How to Start Running

New runners often try to run too far or too fast at first. This is particularly true if you join a running club and feel you should be keeping pace with more experienced runners. The key to running is to push yourself, but not so hard that you become injured or ill.

Five tips to help you start running safely

1. Walk for the first three weeks

If you are new to running – even if you are physically fit – you should walk for the first three weeks. Although this may sound boring, there is statistically a very good chance of becoming injured in your third month of running if you do not begin with a period of walking. It takes time for your joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to get used to the impact and mechanics of running. Your overall fitness tends to increase before your body has fully adapted, and that is when you get injured. Use the first three weeks of walking to get into the habit of exercise, and adjust your daily routine, and let your body get a head start on adapting to running. If you have jogged a little, but never run far, it is still advisable to begin a programme of mainly walking before you start running. Consider visiting a physiotherapist or podiatrist.

2. Remember the talk test

When you are training, you should be able to maintain a conversation, talking in complete sentences. If you are too out of breath to do this, you are training too fast.

3. Rest

Your fitness and strength do not improve while you are running. They improve while you are resting, as your body responds to the stresses it has experienced. Rest is just as important a part of your training programme as running. When you start running, you should not run more than every other day. As you get more experienced, you should take a day off each week.

4. Do not increase your distance more than 3 miles a week

You should not increase your weekly mileage more than 3 miles in any one week. This will ensure that you build up slowly. Jumps in mileage are asking for injury.

5. Keep at it for at least 4 weeks

For many runners, the first 3-4 weeks are a real struggle. Every time you put on your running shoes, you wonder why you are doing it. But one day, after about 3 weeks, you will suddenly feel the wind at your back, and you will run easily and smoothly without effort. Running will get easier from then on, and the good days will increase while the hard days recede. Enjoy it: you have become a runner.

A 6 month running programme for beginners

W10 = Walk for 10 minutes. R10 = Run for 10 minutes.

  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Week 1 Walk for 20 minutes every other day
Week 2 Walk for 20 minutes every other day
Week 3 W20 W20 - W20 - W20 -
Week 4 - W20/R5 - W20 - W20 -
Week 5 - W20 - W20 - W15/R5 -
Week 6 W10 W20/R5 - W15/R5 - W15/R5 -
Week 7 W5/R5 W15/R5 - W15/R5 - W15/R5 -
Week 8 W5/R5 W20/R5 - W15/R5 - W20/R5 -
Week 9 W5/R5 W10/R10 - W10/R10 - W15/R10 -
Week 10 W5/R10 W20/R10 - W20/R10 - W20/R10 -
Week 11 W10/R10 W15/R15 - W15/R10 - W15/R10 -
Week 12 W10/R10 W15/R15 - W15/R15 - W15/R10 -
Week 13 W15/R10 W10/R20 - W15/R15 - W15/R10 -
Week 14 W10/R15 W10/R20 - W10/R20 R10/W10 W10/R20 -
Week 15 W5/R15 W5/R25 - W5/R25 - W10/R10 -
Week 16 W5/R20 R30 - W5/R20 R30 W5/R15 -
Week 17 R25 R30 - R20 R30 R20 -
Week 18 R30 R30 - R20 R30 R25 -
Week 19 R30 R30 - R25 R30 R25 -
Week 20 R20 R30 - R20 - R20 -
Week 21 R30 R30 - R30 R25 R20 -
Week 22 R30 R35 - R30 R30 R25 -
Week 23 R30 R40 - R30 R30 R30 -
Week 24 R20 R45 - R20 R30 R30 -

One of our former club track coaches, Derek Turner, has also written a training programme for beginners, which is based on the principle of listening to your body.