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Do you want to start running, but you aren't quite sure where to begin? Running is an incredible activity that offers endless health benefits for both your physical and mental health. And the great part is, it's free and anyone can do it. (Psst… if you need help with getting started, including being able to afford proper shoes, you can apply for our Starting Line Scholarship).


If you're new to running, read on for some beginner tips for new runners to help you get started on the right foot!


10 Tips for New Runners:

  1. Choose the right running shoes.

  2. Set a comfortable pace.

  3. Set achievable running goals.

  4. Take walk breaks.

  5. Focus on proper form.

  6. Incorporate strength training.

  7. Prioritize recovery.

  8. Choose a fun first race.

  9. Join a running community.

  10. Have fun!


1. Choose the Right Running Shoes

The right shoes are as important for beginner runners as the correct tires are for the best performance of a car and can make all the difference in your running experience. Properly fitting shoes offer comfort and help prevent injuries, which is particularly important for those who are new to running.


Before purchasing a pair of running shoes, visit your local running store. They can provide custom fittings, analyze your gait, and share knowledge about different brands and types of shoes available. The store associates can help you find the right running shoe for your needs, and they can also offer advice on other running gear like moisture-wicking socks.


When to Replace Your Shoes

Just like the tires on a car wear out and can impact performance over time, so can the tread on your shoes. It's generally recommended to replace your shoes every 300-500 miles, or if you begin to feel pain in your feet, legs, knees, hips or back. Replacing your running shoes when they start to wear out can help you stay injury free.


2. Set a Comfortable Pace

When you're just getting started, be sure to set a comfortable pace that you can maintain consistently. Try not to compare yourself to more experienced runners and instead focus on your unique fitness level and health. Pay attention to your body's signals during your runs, such as pain or discomfort, as these may indicate the need to adjust your pace or incorporate a walk break. Remember, the goal is to develop a lasting running practice that brings you joy over time, rather than pushing yourself too hard in each session.


As you grow more accustomed to your running routine, you can start to slowly increase your pace. Introduce short bursts of increased speed and extend their duration gradually to allow your body to adapt. Techniques like interval training and hill runs can help improve your performance. Consistency is key to progress, so keep up your running sessions and set achievable goals to stay motivated and enjoy your running journey.


3. Set Achievable Running Goals

If you're just getting started, a goal like running a marathon might seem incredibly overwhelming. Going from zero to 26.2 miles is a big jump. Instead, try focusing on small and achievable goals that will eventually build up to bigger goals such as running a marathon or half marathon.


By focusing on targets such as running non-stop over a certain distance or reaching a particular time, you maintain your drive and concentration.


Use the SMART criteria when creating your goals to ensure they are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-sensitive


Download our SMART Goal setting sheet here.


Celebrate Milestones


A woman running a 5K with a Still I Run tshirt on

Celebrating key moments is so important in your journey as a runner. Whether it’s completing your first mile without stopping or setting a new personal best, each success deserves recognition. Come up with your own fun traditions or rituals to commemorate these achievements, and invite friends and family to share in your success.


Use an App for Goal Tracking

If your goals include running a certain distance or preparing for a race, a running app can help you monitor your improvements and stay motivated. Apps like Garmin Connect, Strava, or Nike Run Club keep records of your performance by tracking times and distances. They also provide customized workout schedules, insights on athletic performance, and integration with devices like a smartwatch or fitness tracker.


4. Take Walk Breaks

Incorporating walk breaks into your running is not only okay, but encouraged! Even veteran runners often incorporate walk breaks into their running, and for good reason.


Walking can:

  • reduce the risk of sustaining injuries

  • help maintain energy levels more efficiently

  • serve as an active recovery period


Starting out with a beginner running program that incorporates run-walk intervals is an excellent strategy for those new to running. For instance, alternating between one minute of running and one minute of walking can help set a foundation and build up your endurance.


5. Focus on Proper Running Form

Proper running form is essential to prevent injuries and improve efficiency. When you start running, you're doing more than just moving your legs; your entire body needs to work in harmony. This includes maintaining a straight posture, keeping your head up, your back straight, and your shoulders level.


It's also important to avoid overstriding and to keep your feet landing directly under your body. As you run, your arms should swing naturally with your stride, and your hands should be relaxed.


Here are a few tips for maintaining good form:

  • Core Engagement: Engaging your core is crucial for stability and can help prevent injuries. It's important to keep your abdominal muscles slightly contracted during your run to maintain good posture and balance.

  • Arm Movement: Your arms can help set your rhythm and pace. They should be bent at a comfortable angle and swing in coordination with the opposite leg, avoiding crossing over your body, to maintain efficiency and momentum.

  • Stride Length: Stride length is key to preventing overstriding, which can lead to injuries. Aim for a stride that allows your foot to land directly beneath your body, which can help you maintain a natural and comfortable pace while running.


6. Don't Neglect Strength Training in Your Running Routine


A new runner incorporating strength training.

Strength training isn’t just beneficial for bodybuilders; it’s essential for runners, too. Strength training can boost muscular power and may result in faster speeds while also reducing the likelihood of sustaining injuries.


It might seem difficult to maintain a balance between running and strength training, but with proper planning, it is certainly within reach.


Here are a few tips for beginner runners to incorporate strength training:

  1. Set aside particular days for each activity—running, strength workouts, and rest days.

  2. Tailor your weight training routine to complement your schedule of runs. Be cautious not to over-exert yourself, which could lead to injuries.

  3. Start with bodyweight exercises to build a foundation of strength before adding weights. This can include squats, push-ups, and lunges that can be performed anywhere, without the need for a gym.

  4. Incorporate exercises that target the core and improve stability, such as planks and bridges, which can enhance your running posture and efficiency.


7. Prioritize Recovery

Recovery is an essential component of any running program, especially for beginners. It's the time when your body repairs itself, making you stronger and more resilient for your next run. Ignoring recovery can lead to overuse injuries and burnout, which can set back your progress.


Here are some key aspects of a good recovery strategy:

  • Rest: Schedule regular rest days to allow your muscles time to rebuild. These are as important as your running days because they give your body the chance to repair and strengthen.

  • Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours per night to give your body the best chance to heal and rejuvenate.

  • Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet rich in proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates helps replenish energy stores and repair muscle tissues.

  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is important for overall health and aids in the recovery process. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body and having plenty of fluids will improve every aspect of your recovery.

  • Active Recovery: Gentle movement on your off days, such as walking or yoga, can improve circulation and help speed up the recovery process.

  • Post-Run Routine: Develop a post-run routine that includes cooling down and stretching. This can help reduce muscle soreness and improve flexibility.


Remember, recovery is not a passive process, and actively engaging in your recovery can significantly improve your running performance and overall enjoyment of the sport.


8. Sign Up For a Fun Run

There’s nothing quite like the experience of running, except perhaps when you’re doing it alongside others who share your enthusiasm for the sport! Participating in a themed fun run or race can amplify your excitement and motivation, offering you an opportunity to revel in the communal spirit of running. These events are specifically crafted to merge enjoyment with physical exercise, ensuring that participants have an invigorating and inspiring time on race day.


Choosing your inaugural race is an important choice. Remember, the emphasis should not be on how fast or far you go, but rather on making it to the end! When picking your first half marathon, consider your current fitness state instead of where you’ve been or hope to be. Assess how much time and effort you can realistically dedicate to training while factoring in other aspects of life like family obligations and work pressure.


Some great places to look for local races in your area includes RunSignUp.com or Running the USA

9. Join a Running Community for Support


Runners holding the Still I Run banner

Joining a running group is a fantastic way to meet new friends, stay motivated, and get advice from more experienced runners. Whether it's a local running club, a training group, or an online community, being part of a group provides a sense of belonging and can make your running journey more enjoyable.


Running with others can also help you push through tough times. When you're feeling less motivated, knowing that your running buddy is waiting for you can be the nudge you need to get out the door. Plus, running communities often have coaches or seasoned runners who can offer tips on everything from running form to nutrition.


Many running communities also organize group runs, which can vary from relaxed, social jogs to more structured workouts. These events are a great opportunity to learn from others, share your own experiences, and find companionship in the shared challenge of running. 


Many running communities often participate in local races and events, providing a supportive environment to test your progress. Some groups even host clinics on topics like injury prevention, race strategy, and gear selection.


Still I Run: A Community for Mental Health and Running

Still I Run is a group of individuals who are passionate about running and mental health advocacy, aiming to highlight the positive impact of running on mental wellbeing while also challenging the stereotypes associated with mental illness. Still I Run provides both in-person and virtual initiatives that focus on educating others regarding the advantages of running for psychological wellness, increasing awareness about mental health issues, and assisting new runners in beginning their journey with running.


If you’re looking for a community where the excitement of running meets strong support for mental health, check out our online community!


10. Have Fun!


Runners posing together and celebrating during a race

Running should ultimately be an enjoyable activity that you look forward to, not a chore that you dread. Allow yourself to have fun with it! Mix up your routes to explore new scenery, create playlists of your favorite upbeat songs to energize your runs, or find a running partner and challenge one another. Remember, the more you enjoy running, the more likely you are to stick with it long-term.


Smile and wave at fellow runners, acknowledge your progress and the hard work you're putting in, and don't forget to laugh at the mishaps and challenges that come with starting a new fitness routine. Keep it playful, stay positive, and celebrate your running adventures, because when you're having fun, you're winning at running.

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3/27/2024 | 8 min read

Top 10 Tips for New Runners

By Amber Kraus

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