The Total Beginner’s Guide To Running

Everything you need to know to get you moving. – By Beth Eck, Alisa Bauman and Mark Remy

Image by Glen Montgomery

Image by Ewald Sadie

At some point early on, a beginner learns that 99.9 per cent of runners are pleasant, helpful people. This realisation usually dawns when a beginner meets a veteran at a race or on a training run, and the veteran starts sharing his or her enthusiasm for and knowledge of running. That’s how runners are. And that’s why, for this guide, we asked this question to a number of experienced runners of various ages: what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

Whether you’re just starting out, or have been running for decades, you’ll learn something from their answers.

Every beginner asks at least a few of these questions at some point. Here are the answers:

How do I get started?
Start walking for an amount of time that feels comfortable – anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, sprinkle one- to two-minute running intervals into your walking. As time goes on, make the running intervals longer, until you are running for 30 minutes straight.

Is it normal to feel pain during running?
Some discomfort is normal as you add distance and intensity to your training. But real pain isn’t normal. If something feels so bad that you have to run with a limp or otherwise alter your stride, you’re probably injured. Stop running immediately, and take a few days off. If you’re not sure, try walking for a minute or two to see if the discomfort disappears. If it doesn’t disappear, consult your GP.

Do I have to wear running shoes, or are other trainers fine?

Running doesn’t require much investment in gear and accessories, but you have to have a good pair of running shoes. Unlike all-round trainers, running shoes are designed to allow your foot to strike the ground properly, reducing the amount of shock that travels up your leg. They’re also made to fit your foot snugly, which reduces the slipping and sliding that can lead to blisters.

What’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running outside?
A treadmill ‘pulls’ the ground underneath your feet, and you don’t meet any wind resistance, which makes running somewhat easier. Many treadmills are padded, making them a good option if you’re carrying a few extra pounds or are injury-prone and want to decrease impact. To better simulate the effort of outdoor running, you can always set your treadmill at a one per cent incline.

Where should I run?
You can run anywhere that’s safe and enjoyable. The best running routes are scenic, well lit, and free of traffic. There also soft: choose trails or smooth grass rather than roads. Think of running as a way to explore new territory. Use your watch to gauge your distance, and set out on a new adventure each time you run. Talk to other runners about the routes they run. The more varied your routes, the easier running will feel. More about running surfaces.

I always feel out of breath when I run. Is something wrong?
Running causes you to breathe harder than usual, so some amount of huffing and puffing is normal. Most of that out-of-breath feeling diminishes as you become fitter. Concentrate on breathing from deep down in your belly, and if you have to, slow down or take walking breaks. If the breathlessness persists, ask your doctor about the possibility that you may have asthma.

I often suffer from a stitch when I run. Will these ever go away?
Side stitches are common among beginners because the abdomen is not used to the jostling that running causes. Most runners find that stitches go away as fitness increases. Also, don’t eat any solid foods in the hour before you run. When you get a stitch, breathe deeply, concentrating on pushing all of the air out of your abdomen. This will stretch out your diaphragm muscle (just below your lungs), which is usually where a cramp occurs.

Should I breathe through my nose or my mouth?
Probably the latter, which will allow you to get as much oxygen as possible to your working muscles. However, some runners breathe through their noses during training runs, believing that this keeps them more relaxed. Do what works for you.

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One Response to “The Total Beginner’s Guide To Running”

  1. Vicky Moloi says:

    When I begin to run or power walk I experience terrible static itch on my thighs and then all over my body. This has caused me to refrain from running as the itch gives me terrible heart palpitations. What could this be? Is this normal?

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