There are a lot of cliche statements and memes about running on the internet. However, just because someone puts it on Instagram or Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s good advice. If you’re a brand new runner, how do you know what to listen to and what not to listen to?
In this post, I’m sharing 25 things that I think you should keep in mind as a beginning runner. Some tips are evidence-based, while others are based on experience. It’s sort of a things-I-wish-I-knew-when-I-started-running list.
Because, as the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Let’s change that so you can be on your way to becoming a better, more well-rounded runner.
25 Things to Keep in Mind as a Brand New Runner
1. Don’t judge a run by the first mile.
The first mile is almost always going to feel and be slower than the rest of your run. Unless, of course, you go out way too fast and exhaust yourself for the remainder of the run (Don’t do that. 😜).
2. Don’t give up. Consistency is golden.
This mundane 4-syllable word will go a long way in transforming you into a runner who can go longer and faster. This is because the benefits of running are compounded over months and years of consistent training. Check out this quote from Outside Online: “Consistency is more important than how hard or how long you run, what speed training or stretches you do, or what shoes you buy.”
So if you really want your running to improve, keep going. Don’t give up just because you hit a rough patch or miss some runs.
3. Set small goals and build on them as you get stronger.
Goals give you something to work towards. They foster a habit of consistency and help to get you back on track when you veer off course. A well-defined goal allows you to assess the “why” behind that goal, as well as to track your progress.
To learn how to create SMART running goals, check out this post.
Start by setting smaller goals and, as you achieve those, you can build on them. For example, you might set a goal to run your first 5K before attempting to complete a half marathon.
4. Beware of the 3 Toos (too much, too fast, too soon).
Increasing volume (mileage) and speed (pace) too quickly can be a recipe for injury – especially if you increase them simultaneously. It’s not a hard and fast rule but, especially as a beginning runner, aim to add no more than 10% of the previous week’s mileage each week.
It’s better to build up a strong base of easy miles before adding longer, more formal speed work sessions.
5. Not every run will feel stellar.
On the flip side, not every run will feel horrible. Sometimes, a good run happens when you least expect it!
6. Don’t worry about pace.
This is an easy trap to fall into, especially when you start comparing your times to other runners. As a beginner, you’re better off focusing on covering a distance (in no set amount of time) or running for a period of time (without adding distance requirements to that time). Your pace (as well as your endurance) will improve as you continue running month after month.
7. There’s nothing wrong with walking!
Seriously. Please don’t let social media, or the internet, or well-intentioned friends, or even elite runners make you think a real runner can’t walk. It really irks me when I see other runners looking down on people who don’t run continuously.
And, quite honestly, depending on your age and current fitness level, it’s actually better for you to start with a walk/run method if you’re a beginning runner. This gives your tendons and ligaments time to adapt to running in short bouts, which decreases your chance of sustaining overuse injuries.
If your goal is to cover a certain distance without any walking – great! You can get there. Or, if you want to pursue a run/walk method, such as Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run, for the long-term – that’s great too!
8. Embrace and enjoy the journey.
Running is a gift and if you want to be able to enjoy it for the long term, embrace the journey. Even if that means it’s going to take a while for you to get to the level you’d like to be at. Everyone starts at the beginning, so don’t compare your progress with someone else.
9. Don’t neglect activities that will complement and enhance your running and aid in injury prevention.
Things like a dynamic warm-up, cross training, and strength training will all work towards making you a better, less injury-prone runner.
10. Don’t underestimate the power of proper recovery.
Recovery is its own category of “activity” that complements and enhances running and aids in injury prevention. It encompasses adequate sleep, sufficient fueling and nutrition, as well as taking easy days and rest days seriously.
11. Rest days have a purpose!
I know there are many fans of run streaking out there. Sadly, I am not one of them.
Many pro and elite runners run 7 days a week (often with double-run days). Their bodies have adapted to the progressive load of running over time, making it possible for them to do this. Their easy and recovery runs serve as “rest” days. However, this is not how a beginner should train.
Taking at least one day off per week gives your body time to recover from the physical stress placed on it by running. Rest days reduce the amount of cortisol in the body and aid in injury prevention. Micro-tears in the muscles are repaired and physiological adaptations are made as your body absorbs the training you’ve been doing. “Gains” from running are made during a rest day (similar to lifting weights). In addition to physical benefits, rest days also provide a mental break from running.
12. Every run should not be at max effort.
A common misconception among new runners is that, in order to complete a race at a certain pace, they must always train at or near that pace. This just isn’t true.
When you’re first starting out, you shouldn’t even worry about your pace (see #6). As you become more comfortable running continuously for 30 minutes or more 3-4 times per week, you can begin to add in some higher intensity runs. Aim to follow the 80/20 “rule”, where no more than 20% of your weekly mileage is at a harder effort and 80% of your weekly mileage is run at an easy, conversational pace.
13. Don’t be discouraged if injury, illness, or burnout occur.
Whatever the reason, every runner will eventually go through a tough season. Use the time off from running to assess your training and whether or not you need to make any modifications. Sometimes these little hiccups will make it possible for us to discover shortcomings that we wouldn’t have realized otherwise. Maybe you’ve increased your mileage too quickly. Or perhaps you’re neglecting some much-needed strengthening exercises. Or you need to focus on recovery strategies, like getting more sleep.
14. If you get injured, don’t wait too long before seeking help from an expert.
It can mean the difference between taking months off or a couple of weeks off from running. A good physical therapist can provide you with runner-specific strengthening exercises to improve strength in areas that need it the most.
15. You will not always wake up feeling motivated to run. Do it anyway.
For tips on motivating yourself to run regularly (or to help you run when you don’t feel motivated), check out the beginning runner questions in this article.
16. Get fitted for the right shoes.
A quality pair of running shoes is a worthwhile investment. Find the right fit for your feet by taking a trip to your local running store and allowing the specialists there to observe your gait and guide you in determining which shoe model to start with.
17. Running can extend your lifespan.
Now that’s good news!
Renowned running coach Hal Higdon puts it this way: “In deciding to become a runner, you make a very important choice that will extend your lifespan.” He references a quote from Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper which says, “…research suggests that people who exercise regularly can extend their lifespan by six to nine years.”
18. Save static stretching for after the run.
Despite what you did in PE class as a kid, studies have demonstrated the potential negative effects of performing static stretches before a workout. Instead, complete a dynamic warm-up before you run and save the static stretches for afterward.
According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, “A warm-up consists of preparatory activities and functionally based movements that are specifically designed to prepare the body for exercise or sport. In contrast, the primary goal of stretching is to enhance flexibility.”
19. AnyBODY can be a runner (and at any age).
Does this even need any explanation?!
Your body type and your age do not limit your ability to become a runner. Don’t forget that.
20. If you miss a few runs, don’t beat yourself up.
Things like illness, exhaustion and just plain life are bound to happen. You’re probably going to miss a few runs here and there. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t try to squeeze missed mileage from multiple days into the next week.
21. Running is so much more than putting one foot in front of the other.
The resiliency you develop through running can have a positive impact on other areas of your life as well. For me, personally, I’ve seen many parallels between running and my Christian walk. Running can teach us about endurance, discipline, pain, suffering, faith, and patience, among other things.
22. Keep a running journal.
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know how much I value the importance of keeping a running journal. A running journal or log is a helpful tool to monitor your progress as a runner. It allows you to keep track of aches and pains that may be on their way to full-blown injuries. A running journal also helps you to hold yourself accountable in working towards your goals.
To learn more about running journals, read The Running Journal: What is it and What Should it Include?
To learn more about the benefits of keeping a running journal, check out this post.
And, for even more about running journals, read 5 Different Ways to Keep a Running Log or Journal.
To download a copy of my printable Weekly Running Log, click the link below. 👇🏻
Get your weekly running log here!
Download my free Weekly Running Log and print as many copies as you need.
23. If you’re able to, find others to run with.
There are so many great benefits to running with others. These are a few that have impacted me in my own life:
- Encourage one another in life/on spiritual journey
- Bond over shared enjoyment of the sport
- Learn from more experienced running buddies (and push your pace with faster ones)
- Impart running knowledge to those less experienced than yourself
Even if you can only squeeze in one run per week with a friend or running group, it will be worth it!
24. But also, be willing to run alone.
Just as running with others has it’s benefits, so does going solo. It’s much easier to focus on your form, cadence, and effort level (making sure you’re taking easy runs truly easy) when you’re by yourself.
If you’re always dependent on other people to go for a run, you’re limiting your running opportunities to other people’s schedules.
25. You will get out of running what you put into it.
Similar to so many other aspects of life, there just aren’t any shortcuts with running. If you’re consistent with training and you take recovery seriously, you will see improvements.
Are You a Brand New Runner?
If you’re a beginning runner, which of these tips were the most surprising or meaningful to you? Tell me in the comments below! 👇🏻
Disclaimer: You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in exercise or training I recommend, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Running With Roots from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Running With Roots. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. The views expressed are based on my own experiences, and should not be taken as medical, nutrition or training advice.