How to start running
If you’re new to running, you’ve come to the right place! Runna offers all the support you need to build a safe and sustainable running habit for years to come.
Whether you want to run your first 5k, build your general fitness, or you're getting back to running after a long break, there are several things you need to consider to make running as enjoyable as possible.
From improving your running form and building a consistent running habit to using strength training strategically and optimizing your nutrition and recovery, there are some essential components to setting yourself up for success – and cruising those first five kilometers.
Many runners start with the goal to run 5k without stopping or walking. A 5k (which stands for 5 kilometers and is approx. 3.1 miles) is a popular running distance that is an accessible goal for nearly everyone – even if you have no running experience at all or are not feeling very fit at all.
Once you get to running a 5k within 60 minutes, you can look into further decreasing your finishing time – and even signing up for your first 5k race!
A key element to taking up running is staying consistent and holding yourself accountable. Some of the best ways to do this are to:
- Build a weekly running routine and get used to running a few times a week
- Add your training sessions to your calendar to make it easier to integrate running into your schedule
- Sign up for a 5k race – having a specific, tangible goal ahead of you can do wonders for your motivation
- Run with other people! Try a local running club or run with your friends or a run buddy
To help you with all this, we’ve built Runna, a dedicated running coaching app that you can use to build your own beginner-friendly running plan that adjusts all training sessions to your goals, availability, and preferences.
Nutrition for runners
If you’ve just started running (or are planning to), you need to know that training is only one part of the equation. To become a better runner, you need to also fuel your training and recovery – and make healthy food choices on a day-to-day basis.
Essentially, as a runner, you need to:
- Keep your protein high to help with muscle recovery
- Eat a slightly higher proportion of carbs before your more challenging runs
If you’re looking to gradually become faster, you might wish to experiment with caffeine, too.
While carb-loading is not necessary for runs under 5k, carbs are still a great option for fueling your body – so before you get out the door for your next run, make sure you eat a meal or a snack that’s rich in carbs.
Don’t go overboard with sugar, though! There are plenty of healthy carb choices out there, mostly in the form of complex carbohydrates: whole grain, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables are ideal for runners of all levels.
Race day nutrition
If you’re planning to run your first 5k race, here are a few things you should know about race-day nutrition:
- A few hours before you start running, eat a carb-rich meal. This will allow your body to digest the food and keep you fresh during the actual run.
- Limit fiber, protein, and fat intake before your run. Those can slow down digestion and might make you feel heavy.
- Don’t try anything new on race day. Use tried and tested foods and combinations of foods that you’ve used in the past.
Cross-training and strength training for beginner runners
Although it’s not a must, adding cross-training and strength training to your running program has two important benefits: they’ll help you reduce injury risk and improve your running performance. Here’s how:
- Cross-training enables you to add variety to your training schedule and also stay in shape in case you’re dealing with an injury. There are many options you can try: cycling, hiking, swimming are just a few. Most importantly, choose a sport you enjoy doing.
- Strength training helps you improve your endurance, speed, and running economy, making you a better runner. It also protects your joints and muscles against injuries by helping your body manage muscle loads better.
With Runna, you can add customized strength training sessions to your running plan and tailor them to your schedule, equipment, and current strength level.
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Running form and pacing
Your running form is important for a few reasons. Running efficiently will:
- Protect your body from the impact with the ground as much as possible
- Reduce the energy needed to run and therefore help you run faster and stronger
- Reduce the risk of injury
How you run is something you’ve learned over a lifetime, so changing your running form might feel strange at first. Be patient and keep in mind that it’s a continuous process.
Your running pace is simply the speed at which you run. It’s usually measured in terms of time-per-distance unit, for example 8 minutes/km or 12 minutes/mile.
You can use a running watch or your phone’s GPS tracker and a running app like Runna to monitor your pace; this is helpful if you’re trying to achieve or maintain a specific pace during workouts or a race. Keeping an eye on your pace is essential once you start training for specific distances or time goals, so it’s a good idea to develop this habit right from the start.
Recovery for runners: sleep, mobility work, sports massages
Shorter distances typically don’t require a long recovery period, but if you’re just getting started or coming back from a short break, you might feel quite tired after your first training sessions. Don’t worry, though: Your body has an enormous capacity to adapt to new types of physical activity!
If you’re feeling too sore from running after your first sessions, cross training at low to medium intensity is ideal.
Recovery and downtime are key for optimizing your running performance. Remember to:
- Get enough sleep: Aim to get 8 hours of sleep each night to help your body recover.
- Do mobility work: Mobility work will help you feel less stiff and become a better runner. You can try yoga, pilates, or simply stretch.
- Do sports massages: Use foam rollers or go to a sports massage from time to time to help with recovery.
- Listen to your body: Don’t hesitate to change your training schedule or take an extra day off, if needed.
Running gear: shoes, clothing, and more
The gear you use during training has a huge impact on your comfort and performance. Here are the things to consider when buying running gear for the first time:
- Running shoes: Shoes help protect your body from the impact with the ground. Get a good pair of running shoes, ideally from a running store with an in-store treadmill.
- Clothing: Avoid cotton, because it retains moisture and can cause chafing. Buy clothes from high-quality performance fabrics that wick moisture and dry quickly.
- A running watch or GPS tracker: You can use your phone’s GPS tracker or buy a running watch like Garmin or COROS to keep an eye on your pace and the distance. Runna integrates with Garmin, Apple Watch, Coros, and Strava to help you get most of your training plan.
- Accessories: You might consider getting a running belt or armband to carry your phone, keys, and other essentials.
- Sun protection: Don’t forget to use high-SPF sunscreen, even on cloudy days.