

Last reviewed: October 2016

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