Starting something new is always hard, and that’s especially true with running. However, knowing a handful of running tips for beginners can smooth the learning curve and help you learn how to run (with joy) faster.
As a new or returning athlete, you may be wondering how to run properly in an approachable and sustainable way. While it’s easy to step out the door and start running, it’s harder to stick with it past the first week or two.
We’ve got some strategies and running tips for beginners to help you start off right, make your training work for you, and stay injury-free as you go along.
We take running for granted, but it’s not so simple.
Whether you’re a runner or a jogger, learning how to run as a complete beginner isn’t as easy as putting on your shoes and hitting the trail. You have to learn form, technique, pacing, jogging tips, and more.
The proper running technique for beginners isn’t given—it’s learned.
6 Running Tips for Beginners to Learn How to Run
Grab your running shoes, your favorite playlist, and maybe an accountability buddy, and let’s get to it!
1. Take The First Step
It seems easy to wait for the “perfect” time to start. Whether that means after the holidays, when the kids are back in school, or even just waiting for a Monday. Spoiler alert: it’s a trap! Putting off your first run, whether it’s your first-ever or just the first after a long layoff, is just a way of procrastinating.
As long as you’ve got a good pair of shoes on your feet, you’ve got what you need to start. Your first couple of weeks should include a few runs, and they only need to be 15 or 20 minutes each. Keeping the frequency and volume of your runs low will make the mental and physical barriers less intimidating. And you can stay at this level as long as you need to. The important thing is to just start somewhere!
Read Next: If you need that last little push to get out the door, see if there’s something on this list that will help. 10 Best Online Groups for Running Inspiration has an option for every type and background of runner, so you’re sure to find a source of inspiration for yourself.
2. Transition With The Walk-Run Method
Learning how to run properly is difficult to start cold turkey—you need to ease into it. This might be the most important running tip for beginners.
In addition to starting conservatively with just a few runs per week, it’s also a great strategy to mix walk breaks into your runs. As a beginner runner, your cardio endurance is unlikely to support running for 15+ minutes nonstop. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, set yourself up for success with a plan using walking interval training.
Try running for 30 seconds, then walking for one minute. Then repeat the run interval, followed by another walk break. If that ratio is too hard or too easy, adjust it to your needs. You could even start your run with a ratio of one minute of running and one minute of walking, then drop to the 30 seconds-one minute ratio if you get tired. Customize the plan to your needs, and don’t be afraid to adjust it as you go along.
Watch Next: Check out Coach Nate as he explains where the walk-run method came from, why it works, and how to know when it’s time to move on in this video, Is The Walk Run Method A Good Idea?
3. Have A Dynamic Training Plan
Contrary to popular belief, learning how to run properly takes more than just running. In fact, only logging the miles is a surefire way to increase your risk of injury, burnout, and having a stale running routine.
This is a golden tip for new runners—don’t just run.
A training program that includes a dynamic warm-up and cooldown, strength training, and mobility will help you be a better-developed athlete who can handle the rigors of running.
Warm-up and cool down:
Take just a few minutes before your runs and workouts to warm up and your body will thank you. With movements such as down dog to push up, leg swings, and arm circles you’ll be prepping your shoulders, hips, and ankles for the work they’re about to do. Think of it as slowly bring your body online, rather than gunning it from zero to sixty with no warning.
At the other end of the spectrum, spending the last few minutes of your workout will give you time to bring your heart rate down, catch your breath, and help your body transition from training to recovery. This is also a great time to work on the mobility we’ll talk about in a moment.
It doesn’t have to be super complicated to be beneficial. Push-ups, squats, lunges, bicycle crunches are all compound movements well suited for a beginner runner. A little upper body strength goes a long way to prevent fatigue and poor posture on the run and the lower body moves will help build the muscle to carry you over the miles. Cross-train with these movements just twice a week to stay strong and injury-free.
Mobility drills are fantastic for preserving range of motion and preventing soreness. Running is a very repetitive movement. Unless you’re jumping over obstacles on the trail, you only move forward in a small range of motion. Which isn’t inherently bad.
It just means you need to counteract that compressing effect afterward. Rolling out the bottom of your feet, your hamstrings and quads, as well as your shoulders is a great way to do that. Add in some hip flexor stretches with a kneeling lunge, and you’ll be all set for your next workout!
Watch Next: Follow along with Coach Morgan using the strength moves listed above in this routine, Back To Basics Strength. You can also check out a quick mobility routine to use post run in Coach Holly’s Beginner’s Guide to Stretching And Mobility.
4. Take a Look At Your Running Technique
Once you get a few runs under your belt, check in with your body and the way you’re moving. That doesn’t mean obsess about every detail and analyze your foot strike every step. But knowing some of the “big picture” pieces of proper running form will benefit you right from the start. You’ll prevent injuries, move more efficiently, and know-how to look out for poor movement patterns.
For beginner runners, learning proper running form can feel daunting or confusing. While there is a certain running technique that we’ll break down for you, remember too that the more you run, the easier it will feel.
Proper Running Form: A Full-Body Breakdown
- Upper body: Keep your shoulders back and relaxed. Allow your arms to swing loose at your sides.
- Hips and Legs: As you run, keep your hips forward in a neutral position, activating the glutes. Your back should not be arched. Focus on keeping an equal distance between your feet as you run.
- Feet: Aim for a foot strike at about the middle of your foot. Aim to stay light on your feet without stomping or scuffling the ground.
Before you go out for your first run, buy running shoes that properly support your feet and have a wide enough toe-box. The most important factors to look for in a new pair of the right shoes are comfort and stability.
Here are some cues to show you how to run properly with a solid foundation.
Stand up tall:
So basic, but so important. Our sedentary, forward-leaning lives tend to creep into our runs without us even realizing it. Instead of allowing that to affect your running form, focus on your posture. Fix your gaze slightly ahead of you to avoid looking at your feet. Keep your shoulders relaxed so your chest is free to take deep breaths.
Engage your core and glutes:
A strong core and glutes are probably two of the most beneficial things to a runner. Your core strength will help help you maintain a nice upright posture while running, even after you start to get tired. It will also help protect your lower back from the impact of your feeting on the ground. Strong glutes will also help prevent lower back soreness, power you up the hills, and avoid knee pain.
Swing your arms:
Your upper body acts as the counterbalance to the lower body as you run. A fluid, relaxed arm swing that helps you resist the twist of the lower body will make your runs feel faster and your stride more productive.
A quick cadence means that your feet aren’t spending too much time on the ground between steps. This translates to less impact on your body, less energy wasted from stride to stride, and more nimble feet to get uphill or traverse a trail. The “ideal” cadence is 90 steps per minute per leg, but, as with everything, it depends on the runner. A lower cadence of 75 or 80 steps per minute will still get the job done, but try experimenting with a higher cadence and see what it feels like.
Read Next: Good Running Form For Beginners: Head to Toe Technique. With pointers on your form from top to bottom plus a few drills, you’ll be moving most efficiently in no time!
5. Maintain The Machine
Learning how to run for beginners doesn’t just involve what you do in the gym and on the trails—it includes what you do in the kitchen.
In addition to the elements of your training mentioned above, what you do outside of your training can help you stay healthy and feeling great in your new running routine. It may be stating the obvious, but minimizing the junk food and maximizing the sleep you get are two of the easiest and most impactful ways to improve your health.
You don’t need to completely overhaul your diet, but try to include many servings of vegetables, fruits, and healthy protein to support your body when you’re developing your new running routine. Stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day, rather than chugging a bunch right before you run. If you’re using running for weight loss, be sure to eat enough each day for muscle repair and to have enough energy for the next day. A small calorie deficit is fine, but stay healthy and avoid any extremes.
Read Next: Learn how to maximize your food choices to support your running with this article, Nutrition For Runners: 6 Mistakes To Avoid.
6. Set Goals To Stay Strong
If you’re just figuring out how to run properly and make it a part of your life, setting big goals might not seem like the most appropriate step to take. Which is why you don’t have to! Sure, if a race or big distance is what will help you stick to running, go for it! Signing up for your first 5k or half marathon is a great way to commit to the sport for a lot of new runners.
But for some, it might be too much of an “all or nothing” mindset. If you’re in that crowd, then think about smaller, more tangible goals that you can set for yourself. One of my most memorable goals, when I was a beginner runner, was to make it all the way up a certain hill without stopping. I used a motivating playlist to help me get through it. When I finally got to the top without stopping, my next goal was to make it in less time, measured by how many songs I went through. No race day necessary—that hill was a challenge in and of itself!
Other ideas can be finding the perfect pair of running shoes, the ones that fit like a dream and provide just the right amount of cushioning. Or try setting a goal of a week-long run streak to help build the running habit. Another favorite goal of mine, which also build great habits, is to end each day with a short mobility routine.
Whatever goal you set, whether it’s a race registration or charging up a hill, use it to stay motivated and keep working hard!
Read Next: Here are some great tips to help you stick to your training and define goals: 7 Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable in Your Run Training.
7. Always Warm-Up and Cool-Down
A good warm-up usually consists of some dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretching, unlike static stretching, means we lengthen and warm the muscles by repetitive movement in multiple planes of motion, like doing leg swings or hip circles in a lunge.
Dynamic stretching both activates and relaxes the muscles without excessive tension. Especially for those tight hamstrings and hips that many of us get from sitting, dynamic stretching can help us safely find some release.
By gently lengthening and shortening the muscle fibers through a dynamic stretch, you prepare your body for a more intense activity like jogging.
The rotation between activation and relaxing of the muscle actually mimics the motion of running! Without a proper dynamic warm-up, you risk your muscle fibers tightening up too quickly and causing cramps or, even worse, injury.
How to Warm-Up
Here’s a quick warm-up you can do anywhere with just your body:
You went for your jog and got your body nice and warm, much warmer than it is normally. Your muscles were firing and your cardiovascular system was working hard.
A cool-down brings your body back to normal levels, returning the body to what’s called “homeostasis.” Doing cool-down movements signals to the muscle fibers and lungs that they can now relax and return to normal.
Cool-downs also help release overly-tight muscles. If we don’t soothe these tight muscles, our bodies might overcompensate by using other muscles to perform an activity, which leads to overuse and then, if it continues, pulled muscles or tendonitis. By consistently cooling down after workouts, you’re reducing the risk of injury.
How to Cool-Down
Here’s a short but effective cool-down you can do after any workout or run:
Learn How to Run at Any Age
Starting a new exercise regime can be intimidating at any age, but jogging seems to be especially daunting to some people. Maybe it’s the aerobic, lung-aching element or the fear of turning your knees to mush.
However, it’s totally possible to learn how to jog at any age if approached with the right tactics.
Your First Week of Jogging
Your first week of running, focus on doing two to three runs of 20 minutes. For beginner joggers and those new to exercise, alternate between one minute of running and one minute of walking for the duration of the run.
For those who already exercise semi-regularly, alternate running for three to five minutes, walking for 90 seconds between run segments.
For more advanced exercisers who are new to jogging, aim to run for half the total amount of time, so 10 minutes for a 20-minute run, walk for 2 minutes, then run for another 10 minutes.
Your First Month of Jogging
To approach your first month of jogging, you’ll use the same tactics you did during your first week with a focus on increasing your running duration between walk breaks.
The run-walk method is a great way to build your endurance and running longevity, so don’t hesitate to use it for as long as you need to!
For your first month, you can break up each week into the following exercise routine:
- Monday: Mobility workout
- Tuesday: Drills Run
- Wednesday: Strength training
- Thursday: Interval Run
- Friday: Core Work
- Saturday: Optional Fun Run
- Sunday: Long Run
This may look like a lot, but don’t get discouraged! Some of these workouts only take 15 to 20 minutes. We’ll get into more detail on each of these components below. For even more detail, check out our beginner’s running program. It uses this exact schedule and explains every workout in step-by-step detail with video and written tutorials.
Different Running Tips Work for Different Age Groups
Age 20 to 35
For those in a younger age group, ages 20-35, the biggest tip is to avoid overtraining. While you may feel like you can handle increasing your mileage quickly or running far distances from the get-go, we’ve seen too many people get injured from doing just that.
Take rest days, cross-train, and spend at least one day a week focusing on strength training rather than making every day about running.
Age 35 to 50
For those in the early/middle stages of life learning how to jog, you should place a special emphasis on mobility and stability. When we take a hiatus from exercise, more often than not our time is spent sitting down, getting tight hips, and weak glutes. Make glute strengthening (read this article for major tips) and hip flexor mobility a major focus of your training and your body will thank you.
Appropriate for any age group, here are 9 yoga poses for tight hips.
We lose muscle mass as we age, so make strength training a priority. In fact, the secret of many 50+ master runners is spending as much time in the gym strength training and working on mobility as they do on their feet logging miles.
Coach Nate has some great tips for beginner runners over 50:
Remember, when it comes to jogging, following a training plan will take care of most if not all of these tips for you. And the smarter your training, the more positive your jogging workouts will be. You’ll be less prone to injury, soreness, and general pain. This way, you can just focus on your improvements!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How to get started running?
You’re doing it right now. Ask questions. Study. Then, lace up your shoes and go put your newfound knowledge into practice.
Is there a magic number for how many miles to run a week?
No. How many miles to run in a week is determined by you, your running experience, and your goals. An ultramarathon runner may need to be cranking out 50-75+ miles a week, whereas a 5K recreational runner may need just 15-25 miles a week.
It all depends!
What about how much to run for weight loss goals?
It depends. How much do you weigh now? How long have you been running? What amount of weight do you want to lose?
There’s a lot of factors that go into determining this number. Typically, you’ll need to put your body into a caloric deficit to lose weight—thus, how much to run for weight loss will depend on how much your body needs and how much you eat.
Check out our thorough guide on running for weight loss to learn all the nitty-gritty.
How to learn how to run?
Meta. But you’re in the right place. Study is the first step. Then, practice.
What’s the best way to learn how to run for beginners?
Go run with some more experienced injury-free runners! While it’s helpful to get some knowledge from this black-and-white text before hitting the pavement, you’ll learn best from practicing and doing.
Find a mentor. Whether that’s a local runner for The Run Experience mobile app—find experts to run with. They’ll show you the ropes, and they’ll often do it while you’re getting your workout in, too—two birds with one stone.
How to run correctly?
There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all way to run. Every body is different, and people will adopt different techniques to make running more efficient for them.
However, there are a few general best practices. Read our guide to proper running foot strike to learn more.
How to run faster?
So now you’re going from form to pace—good on you. That’s the usual progression. Check out our guide for tips and training on how to run faster.
Master These Beginner Runner Tips
Your toolbox of knowledge as a beginner runner is now packed with tips and strategies to get you started on the right track. But, if you feel like you need more guidance be sure to download the app and check out our training programs such as The Beginner Running Program.
This program organizes all your training for you, like having a running coach in your pocket. Follow along-workouts, scaleable runs, and an active community are all there to support you from start to finish, so join us today to learn how to run properly from the get-go.
Now, put these beginner runner tips into practice and hit the trails.