Running tips for beginners

Running is free, you can do it anywhere, and it burns more calories than any other mainstream exercise.

Regular running can reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and keep your weight under control.

This guide is designed to make running a safe and enjoyable experience for beginners, and to provide you with tips on how to stay motivated.

What a 60kg person burns in 30 minutes:

  • running (6mph): 300 calories
  • tennis (singles): 240 calories
  • swimming (slow crawl): 240 calories
  • cycling (12-14mph): 240 calories
  • aerobic dancing: 195 calories
  • fast walking (4mph): 150 calories 

Source: At least five a week, Department of Health, 2004

Before you start

If you've not been active for a while, you may want to build your fitness levels gently with our guide to walking for health before you move on to running.

Running requires very little equipment, but a good pair of running shoes that suit your foot type will reduce the risk of injury.

There are many types of trainers on the market, so get advice from a specialist running retailer who will assess your foot and find the right shoe for you.

The shoes' shock absorbers weaken over time, increasing your risk of injury. It's advisable to replace running shoes every 300 miles (482km).

Plan your runs. Work out when and where (the exact route and time) you're going to run and put it in your diary. That way, it won't slip your mind.

If you feel out of shape, or you're recovering from injury or worried about an existing condition, see your GP before you start running.

Starting out

To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it's essential to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several outings.

Start each run with a gentle warm-up of at least five minutes. This can include quick walking, marching on the spot, knee lifts, side stepping and climbing stairs.

Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable. 

When you first start out, try alternating between running and walking during your session.

As time goes on, make the running intervals longer until you no longer feel the need to walk.

For information on good running technique, read How to run correctly.

Give yourself a few minutes to cool down after each run by walking and a doing few stretches. Try our post-run stretch routine.

Regular running for beginners means getting out at least twice a week. Your running will improve as your body adapts to the consistent training stimulus.

It's better to run twice a week, every week, than to run six times one week and then do no running for the next three weeks.

We have produced a series of podcasts to help absolute beginners get into running.

Our Couch to 5K programme is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5km in nine weeks.

Staying motivated 

Set yourself a goal

Whatever your level, setting challenges is useful to stay motivated. Training for a race, such as a 5K, or a charity run is a good way to keep going. Find a running event using our run finder or parkrun.

Run with a friend

It really helps to have someone about the same level of ability as you to run with. You'll encourage each other when you're not so keen to run. You'll feel you don't want to let your running partner down, and this will help motivate you. Find a running partner on realbuzz or JoggingBuddy.

Keep a diary

Keep a diary of your runs. Note down each run, including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt. That way, whenever your motivation is flagging, you can look back and be encouraged by how much you've improved. Check out realbuzz's running blogs.

Improve your running

If you're looking to improve your running, why not try the NHS Choices 5K+ running podcasts. Each podcast in the series provides a structured run with running music and coaching to develop your running technique, speed and stamina.

Mix it up

Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances, pace and routes. Use realbuzz's route planner to find, record and share your favourite running routes.

Join a club

A running club is the perfect way to commit to running regularly. Most clubs have running groups for different levels, including beginners. Clubs are also a great way to find running partners to run with outside of club sessions. Find a running club near you with UK Athletics' club search.

Page last reviewed: 30/06/2016

Next review due: 31/08/2019

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Couch to 5K

Regular running can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, boost your mood and keep your weight under control. In this video, watch how Laura went from fitness phobe to keen runner with the Couch to 5K programme.

Media last reviewed: 03/05/2016

Next review due: 03/05/2018