How To Run Like the Wind: A Beginner's Guide

Photo by Kate MacLeod

Recently, some of my amazing friends expressed how they would love to get into running. The problem is, is that either they've tried before and not had much luck with it sticking, or are absolutely knackered after a few minutes. I get it, I've been there. Running can be a bit of a drag, especially if you're not used to it.

However, they said to me that they really wanted to know how to get better, and enjoy it, so without further ado, I'm creating this guide so then some of you can learn from the many lessons I've learned from running over the years. There are both tips on how to avoid overworking yourself, how to keep up running, and also how to make it more enjoyable. Here's to you, Tiya and Fi!

Tip #1: Understand the Why

It's really important to figure out exactly why you want to start running. Maybe you have a sedentary job and need a little endorphin hit at the end of a long day. Perhaps you're a student who wants to keep your mental health in check. Or maybe you want to lose a few pounds. Whatever reason, make sure you understand your why. It will help you with motivation down the line. I will admit, although it's nice to shave off some weight, it shouldn't be your whole reason for running. Make sure your reasons are deeper than that, and that will make the journey more sustainable (and hopefully enjoyable) for you. P.S. Not every run is going to be perfect, so don't get discouraged!

Tip #2: Bring along a friend or fluffy companion

I used to run a little bit as a kid, but never really went running on my own. The thing that really encouraged me to get back out running was when my friends decided to go running, so we'd all go together. Every time I've stopped running for a bit, my friends are the ones who get me back into it. Now, I'm comfortable both running with friends, and on my own. I've also been the faster friend, as well as the slower friend, and to all of you folk who are scared of holding someone back- don't be. Your friend will be happy to have someone to run with! Lately, I've also really been loving running with my puppy, now that he's a bit more used to going for longer distances. It's so much fun, and just makes the run so much more enjoyable (even when he runs off chasing another dog!), so I would definitely recommend running with a pet.

Tip #3: Start out slower than you think you should

A lot of people think that the faster or further the run, the better the run, which isn't true. Perhaps if you're hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon, or wanting to place in your age category, you're thinking about speed. However, this takes time to build up to, and you can't expect yourself to come up with a world record, so try not to put too much pressure on yourself! In fact, whenever I try to get back into a running rhythm, or if friends ask for advice on how to actually run, the first thing I say is slow down. You want to be able to chat with someone when you're running, and shouldn't be completely out of breath. In fact, regardless of the speed you start out running at, I say slow down. Your pace will naturally increase as you grow as a runner.

Tip #4: Use the run-walk approach

You might start off running with some great ambitions of pounding the pavement, and only end up feeling like dying, two minutes in. I'm here to tell you that running doesn't have to be like that! When you run, it puts quite a bit of strain in your muscles, especially if you haven't run much before. You've got to break it in, just like you do a new pair of shoes. The key is to start slow, and build up from there. Total beginners should run for short bursts, and walk for a longer distance. Always, always, always, end with a walking segment to cool down. I promise you, you'll be way more motivated if you start off slow, and also less sore! This brings me on to my next point.

Tip #5: Get yourself on a running plan

If elite runners use running plans, then why can't you? Granted, they will be adjusted for your goals and distance, but nonetheless, it is a really great way to stay on track. You can adjust running plans based on your ultimate distance goal or time to do a certain distance, put in your current running stage, and also how many runs you can go on in a week. This is a great way to encourage yourself to run consistently, especially if you're not running with friends. Some of my recommendations to look into are Nike+ Run Club, Boston Marathon Training Programmes, or Couch to 5k. Remember, you might have to try a few before finding the perfect plan for you!

Tip #6: Consistency is key

As mentioned above, a running plan is a great way to keep consistent with your running. Guys, consistency is really the thing that's going to keep you disciplined enough to continue running. Sure, motivation is great and all, but you're not always going to be motivated. That's why you have to be consistent. Schedule in your runs like you've got a doctor's appointment. Make sure you show up, no matter what. I also like to schedule less runs than I really feel like doing, say 2 a week. That goal is easy for me to reach, and if I do any more running days, I feel pretty good about myself. I would say, set one or two running days if you're just starting out. Remember to create a regular time you like to run, and also reward yourself afterwards (dark chocolate, anyone?)

Tip #7: Set yourself distance goals

I find it super helpful to set myself little goals as I run, either at certain distances, or little landmarks as I run. This was especially helpful when I started running, as I knew I wanted to make it either 500m, 1k, 2k, 3k, etc, or to a certain street before walking. Once I reached that place, I would challenge myself to run a bit further. I would advise setting yourself the goal of running a certain distance, that you know you can run, even if it seems quite short. That way, you can use that motivation to fuel yourself to your next landmark.

Tip #8: Put those earbuds in

I get it, sometimes running can be a bit boring when you're starting out, or doing the same route over and over again. That's why phones are incredible to run with (either with some trousers/short with a pocket, or a running band for your arm). You can set your own playlist to uplifting and fast-paced music, or catch up on podcasts that you've been putting off. For me, I usually try to listen to podcasts as I run, and then when I get towards the end and am feeling the heat, I'll put on my latest pump-up song playlist. I swear, if I'm listening to something, then the kilometres seem to go by so much quicker. Make sure that you're aware of what's going on around you, especially if you're running on the road!

Tip #9: Download a running app

It's super helpful for anyone to track their running progress, not only to see if your runs are speeding up (which is quite satisfying), but also to keep consistent with runs. Personally, I like to use Strava, as the interface is easy and most of the time it's pretty accurate. It also has some great features to help you further analyse your runs. I've also heard that the Nike run app (thanks for this suggestion, Fi!) is super helpful, as it speaks to you and encourages you on. Another bonus for running apps is that they track the total distance you've run, and you can impress yourself at the end of the month by seeing how many kilometres you ran!

Tip #10: Sign up for a race

Let's face it, humans are goal oriented creatures. We like to be working towards something, rather than continuing to do the same thing day in and day out. Running works the exact same way. When you're not in the habit of running, it can be a bit difficult mustering the motivation to go for a run. That's why signing up for a race is a great way to get into the running groove. Get yourself on a little training plan, as mentioned above, and you'll find yourself running distances you never felt possible! In both of the cities that I live in, there are all sorts of races such as the Vancouver Sun Run, the Vancouver Seawheeze, the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, or the Scottish Half Marathon. Also check out this guide of races for Scotland and this one for Vancouver/BC.

Tip #11: Explore somewhere new

Exploring a new place is super fun on a run. I love finding new trails in the woods and looking around to find some viewpoints. It's a great changeup from my usual runs! When you're starting to run, and not quite into the rhythm, it can get a bit boring doing the same route over and over again, while you try to find your pace. It's also good for your body to change up the surface you're running on, places like: new roads, park paths, urban greenways, dirt trails, your local track, that huge neighbourhood hill, and more. I challenge you to explore somewhere you've never been, even if it is a bit hilly, and try to run there occasionally. You might find your new favourite local run! Point is, keep it varied.

Tip #12: Be kind to your feet by buying proper footwear

Please, please, please, get yourself some proper running footwear! It's really the only piece of gear you'll really need. I really would recommend going to a specialty running store and having an expert look at your feet. Your feet are so different from everyone else's; you may have high arches, flat feet, a slight roll in your ankle as you run, etc. Also let them know whether you want a trail, road, or cross shoe! I know what it's like to run on shoes that didn't work on my feet, I was amazed at the improvements I made when I was able to educate myself at the running store, and figure out the type of shoe I needed. I promise you, it will make a world of a difference, and you'll be able to run pain and injury free.

*I use Brooks because I have wide feet, high arches, and need extra support due to wonky ankles. Out of all the shoes I've tried, I've consecutively bought Brooks.

Photo by Kate MacLeod

Tip #13: Enjoy it!

Although there's a lot to get used to with running, you have to remember to enjoy yourself! Exercise is always going to come easier if you are happy with what you're doing, and genuinely enjoy it. Of course, there will always be those days where you feel awful and don't have great runs, but hopefully, those are rare instances. Just being outside, running with friends, on a nice little trail, hopefully will be a nice break from your everyday busy life. You might even eventually experience runners' high, where endorphins from exercise flow through your body, making you feel on top of the world and less stressed.

If you're just starting to run, remember that you're still ahead of all those people on the sofa, since you're getting your daily movement in! It takes a while for your body to get used to running, especially if you've not really done it before. It will get better, and I hope that you find running as incredible as I do.

Good luck, to all of you starting on your running journey, and if you need any advice, then please feel free to message me.

What's something that you've always wanted to try?


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Mechanical Engineering student. Future space engineer. Writer. Runner. Passionate about getting more women into STEM.

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