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How to start a running program for beginners

Updated on October 6, 2009

Running is one of the most efficient exercises you can do for weightloss, burning approximately 500 calories per hour. In addition to helping you lose weight, regular running can strengthen your heart, lower your cholesterol level, improve your immune system and increase bone density.

If all those health benefits aren’t enough, running is a great confidence builder – you can soon progress from not being able to run for a bus to easily managing a 5k and the feeling of achievement is addictive. If you’re suffering from low energy levels, stress or depression, running will boost your energy and your mood. Feel like the last thing in the world you want to do is go for a run? – force yourself to tie your trainers and head out of the door and you’re almost guaranteed to come back in a better mood.

And finally, running is one of the simplest forms of exercise you can do. Instead of signing up for an expensive gym membership or struggling with complicated equipment, all you need to run is a decent pair of running shoes, some comfortable clothing and enough motivation to get out of the door!

So there really is no excuse not to start your running program today!

When to run

It might take a bit of experimentation to find out when the best time to run is for you. Many people find that an early-morning run before heading out for work provides a great energy boost at the start of the day. Others prefer running in the evenings as a way to wind down and relax at the end of a hard day. If you’re really pressed for time you may find it easier to run in your lunch hour or run home from work.

Choosing the right running shoes and clothing

Before you start a running program it is absolutely vital to make sure you have the right shoes.  Ill-fitting trainers or shoes that aren’t designed for running can slow you down, cause blisters or even serious foot or leg injuries that may put you out of action for weeks or months.

Choose a pair of shoes that are specifically designed for running, rather than cross-trainers and make sure you try on several pairs before you buy. Don’t even think about buying running shoes without trying them on but if you want to get a bargain in an online store or ebay, make sure you try the same model in a sports shop before you go ahead and buy online.

The best running shoes will be light and comfortable. You may need other features such as extra cushioning or structured support depending on your foot shape and running style. This is something you can be advised on in a sports or specialist running shop.

When you’re just starting out running you can wear whatever comfortable exercise clothes you have around. Remember you’ll heat up as you run so don’t overdress. After a while you’ll probably want to upgrade to some more specialist running clothing with sweat-wicking fabrics which keep you more cool and comfortable. Running in the rain can be an exhilarating experience and there are a variety of waterproof running jackets designed for this purpose.

What to eat and drink

Try to eat at least an hour before you run or you’re likely to end up with a stitch and have to walk home. Some people may need to run on a completely empty stomach and need more time than this – you’ll find out what works best for you after a couple of weeks of experimentation. If you run first thing in the morning, try to eat something small but that will give you energy. Porridge is a good option, along with fruit (especially bananas), or try peanut butter on toast. If you find it difficult to stomach anything before you run, fruit smoothies can give you energy without sitting in your stomach.

It’s important to stay well hydrated when you’re running. Make sure to drink plenty of water before you leave and take a water bottle with you if you’re going to be out for more than an hour.  When you finish your run  make sure you drink to replenish all the fluids you lost in sweat.

A walk/run program for beginners

When you’re just starting out running it’s important not to try and do too much too soon – you will just end up exhausted and frustrated and quite possibly injured.

It’s much better to take things slowly, even if you feel like it’s going too slowly. You’ll improve your stamina and running form much better this way. Don’t run 2 days in a row when you’re starting out as your body will need a day off in between running days to recover. You can do another kind of exercise on your off-days such as cycling or swimming if you like. The running program detailed below alternates running with walking. You will gradually reduce the time you’re walking and increase the time you’re running until you can run 30 minutes without stopping. The running portions should not be carried out at a sprint pace! If you try to run too fast you’ll wear yourself out before you’ve got to the bottom of the road. You should be running at a slow jog just slightly faster than your walking speed. Remember to walk for 5 minutes at the beginning and end of your program to warm up and cool down.

Week 1: walk for 6 minutes, run for 1 minute, repeat 3 times.

Week 2: walk for 5 minutes, run for 2 minutes, repeat 3 times.

Week 3 : walk for 3 minutes, run for 4 minutes, repeat 4 times

Week 4: walk for 2 minutes, run for 5 minutes, repeat 4 times

Week 5: walk for 2 mintues, run for 8 minutes, repeat 3 times

Week 6: walk for 2 minutes, run for 9 minutes, repeat 3 times

Week 7: walk to 1 minutes, run for 10 minutes, repeat 3 times

Week 8 : run for 30  minutes


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      Patrick Kallie 8 years ago

      Great article, running can be a great part of your overall healthy living plan. Be sure to run at your own pace and try not to over do it. You will feel much better physically and mentally, I myself have lost over 70 pounds and have kept it off for over 7 years. I also have plenty of tips for anyone that want's to get and stay in shape.

    • Patti Ann profile image

      Patti Ann 8 years ago from Florida

      Excellent information. I have always walked instead of running, but this makes me rethink it.