Running tips for beginners: how to learn to love running

Posted by for Strong Women

Running is the perfect workout for our times, getting you out of the house, supporting your mental health and increasing your fitness. But where do you start if you’re someone who gets puffed out just thinking about a 5k? 

The UK has been on lockdown for over six weeks and we are just about beginning to adjust to the ‘new normal’. We are getting used to making use of the food in our cupboards rather than popping to the shops every day, and we are just about keeping on top of all of the Zoom call requests. 

Yet our exercise routines still feel slightly out of whack. We’re treasuring our once-a-day exercise, using it to not only protect our physical health but also our mental health, but walking isn’t making us feel as energised as gym sessions used to. 

That might mean the time has come to give in to the run. We know, we know. It’s hard – there’s a reason it’s always on our New Year’s resolution list – but it’s the perfect way to get out of your current workout ruts. 

Once you’ve got the hang of the tough mix of pacing yourself, breathing right and dodging others on the pavement, you might even learn to love it. To help you get there, we’ve found the best tips, from getting the best kit to finding good music.


Community is power

While joining a running club is pretty out of the question right now, you can still find motivation from others. “Decide to go running with someone else in your household, or plan to go running at the same time as a friend two or three times a week, and message each other when you’re done,” advises runner and PT Georgie Okell. Not only will it keep you accountable, but you can discuss your technique and mindset on individual runs so you know how to improve.

Running coach Emma Kirk Odunubi also recommends virtual communities: “There’s a bombardment of advice on social media, but checking in with communities like UK Run Chat, which is a page where your running questions can be answered, will motivate you.”

Take it slow

If you’re used to doing an intense 45 minute workout, a 30 minute run might sound easy. “People can get so demotivated when three minutes in they’re dying,” says Emma. “Don’t be so hard on yourself and break yourself in slowly.”

Both Emma and Georgie recommend starting with intervals. That means running for one minute then walking for one minute for a total of 15 minutes, and working yourself up so you’re out for 20 minutes. “As your running fitness starts to improve, you can increase the running intervals and shorten the walking ones,” says Georgie.

Listen carefully

Your workout playlist is essential regardless of the activity, but getting it right is even more important when running. In fact, Georgie actually recommends running without any music at all: “This might sound like hell on earth, but it’s really important to be able to hear how hard our feet are hitting the ground and how hard we are breathing. Try noticing how your body is responding and focusing on keeping your step and breathing light, you’ll be able to go further.”

If being alone with your own thoughts sounds too exposing right now, podcasts like the NHS Couch to 5k can help steer you along. If music really is your jam, Emma recommends finding a spotify playlist that’s targetted to how fast you can go. “One ranging from 160-180 BPM is roughly what you should aim for. Then you just need to make sure you’re running to the beat,” she says. 

Get the body ready 

As well as the mind, you need to prep the body. “Your running gear doesn’t need to be super fancy, but a decent sports bra and a pair of trainers that haven’t been in the back of a cupboard for five years will make a real difference,” says Georgie. We’ve got all of that kit recommended on the Strong Women site and on our Instagram Stories highlights

As well as what you put on your body, think about how you’ve working with the muscles and joints inside. “Rather than pegging it straight out the front door, limber up, swing your legs out, move through a few squats, lunges, inchworms, so that you’re muscles aren’t going from a standing start,” she says. For Emma, that also means prepping the breath: “That is what will stop you the most. Try not to breathe from the top of your ribs and hold tension in your shoulders. Relax through the upper body and it will be easier for you.”

Set a goal

“I’ve noticed that during this time it’s been really important for me to have a goal. It makes you feel like you’re achieving something even though everything else is so out of our control,” says Emma. They can be small: getting out twice a week, running for five minutes without stopping. Or they can be long term: nailing a 10k by the end of the year. But having something to work towards will make pounding the pavement feel a little bit more worthwhile. 

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