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How to Start Running When You Aren’t a Runner

pair of brown running shoes on orange background

Believe it or not, learning how to start running is easy. All you need is a good pair of shoes, and you're ready to go. But running can be intimidating, and finding the motivation and confidence to get started—and stick with it—is challenging. That's why we're sharing our top seven tips to help you begin running, even if you don't think you're a runner.

1. Make a plan.

Before you lace up, set a goal. Starting a running routine includes setting frequency, time, or mileage goals and planning to achieve them. Running is an individual sport, and consistency is key. Luckily, many resources and apps, like Couch to 5k, will give you a schedule, hold you accountable, and help you see it through.

2. Remember to warm up.

Whether it's your first or hundredth run, properly warming up is crucial to success. Walking for a few minutes and doing dynamic stretches before you hit the pavement will reduce your chance of injury and improve your form and performance. Still trying to figure out where to start? Check out this five-minute warm-up routine from Runner's World.

3. Alternate between walking and running.

As a newbie, you'll unlikely be able to run long distances immediately—you'll need to build up your endurance. Alternating between walking and running can increase your stamina and boost your fitness. And this is something experts recommend to keep doing as you become a more advanced runner. Even when you aren't tired, adding walking intervals to your runs has countless benefits.

4. Pace yourself.

You may not be running a marathon yet, but "It's a marathon, not a sprint" is a good mantra to repeat to yourself. Your body will need to adjust to this new type of exercise, and starting too fast can increase your chance of injury and limit your progress. Focus on maintaining a pace where you can easily hold a conversation, not hitting a PR. 

5. Occupy your mind.

While many people run to clear their minds, that's not the case for everyone. Running can be monotonous, so it helps to have a distraction as you get your steps in. Here are some ideas: 

All these things will distract you, making time pass faster and keeping your brain busy. 

6. Remember to cool down.

Cooling down is just as important as warming up. It may be the last thing you want to do, but getting in a post-run walk or stretch is a step you can't skip. Cooling down lowers your heart rate, brings your breathing levels back to normal, and allows your body to recover. Next time you log a run, try this short and effective cool-down routine.

7. Prioritize recovery.

Running is something you shouldn't do every day. It's a full-body workout, and your muscles need a day or two to repair and recover. Neglecting recovery can make you prone to an overuse injury and impair your form. Use your off days to rest or do other workouts you enjoy—your body will thank you in the long run.

4-Week Beginner Running Plan

4 week running plan for beginners

Now that you have these running tips for beginners, you're ready to implement them. To get started, follow a guided routine like the example above. 

Listening to your body and following a routine can help you understand how to start running. No matter your skill level, going at your own pace is crucial. If you experience any pain or discomfort when running, stop and consult your doctor. 

Once you've got it down, consider incorporating strength training into your workouts! Read our fitness playground guide to start strengthening your other muscles. 

FAQs

Can I start running while pregnant? 

According to doctors, it's generally safe for women with low-risk pregnancies to continue running or start a running program if they were physically active before pregnancy. However, consult your healthcare provider to ensure running is safe for you and your baby first. They'll consider your medical history, current health status, and the stage of your pregnancy to provide personalized advice. 

 Can I start running if I am overweight? 

You can usually start running if you're overweight, but it's essential to do so safely and gradually to prevent injuries. Running can be a great way to improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and promote weight loss. However, if you're new to running or have underlying health conditions, consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Begin slowly and steadily and incorporate walking and jogging in intervals to build your endurance and stamina. Listen to your body and give it time to adapt. Wear proper shoes and stretch before and after each run. 

When to start running after an injury? 

Although you may be frustrated with an extended recovery time, listen to your doctor and follow these tips when getting back to exercising and running after an injury:

  • Take it slow: Allow your body to get back into exercising gradually—even if it means increasing exercise times by five minutes daily.
  • Begin with walking or swimming: These gentle movements will help your body and joints return to active mode. Don't push yourself too far. 
  • Pain doesn't mean gain: Feeling the burn when exercising is all fun and games, except after an injury. Your body uses pain to notify you that something's wrong. So, if you feel pain, stop immediately. 
  • Get help from a physiotherapist: A physiotherapist will create a step-by-step program tailored to your abilities and needs. This may help you get a speedy recovery that's controlled and safe.