A beginner's guide to running

Finding a new way to get fit doesn't have to mean forking out on expensive gym memberships or personal trainers. Running is free, can be done anywhere - and it's easier than you'd think to get started. Put your best foot forward with this guide

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Right, what's the minimum I need to get started? 

The two most important pieces of running kit are a pair of trainers, naturally - and a decent bra.

Trainers: You'll need good, well-cushioned shoes specifically designed for running. Pop into a running store and get a specialist to sort you out with a suitable pair of trainers, based on your running style, ability, any injuries you might have, and your running aims.

Bra: Just as important as what's on your feet is what's holding you up. Women need to wear a proper sports bra while running - specifically, one designed for high impact sports. Your boobs move in a figure-of-eight motion as you run, moving up and down as much as eight inches (yikes!) - that's far more movement and bounce than in a medium impact sport like cycling, so you'll need a sports bra with properly supported seams to avoid damaging the ligaments that hold your breasts in place.

What if I've got big boobs - can I still run?

Of course! But it's even more important that you get a really supportive sports bra - don't squeeze into any old thing. Find one specifically made for a bigger bust - these are generally designed with thicker, wider straps, so they don't dig in.

Erk - I'm going to feel really self-conscious, aren't I?

You won't be the first to feel a tad awkward when you first start out. The trick? Fake it till you make it. Once you gain confidence you'll worry less about what people think, and your run will become more relaxed and enjoyable; in the meantime, seek out good technical fabrics that are breathable and sweat-wicking, but also comfortable and as flattering as poss. Running gear is cool!

Getting started: How to train

Don't sweat over how many miles you're covering at first: just focus on the time spent on your feet. You'll soon find that you're travelling further each time - that's when to begin increasing the length of your run and thinking about mileage. Just 15-30 minutes of running will kick start your metabolism, burn fat and calories, and release those lovely endorphins that improve your mood and energy levels.

Bit of a dull grind at first? Try listening to music, finding a running buddy, or entering a race which you can aim towards to keep your motivation up.

How fast should I be going, exactly?

If you're new to exercise or getting back into a fitness regime, it's reasonable to expect to feel slightly out of breath. Try the Talk Test to gauge if you're going too fast - you should be able to hold a conversation when running; when you can strike that balance, you've found your ideal pace.

Don't worry if you can't run for the whole time straight away - just focus on getting out there and moving. Striking a walk/run balance is a great way to build up your fitness.

Can't face running outside - can I run on a treadmill instead?

There are pros and cons to both, so do whichever you prefer. A treadmill can be a boon if the weather is grim - and it's a great way to easily track your distance and speed. Treadmills also offer a slightly more cushioned run, reducing the risk of many common injuries.

Running outside, on the other hand, gives you a blast of invigorating fresh air and the sense of covering real ground, which can make you feel you've accomplished more, and therefore mean you're more likely to keep it up.

Stretching: what do I do - and is it really necessary?

It's important to warm up muscles before you get moving rather than stretching them out cold, which makes them more prone to injury. Mobilise your legs and joints before you go - the hips and knees are key - and start with a light jog, or a fast walk, rather than breaking straight into a sprint. And don't forget to stretch again after your run as well, to minimise morning-after-the-day-before aches and pains.


So how much is this going to hurt, exactly?

At first, your legs may be sore in the hours or days after a run, but if you keep it up (and remember the stretches!) the soreness will subside relatively quickly. It's important to differentiate between pain and soreness - muscle stiffness is to be expected, acute pain can mean injury, and a trip to the GP.

Please, help me prevent the dreaded stitch...

1. Eat something light pre-run: nuts, oats and fruit will give you an energy boost without taking too long to digest. 

2. Warm up: start gradually to let your body adjust its temperature and loosen up.

3. Breathe: easy to forget! Try to develop a rhythm and control your breath.

4. Maintain your posture: keep your head up, drop your shoulders and try not to hunch - this effects your breathing as well. 

5. Relax: if you do feel a stitch coming on, tensing up will only make things worse. Continue to breathe deeply and keep a rhythm, slowing down your run if necessary.

If the pain continues, raise your arm on the side of the stitch, reaching towards the sky. This should help to stretch out the muscles.

Do weak joints make running a no-no?

You can still run, but it's important to get the OK from your doctor first, and then start slowly and build up. Before starting a running programme, begin by walking for as little as 10 minutes a day. Both walking and running use similar muscle groups - so you can build up your muscles and protect your joints before moving on to higher impact activity.


I'm running regularly, can I hit the fridge whenever I like?

Running is great exercise and on average burns 100 calories per mile - but sadly, this won't give you free rein, food-wise. A good old balanced diet is key - you'll only need to make specific changes to your diet if you begin training for an endurance event like a marathon, or you're running specifically to lose weight.

Often we're told to limit carbohydrates in our diet - as a runner, though, it's best not to restrict your carbs too much.  Focus on complex carbs - wholegrains and such - as well as protein (to rebuild muscles) and a good mix of fruit and veggies.

Running with a bump - what's the deal?

If you've been running for a while, then it's generally fine to carry on when you're pregnant. Keeping active is important in pregnancy, but you do need to be aware of the changes in your body. Don't push yourself to maintain your usual routine or reach more miles - and expect things to be a little harder than they were! Be sure to drink plenty of water, warm up your muscles and stretch to cool down - and do take breaks when you need them.

I'm pregnant and have a sudden urge to run...

Pregnancy isn't the time to embark upon a major new fitness regime, so if you weren't a regular runner before, now's probably not the time to start. Don't give up though - walking is a great alternative, as are lower impact sports. Always discuss your exercise regime with your midwife.

Even if you're a seasoned runner, it's not always possible to keep it up for your whole pregnancy. You should be particularly careful if you are suffering with back or joint problems or high blood pressure - it's always well worth getting advice from your midwife or doctor first.

And what about getting back into you stride, post-pregnancy?

It's best to avoid strenuous activities, including running, for at least six weeks after the birth of your baby. It can take a full six months for joints and muscles to return to normal after pregnancy, so don't rush in: take it easy, and ease back into a schedule gently. Meanwhile, eat a well-balanced diet, keep hydrated, and listen to your body.

How about bringing along the buggy?

Running with a buggy does change your workout slightly, so don't be disappointed if you can't run as much as you were before, but it's definitely doable. Your shoulders and arms will feel the increased pressure to begin with. Join a buggy-running group to pick up tips, and perhaps some new friends. Chatting while you run will also help take your mind off the hard work your body's doing. Good luck!

Content in association with The Running Bug.

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Last updated: over 1 year ago