A beginner's guide to running
Updated: May 15
Looking to start running for the first time? Resuming after a long break?
In this blog we cover some of the key things to consider, and the most commonly asked questions we receive from new runners!
At the time of writing this blog, the world is in the grips of COVID-19, many are working from home, social distancing and isolation is the new way of life, and gyms are closed! This may have led to some of you considering either starting up running, or resuming again after a long lay off!
Firstly, well done on deciding to lace up the runners and we hope you soon enjoy running as much as we do :)
One of the great things about running is that it can be pretty low tech: all you really need are a pair of shoes!
What shoes should you run in? Minimalist? Maximalist? Barefoot? So what exactly should you wear on your feet? Now this might come as a surprise to most, but the type of shoes you wear are not as important as what goes in them. That is to say, whilst shoes can make a difference, there are other factors which have a greater influence on performance and injury risk. Despite a large body of research trying to solve this exact question, we still don’t have THE answer on how to best fit shoes. So two things we recommend regarding shoes are:
Wear what is comfortable! This might seem obvious, but there shouldn’t be a “wearing in” period for running shoes: you should feel comfortable the moment you slip them on
Avoid sudden changes in running shoes: if you have been wearing a particular running shoe to walk or go to the gym in, and they are in good condition, then start with these. Don’t go out and buy a drastically different shoe as your body may need time to gradually progress into them.
Whilst the above seem overly simplistic, for assistance with what best suits your needs we advise speaking to a health professional who understands running shoes!
GPS watches & apps
There are a multitude of options out there to record and measure your runs. Depending on your budget, you can either go all out with a GPS watch spending anywhere from $100 to $1,000 with brands such as Garmin, Polar & Suunto or the Apple watch. For reviews of all the different watches and features, we highly recommend DC Rainmaker’s website here.
The other option for timing and recording your runs are the multitude of apps available (most of them FREE!). Some of the more popular apps include Strava, Nike+Run club, RunKeeper and MapMyRun, all of which are free, with some including paid extra features.
The Fitness: are you “Fit to run”?
We have a saying that you should be “Fit to run and not run to get fit”. Depending on your current levels of strength or fitness, launching yourself straight into running might not be a good idea. If you lack some of the required strength and mobility for running, you may be at a higher risk of injury.
Our three favourite self strength tests for runners are:
Our three favourite home mobility tests for runners are:
Perform these tests to determine your current strength and mobility levels. Now just because you fail any of these tests, it doesn’t mean you can’t run, it just means that you should put a priority on building your strength or mobility, increase your weekly mileage by smaller increments and consult your sports chiropractor to provide you with a custom made strengthening/mobility program.
The Technique: how to run
Have you noticed that we are taught how to do many sporting skills such as tennis, golf and swimming, but rarely, IF EVER taught how to run properly?! Just like any sport there is a right and a wrong way to do things. Through poor running technique, many people put their bodies under a lot more load than it should be.
There are a number of characteristics to good running technique but probably the 2 most important for new runners would be:
Posture: think tall and avoid slouching forwards. Imagine there is a string attached to your head lifting you up.
Stride length: keep your running strides nice and short and resist the temptation to stride out in front of you. This will help reduce braking forces that have been shown to be associated with injury.
If you are needing further assistance with your running technique or having your running gait assessed, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
The Plan: how much should I be running?
By far the most common mistakes we see in runners make are the TWO too’s, that is doing:
Too much too soon: ensure you don’t increase your distances too quickly. Generally speaking the 10% rule is a good rule of thumb for beginners, but early on you may be able to increase anywhere between 10-30% week to week. For example if you did two 2km runs in your first week, your second week might be two 2.2-2.6km runs.
Too fast too soon: when beginning or resuming running, the pace at which you should run is an EASY jog NOT a sprint. You should run at an intensity that is easy enough for you to have a conversation with someone next to you (and not gasping for air!).
This is by far the most common thing we see runners get wrong. And the injuries don’t necessarily come immediately after a run, they can come 4-6 weeks after you’ve done too much.
A 5 week program we often use for beginner runners (or those returning after a long lay off) is below. Perform these runs 2 or 3 times per week, but stick with either 2 or 3 runs throughout the program, don’t chop and change. If you’ve got a reasonable level of fitness, passed the strength tests we mentioned above then you may be OK to run 3 times per week. If you’ve had a number of previous injuries, and not hitting the ideal strength targets discussed above, then just stick with 2 runs for the time being. Ensure you have at least a day’s rest in between each run.
Week 1: 20mins alternating jogging 1min and walking 1min (total running time = 10mins)
Week 2: 20mins alternating jogging 2min and walking 1min (total running time = 14mins)
Week 3: 20mins alternating jogging 3min and walking 1min (total running time = 15mins)
Week 4: 20mins alternating jogging 4min and walking 1min (total running time =16mins)
Week 5: 20mins continuous jogging
If at any stage you don't feel ready to progress to the following week, just repeat the week until you are ready!
Another alternative to the above program is using the free Couch to 5km app on both iPhone & Android: “C25K 5k Trainer”.
Other FAQs & Resources
What surface should I run on?
Despite a number of studies examining this question, there is no concrete (pardon the pun) evidence that running surface affects injury. Considering running is so repetitive, we advise runners to mix up their running surfaces, so pick a course that has a mix of concrete/grass/crushed rock. We do caution however that beginner runners should avoid running on sand as it is quite demanding on the legs.
What about a warm up or stretching before you run?
Check out our video on this topic below, plus our blog on the pro’s and con’s of stretching here
Any tips for avoiding injury?
Subscribe via the pop up to receive our Top 5 tips for avoiding a running injury
How can you avoid delayed muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day?
Head to our blog here where we discuss all about DOMS
What to do if you get injured?
This one should be pretty simple, but contact us ASAP! The sooner you get on top of your injuries the faster your recovery! Click here to read more