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.

It’s not surprising that running is the latest fitness craze, with Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson and Katie Price among the celebrities who love it.

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

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.

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 (anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes). 

Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, include some running intervals of one to two minutes into your walking at a speed that feels comfortable.

As time goes on, make the running intervals longer, until you're running for 30 minutes continuously.

Run with your arms and shoulders relaxed, and elbows bent. Keep an upright posture and a smooth running stride, striking the ground with the middle of your foot. For more information on good running technique, read How to run correctly.

Give yourself a few minutes to cool down (to bring your heartbeat back to normal) after each run by walking followed by gently stretching your leg muscles. 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 half a dozen 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 

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.

Set yourself a goal
Whatever your level, setting goals is important for staying focused and motivated. Make your goals realistic to avoid becoming demoralised. Training for a race, such as a 5K, or a charity run is a good way to keep going. For more information on running events and training for a run, go to runbritain 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 Jogging buddy.

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 Real Buzz’s running blogs.

Mix it up
Keep your running interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring. Vary your distances and routes. Use Real Buzz’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: 30/06/2012

Next review due: 30/06/2014

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The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

dujonjefrey said on 22 December 2012

Running is one of the effective ways to keep body active and fit for longer time. I really appreciate here mentioned running tips and I think for beginners these tips are very effective. Thanks for this nice allocation. I enjoyed running tips for beginners.

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Ian PT said on 07 February 2012

As well as varying the distance you run, there are a number of variants to the pace which can spice up your fitness, and make it a bit more interesting once you have got into the basics of running.
Try running 3 minutes a little slower than your normal pace, 2 minutes at your normal pace, and 1 minute faster than normal. You can do this in segments (i.e just for 6 minutes , or 12, 18 etc).
If you're running outdoors, use lampposts as markers - run at your normal pace between two, than faster to the next, back to normal to the next post, then either faster or slower to the next and so on. You'll find time and distance flies!
This needs a little confidence, but try short distances of running with your arms pointing out in front of you (though not where they obscure your view). This makes your legs work harder and will raise your heart rate.
You'll see that the basic idea of these suggestions is to intersperse easier and harder spells. Basically this is Interval running. The great thing is you can keep making the run harder without the need to run more than 30 minutes.
The word "hill" can sometimes be seen as a bad four-letter word by runners, but think of a hill as any short distance with an incline, such as a bridge, rather than as running up the Pennines. If you find an incline, try running up it for at least 30 seconds, then jog gently down. Do this 10 times and that's a quick workout with loads of strength and fitness gains.

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Media last reviewed: 15/06/2012

Next review due: 15/06/2014

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