Ever wanted to be a runner but didn't know how to start? We've rounded up 15 beginner running tips to help you start strong and stick with it. If you've ever been discouraged by how hard running seems, then read our tips for going from walker to runner without a hitch.
Of course you know how to run — you've been doing it ever since you learned to walk. It seems pretty straightforward, but you could unknowingly be making some mistakes that not only hinder your performance, but worse, may be putting you at risk for an injury. Check out these five common running mistakes and how to fix them for your future runs.
The Wrong Footwear
The issue: Wearing shoes that don't fit properly, are not meant for the surface you're running on, or are too old won't support your feet effectively, which can lead to issues with foot or knee pain as well as impede proper running form. They also won't protect your joints from impact, which might be one reason you suffer from knee, hip, or lower-back pain.
The fix: Don't just pick out the cutest pair! Go to a running store and have an expert watch how you run so they can help you find the most supportive sneaker. And be honest about the surface you usually run on — don't buy a trail runner if you'll mostly be on the treadmill. Replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles or more often if you notice pain or that they are no longer offering the cushion or support.
The issue: Not drinking enough water before, during, and after your run can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, or cramps, which may cause you to cut a workout short.
The fix: Drink 15 to 20 ounces of water one to two hours before working out; sip another eight ounces 15 minutes before. While running, sip six ounces of water every 15 minutes, or if you're working out for longer than an hour or in excessive heat, drink an electrolyte-replacement drink. Make sure to drink another 15 ounces of water after your run — you'll know it's enough when you visit the ladies' room and see light-colored urine.
Keep reading to learn about three more common running mistakes.
Who needs a treadmill? With clear skies and long days on the horizon for the next few months, it's time to move your run outside. Stay safe, comfortable, and cool with these Summer must-dos for runners.
- Go early or late: With temperatures rising, a midday run may not be in the cards. Don't let another too-hot day convince you to skip a workout; work around oppressive temps by going at sunrise or sunset. If the idea of waking up early to run isn't exciting to you and you'd rather relax after work than go for a run, read our tips on how to become a morning runner.
- Hydrate: The warm weather means you'll need more water than you've been used to in cooler seasons, so make sure you drink enough throughout your day in order to stay hydrated. It'll help ensure you don't cramp or feel tired during your run, and will give you more energy as well.
- Wear sweat-wicking clothes: Now is not the time to wear that old concert T-shirt; performance wear made specifically with material to keep you comfy on your long run should be your priority. Look for clothes made with strategic mesh panels and breathable and sweat-wicking fabrics to keep you cool and dry while you run; your post-workout self will thank you. You don't have to spend a lot for performance gear; here are five places with cute, affordable fitness clothes.
- Protect yourself: A daily jog in the sun exposes you to dangerous rays, so protecting yourself from harmful UVs should be a top priority. Check out our tips on how to choose the right sunscreen, and invest in a hat and workout sunglasses to make sure you protect your eyes and face from damaging rays.
- Cooldown: Always an essential part of any workout, the cooldown becomes even more so after a sweaty workout. Make the end of your workout a gradual slow down, followed by stretching, to slow your heart rate safely and prevent you from overheating.
You can be excused if your excitement to finally run in good weather has been dampened by a stretch of runny noses, itchy eyes, and nonstop sneezing. Allergy discomfort can be enough to prevent anyone from wanting to skip their daily workout, so keep sneezing and sniffling at a minimum with these tips for dealing with allergies while on your outdoor runs.
Check the counts: Some days are just made for the treadmill, especially if high pollen counts would mean you'd be suffering through your entire outdoor run. Make a habit of checking pollen and mold counts every day, and ditch your outdoor exercise when counts are the highest. Try Pollen.com for forecasts in your area. If you're not quite sure what triggers your allergies, then go to the doctor for an allergy skin test that will help you figure out what to watch out for.
Pick your time: Pollen counts are usually the highest in the mornings, so if you are feeling sneezy and stuffed up after every morning run, then try to move your running time to later in the day. Going in the evening may be your best option.
Change out of your clothes: Exercise clothes can carry allergens, so make sure you change — and shower — as soon as you get home to limit your exposure.
Prevent discomfort: If you know you're going to be running in high-allergen situations, then take a few preventative steps to make your workout a success. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen, and take your allergy medication — as long as it's nondrowsy and nondrying. Medication and inhalers that open up your air passageways can actually make your symptoms worse, so plan to take these at least an hour before your run.
Starting a running routine can be a relatively simple process — just slip on the right pair of shoes and out you go. But if you want to make your run work for you, make sure you keep these five must dos in mind.
- Warm up: Prepping your muscles for a run helps you feel your best throughout your workout. Make sure you start each run with a dynamic warmup or a slow jog before you go intense.
- Add strength training: Adding a few strength-training moves after your run saves you time, since you've already warmed up, and is great to do if you find that your workouts are more about cardio than toning. Even just five minutes of simple moves like planks, push-ups, and lunges will help you tone muscles and see results in just a few weeks.
- Have a goal: Whether it's to become a faster runner or to make it farther than your last run, each workout should have a specific goal. But you don't always have to push yourself; even your easy jog can have a specific goal, like to help stretch out your muscles or relieve stress. Think about why you're running and what you hope to accomplish before you head out.
- Switch it up: You may have your favorite route or treadmill pace, but you won't see results as fast — whether you're trying to become a better runner or looking to lose weight — if you stick to the same workout. And doing the same routine won't help you motivate to get out of bed if you're sick of your workout. Instead, switch up your routine regularly so you are keeping your body guessing and your mind invested in your workout.
- Cool down: Don't go straight from the treadmill to the locker room; a few minutes of stretching will help you build muscle, increase flexibility, and become a better runner. These postrun stretches should become part of every run.
Warmer weather means you can kiss the treadmill goodbye and head to open roads. But if you're not a fan of running outside, here are some ways to inspire a love of running in the great outdoors.
- Seek out gorgeous scenery: From soft, sandy beaches to breezy trails overlooking mountains and flowery community gardens buzzing with hummingbirds, find a new place that's so beautiful you can't wait to be there. An inspiring place is a wonderful distraction, so you'll forget you're running and just enjoy being in nature. You might even end up running longer too.
- Bring Fido: One of the perks to running outside is that you can bring your dog along. Their adorably smiling face, wagging tail, and the way they bound in glee is sure to put an extra pep in your step. Plus, seeing those sad eyes yearning for a run is a great way to inspire you on days when you're just not feeling it.
- Go for the gear: Splurge on a GPS or go for the free Nike+ Running app for your phone. Either way, it's fun to have a log of all your runs and to keep track of your mileage, pace, and calories burned to inspire you to run further and faster than your last run.
Sometimes, you just don't want to go for a run — you're tired and sluggish, and when you finally convince yourself to go you can't shake that lead feeling from your legs. Help prevent a low-energy run next time with these tips.
- Drink caffeine: Studies have found that athletes given caffeine before their workout had increased endurance than those who didn't drink any coffee. Try drinking a cup of coffee an hour before your run; if caffeine isn't your drink, here are four other noncaffeinated drinks that energize you as well.
- Warm up first: If you're feeling sluggish before a run, get your blood flowing before you start your jog. A few high knees, jumping jacks, or a dynamic warmup can help you feel light on your feet so you can tackle all your miles.
- Find your snack: You aren't going to have your best run without the right fuel. Carbs will give you a burst of energy for your run, while protein offers sustained energy for longer or intense workouts. Make sure you eat a snack before you go out for your run to keep your energy up. Since the perfect snack that gives you fuel without upsetting your stomach can be a matter of trial and error, check out a few of our pre-workout snack ideas; it may help you find the right one.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can make you fatigued, so make sure you drink enough water every day so you start any run happily hydrated. Just remember not to drink too much water before your run, or you may feel sluggish and waterlogged. If you're going on a long run, remember to bring water with you so you don't peter out from dehydration. Find out more tips on drinking water while you exercise here.
I recently ran my first marathon, and from the time I registered for the race to the moment I stepped foot on the course, it was a complete (and exhausting!) learning experience. If you're training for a marathon, keep these tips I learned from my experience in mind (and if you're a marathon pro, share your own tips below!).
- Do a test run: Even if you aren't running the full 26 miles before race day, you still need to know how your body will react when you finally are on the course. Use one of your last long runs as a dress rehearsal and do the whole ritual — wake up at the time you would during the race, eat and drink as you would before the race, and wear the outfit you've picked out.
- Ask questions: Whether you're running the familiar streets of your hometown or making your way to a destination race, check online forums or ask runners at the expo if you have questions about what to expect on the course, what to wear, or the best way to get to the starting line. Experienced runners will have info that even the race organizers may not tell you about, so take in any advice you can get!
- Monitor the weather: You may have the perfect running outfit picked out on Monday, only to realize that a surprise heat wave is coming by marathon Sunday. Keep tabs on the weather while you prepare for your race, especially if you are traveling. Ask other runners what they are wearing to get an idea of how you should dress (in general, you should dress like it's 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the temperature to avoid layering too much and overheating).
- Check the course: It helps to be prepared, so even if you think you know the course, check out as much information as possible before your big day. Not only should you check out the actual course and its elevation, but you'll need to know the frequency of water stations, restrooms, and gel stations to be even more prepared.
- Know your routine: You should have a plan for everything come the morning of your race — from which alarm you're going to use to wake up to what you're eating and where you're stopping for coffee before you get to the course. Give yourself ample time to arrive at the starting line; you'll need time to digest your breakfast, go to the bathroom, and find parking, so don't keep hitting the snooze button.
- Get some sleep: It's not just you; even runners who have many marathons under their belt still get nervous before a race. After all, you've prepared for months to get to the big day, so it's understandable that you have a few jitters. But instead of staying up nervously watching TV or trying to take your mind off your worry by going out with friends, make sleep a priority. Go to bed early, and give yourself enough downtime to relax and drift off to sleep so you don't add additional stress by worrying whether you're getting enough hours of shut-eye.
Read on for tips for what you should do on race day.
Slow and steady not cutting it for you anymore? If you want to run faster, here are five simple ways to increase your running speed.
- Fuel up: Eating the right prerun foods is important to prevent feeling sluggish during your run. Go for foods that won't cause cramps: choose a small snack of simple carbs with a little bit of protein if you're eating right before a run (read more on how to choose a pre-workout snack here). And drink a cup of coffee about a half-hour before you go for a run; studies have shown that caffeine helps you run faster and longer.
- Intervals: Short sprinting bursts are great for making you a better runner all around. Up your pace and stamina with this treadmill interval workout to incorporate into your running routine.
Read on for three more ways to increase your running speed.
Running is all about putting one foot in front of the other. Sounds easy enough, right? But if your running form is off, then you'll likely end up with aches, strains, and injuries that could keep you from lacing up your sneakers at all. Make sure to avoid these running-form mistakes the next time you hit the treadmill, trail, or road.
- Head: It sometimes feels good to close your eyes and relax your chin toward your chest, but don't keep your head down (or tilt your head up) for long periods of time. Prevent neck strain and encourage an open throat for easy breathing by keeping your head stacked over your spine. Correct head position also encourages a straight, upright stance, which makes you a more efficient runner.
- Shoulders: Without even realizing it, you may be running with your upper back and shoulders tensed up toward your ears. (And you wonder why you have a pounding headache or aching neck.) Every so often, take a nice deep breath in and as you exhale, relax your upper torso and actively roll your shoulders back and down toward your pelvis. Do a self-check to make sure your shoulders are stacked over the hips. Hunching the upper body forward not only makes it difficult to breathe, it also puts pressure on your lower back.
Keep reading to learn more about your running form.