Every runner was once a beginner. We all of us wondered where to start; how far and fast to run; what sort of kit to buy; whether to join a club; and so on.
This section of the website is for anyone who is just starting out in running and is looking for some advice.
You are starting out in a sport which gives a great many people a lot of pleasure. For many of us, it is an important part of who we are. We wish you every success, and hope that you find running as rewarding and inspiring as we do.
You can either read these pages like a book, by following the links on each page to the next article, or jump around to the articles that interest you, by following links on each page.
1. Start slowly and build up
Lots of new runners get carried away and try to do too much too soon. This can lead to disappointment, loss of enthusiasm and possibly injury. If you want to be able to enjoy running for the rest of your life, start out slowly and build up.
2. You may need to check with a doctor before you start
You should get a medical check up if you are over 60 and unused to a lot of exercise, or if you may be in danger of having a heart condition which could be triggered by running. Use your common sense: if in doubt, see your doctor.
3. Keep a running log
A running log is a place where you record each run that you do. It is excellent for motivation. It also provides useful information which you can use as you improve, to see what works for you. You can use a pen and notebook, your personal organizer (PDA), or a spreadsheet on your computer.
4. Set yourself a goal
It helps to have something to aim for. This could might be running in a 5km race, or losing a stone. Make sure your goal is something achievable. If your goal is to run a marathon, you might want to set yourself some milestones (such as completing a half marathon) on the way. Whatever your level, it is exciting and motivating to see how you are improving and to reach your goals.
There are few runners who would not benefit from running half an hour a week less, and using that half an hour a week for stretching instead. Stretching makes muscles more flexible and reduces the chance of injury.
6. Get decent running shoes
One of the benefits of running is that you do not need to spend a fortune on it. The one essential item is a pair of running shoes, and you should not scrimp on getting the right pair for you. (If you are a woman, you also need a decent sports bra). Go to a specialist running shop, not a general sports store. Three of our sponsors offer excellent advice on running shoes:
Runner Bill's Sports, Midlothian
The Roadrunner Running Store,
7. Join a running club
Well we would say this, wouldn't we! Seriously, running clubs are an excellent source of advice and inspiration for beginners. The Richmond Road Runners Club welcomes total beginners, and we have a starter group for people who are just starting to run (Saturday morning run at
8. Run safely
Research (in the
9. Drink lots of water and eat properly
Runners burn up more energy than non-runners, both while they are running (at about 100 calories a mile) and afterwards. So you need to eat more, and you need to consume more of your calories as carbohydrate. You also need drink plenty of water - keep a bottle of water on your desk and sip during the day.
10. Keep on enjoying running
Don't let running become just another stress in your life. Don't set yourself such a rigid or time-consuming timetable that you struggle to achieve it. Give yourself breaks - a day a week, and month each year - when you don't run at all.
Ideally, everyone who takes up running should check with a doctor that they are not going to put themselves in danger. But for many runners this is unnecessary. There are some guidelines below about whether you need to see a doctor.
The US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has formulated the following guidelines. According to these guidelines, anyone who conforms to one or more of the eight criteria below should consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program:
a. You are over age 60 and not accustomed to vigorous
b. you have a family history of premature coronary heart
disease (under 55 years of age);
c. you frequently have pains or pressure in the left or
mid chest area, left neck, shoulder or arm (as distinct from the
"stitch") during or immediately after exercise;
d. you often feel faint or have spells of severe
dizziness, or you experience extreme breathlessness after mild exertion;
e. your doctor has said that your blood pressure is too
high and is not under control, or you do not know that it is normal;
f. your doctor has said that you have heart trouble,
that you have a heart murmur, or that you have had a heart attack;
g. your doctor has said that you have bone or joint
problems, such as arthritis;
h. you have a medical condition that might need special attention in an exercise program (for example, insulin dependent diabetes).
Use your common sense; and if you are in doubt, go to your doctor.
1. There is a huge amount written about nutrition for athletes. Much of the advice is dauntingly long and complicated, and some of it is contradictory. As a new runner, you won't go far wrong if you stick to these general principles.
2. If you exercise regularly, you need
to eat and drink more. If you start exercising but go on eating the same
amount, you will lose weight. Running, jogging or walking a mile burns
about 100 calories; and if you run regularly, your resting metabolism will
increase. If you run 40 miles a week, you'll need to eat about 600-700 calories
a day extra.
3. Eat plenty of a wide variety of
fresh or unprocessed foods. Your body needs carbohydrate, protein and
fat, as well as vitamins, mineral, trace elements and water. If you deny
it those things, you are likely to become lethargic, ill or get injured.
4. Drink lots of water. Try to
consume at least 2 quarts a day. Always have a bottle of water on your
desk at work, and sip regularly during the day. Put a bottle on the
kitchen table and sip whenever you walk past. Being properly hydrated
will improve your running and your complexion! Tea and coffee don't help:
they are diuretic (ie they make you urinate more) so they increase the need to
drink water. (Herbal tea is OK.)
5. Eat more carbohydrates. About
half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. This means lots of
potatoes, pasta, bread, cereals and fruit. Where possible, try to eat
unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, most pasta (the runner's staple) is refined:
try wholemeal instead.
6. Eat a low fat diet. You should
not eliminate fats altogether, but they should not form more than about 15 per
cent of your calorie intake each day. This is not much fat.
7. Replenish your carbohydrates within
two hours of exercise. Your muscles will recover much more quickly, and
your body will increase its capacity to store glycogen, if you eat easily
digestible carbohydrates (eg bananas) or drink a recovery sports drink soon
after exercise - preferably within half an hour,
and certainly within two hours.
8. Keep a food diary. You might
be surprised by what you are really eating, even if you think you have a
healthy diet. For a week, keep track of everything you eat, and break it
down into carbohydrate, fat and protein.
9. You probably don't need vitamin
supplements. If you eat a varied diet and you ensure that your fruit and
vegetables are fresh, you should get the vitamins and minerals you need.
But some runners on a heavy training schedule take a multi-vitamin tablet each
day, and if you are prone to infections you might want to take Vitamin C and
10. Eat little and often. Ideally, start the day with a big breakfast with plenty of carbohydrates, such as muesli or toast. This will give you more fuel for the day, and help to increase your carbohydrate intake. Then eat every 4 hours or so. It is better to keep your body topped up than to let your blood sugar levels swing.
This section is for people who are starting running to lose weight.
1. To lose fat, you need to eat fewer
calories or burn more energy
Your body stores the excess calories that you consume as body fat. So if you want to reduce your body fat, you need either to consume fewer calories, or burn more energy. Any weight-loss program is only going to succeed if it delivers one or both of these.
2. Don't diet: run instead.
Dieting will reduce your muscle and water content as well as your body fat. It is difficult to keep up a diet, because you continually have to fight temptation. Limiting what you eat can also be unhealthy. Exercise, by contrast, will burn calories, increase your lean muscle and body tone, and raise your metabolic rate. If you increase you exercise, you can continue to eat enough to make you feel satisfied, and get a wide range of vitamins and minerals, without putting on weight. It will improve your appearance, reduce stress, and improve your health.
3. Don't begin a diet and start to run
at the same time
It is a bad idea to begin a diet and start to run at the same time. When you are a runner your body needs plenty of fuel and a wide range of vitamins and nutrients. If you begin a diet at the same time as you start to run, you may find you do not have enough energy or other nutrients to run, and you will risk illness or injury. You may want to rebalance the composition of your diet (see below) but do not try to restrict your food intake when you start running.
4. To lose more body fat, exercise more
To estimate the amount of calories you need, first multiply your weight in pounds by 13. This gives you your calorie requirement for a moderately active person who does not exercise. On top of that, to walk, jog or run a mile uses about 100 calories. (It doesn't matter how fast you do it: the energy used is about the same.) From this, you can calculate the amount of calories you should consume each day to reduce your body fat. Never cut your calorie intake to below 80% of your calorie requirement. Running regularly also increases your resting metabolic rate, and increases your percentage of lean muscle, so increasing your energy consumption throughout the day. Over time, for every extra 6 miles a week you run, your equilibrium body weight will settle at about 2.5 pounds4 lighter.
5. Rebalance what you eat
Eat about 55% of your daily calorie intake as carbohydrates, 15% as fat, and 30% as protein. Within this broad framework, eat a varied diet, with plenty of fresh and unprocessed food to ensure that you get the right vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrate and protein are about 4 calories per gram; fat is about 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates, particularly dietary fiber, tend to be bulky and so make you feel full without providing too many calories. Eat proteins with carbohydrates (e.g. a handful of nuts when you eat a banana) to prevent your body from overreacting to the sugars.
6. Drink plenty of water
Drinking more water will help your running, your health and your complexion. It will also make your stomach feel more full, and so reduce any tendency you might have to snack. Don't try to lose weight by losing water (e.g. running in a track suit to make you sweat more.) The weight loss from dehydration will be purely temporary, and the dehydration will make it more difficult for you to exercise as hard or as long, so you will end up burning fewer calories. Dehydration can make you very ill, and in extreme cases may be fatal.
7. Focus on your body fat, not your
Exercising will increase your lean muscle, which is more dense than fat. So you may find that when you begin an exercise program, your weight goes up, or does not fall, because the extra muscle more than makes up for the reduced fat. But you will nonetheless have less fat, and a better toned body.
8. Running more slowly will not burn more fat
You may have heard about the "fat burning zone", or seen machines in the gym which suggest lower exertion levels to burn fat. But running further will always burn more calories - so the best way to burn fat is to run as far as you can.
9. Exercising part of the body does not
reduce the fat in that part of the body. You sometimes see people in gyms
exercising their legs in the hope of reducing the fat on their thighs. It
won't work. When your body supplies energy to muscles, it does not burn
nearby fat. Sadly, the fat often comes off just where you don't want it
to! Working particular muscles may improve the appearance of that part of your
body by increasing muscle bulk and tone, but it won't reduce the fat there.
10. Don't overdo it.
You should not try to reduce your body weight by more than 1% of your bodyweight in a week if you want to do it safely and sustainably. If you continue to run regularly, your body fat will fall away over time. Sit back and enjoy the running. You may find that you do not lose as much weight as you expected, because of the replacement of fat by lean tissue, which is heavier than fat. But your body shape and appearance will improve.
New runners often try to run too far or too fast at first. This is particularly true if you join a running club and feel you should be keeping pace with more experienced runners. The key to running is to push yourself, but not so hard that you become injured or ill.
1. Walk for the first three weeks
If you are new to running - even if you are physically fit - you should walk for the first three weeks. Although this may sound boring, there is statistically a very good chance of becoming injured in your third month of running if you do not begin with a period of walking. It takes time for your joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to get used to the impact and mechanics of running. Your overall fitness tends to increase before your body has fully adapted, and that is when you get injured. Use the first three weeks of walking to get into the habit of exercise, and adjust your daily routine, and let your body get a head start on adapting to running. If you have jogged a little, but never run far, it is still advisable to begin a program of mainly walking before you start running. Consider visiting a physiotherapist or podiatrist.
2. Remember the talk test
When you are training, you should be able to maintain a conversation, talking in complete sentences. If you are too out of breath to do this, you are training too fast.
Your fitness and strength do not improve while you are running. They improve while you are resting, as your body responds to the stresses it has experienced. Rest is just as important a part of your training program as running. When you start running, you should not run more than every other day. As you get more experienced, you should take a day off each week.
4. Do not increase your distance more than 3 miles a
You should not increase your weekly mileage more than 3 miles in any one week. This will ensure that you build up slowly. Jumps in mileage are asking for injury.
5. Keep at it for at least 4 weeks
For many runners, the first 3-4 weeks are a real struggle. Every time you put on your running shoes, you wonder why you are doing it. But one day, after about 3 weeks, you will suddenly feel the wind at your back, and you will run easily and smoothly without effort. Running will get easier from then on, and the good days will increase while the hard days recede. Enjoy it: you have become a runner.
Every runner in a race has, at some point, had to enter their first race, usually with some trepidation. Here are some tips.
1. You do not need to be fast to enter a race. Races are always full of runners of all
abilities, from young to old. One of the great merits of running is that
you can enter the same competition as world class athletes, whatever your level
2. You do not need to be competitive to enter a race. A very few people in a race are hoping to win.
The rest of us are running it for fun. You should not think of most races
as a competition - the people you are running with want you to succeed as much
as they want to succeed themselves. For many of us, races are a way to
run with a group, on a measured course with mile markers, with regular water
3. Get hold of an entry form. For most races, you can usually enter on the day,
rather than send in your form in advance (though there are some races which do
not take entries on the day). But it is usually more convenient to enter in
advance so that you don't have to queue up on the day, and having your race
number in advance will give you a target to train for. The RRRC Calendar
lists many of the races in the
4. Plan what to bring. Plan your kit the night before, pin your number on the front of
your shirt, and lay your clothes out over a chair. Bring some extra clothes to
change into afterwards (especially a fresh pair of socks, which are always
welcome after a long run). Runners often take with them: toilet roll, Vaseline
(to prevent chafing), money, a banana, a recovery drink, and safety pins.
5. Pin your number on the front of your shirt. In road races you wear your number on your
front so that your time can be recorded when you cross the finish line. Pin the number in all four corners.
6. Arrive early. There is nothing worse than feeling rushed when you
arrive. Arrive at least half an hour, preferably an hour, before the
start time, to pick up your number (if you are entering on the day) and to go
to the toilet.
7. Start slowly, and at the back. Resist the temptation to go shooting off with the
faster runner: take it easy at first, and you can speed up towards the end if
you still have the energy. (It is said that every 10 seconds a mile you run too
fast at the start will cost you 20 seconds a mile at the finish). People are
generally more sociable in the middle of the pack, since most people are not
aiming for a very fast time. You may not cross the start line
immediately, but this won't matter unless you are aiming for a fast time.
8. Enjoy it. Your first race is a special moment. Take time to savor it.
The following information will help you navigate the race process and make it much more fun for you and the race volunteers.
entry form clearly, legible, ALL INFO. ESPECIALLY: Age, Gender, Event
If you omit your age or gender, you will receive a final time only. It will be impossible to score you in
your age group or your gender. Do not assume your first name will confirm you gender!
Just this simple procedure will eliminate many problems on race day.
Do not send in
entry forms without the entry fee . . .
A race spot will not be "Held for you" nor will your data be entered.
· Follow all instructions in the entry form . . . again -- read them.
· TAKE THE TIME TO READ THE ENTRY FORM -- ESPECIALLY THOSE WITH DETAILS OF WHAT - WHEN & WERE. SPECIFICALLY, WHAT IS PERMITTED AND WHAT IS NOT PERMITTED.
· Once on site, look for a posted course map, or see if the entry form had one. Ask for a course map if one is not posted. If an announcement is not made regarding the course description, mile markers, water tables, and volunteers on course . . . ASK!
If an event has
a pre-race meeting -- attend it. If a pre-race meeting is mandatory and
you do not attend, you will be losing out on mandatory, necessary information
which will enable you to have a successful race. Do not think because
"I don't place . . . I don't participate to win" it's not
Your ignorance of the event's rules could result in another's loss. Plus, you could be penalized for not adhering to the rules of participating in a competitive event with people who take their efforts very seriously - - yet never place either. For many it is their sense of personal achievement, and that's just as important as winning a race division.
announcements are made prior to the event start -- LISTEN TO THEM:
a) It Can and Will make you a Happy Camper.
b) The difference between knowing where a water table is, and looking for one every mile - -when you should be concentrating on your race effort.
c) Knowing where the "turn around is", and missing it because a volunteer was not there or did not point you in the right direction.
WEAR YOUR BIB
RACE NUMBER ON THE FRONT OF YOUR BODY - - AGAIN . . . WEAR YOUR BIB RACE NUMBER
ON THE FRONT OF YOUR BODY.
Even if the run or multi event is "chip" timed, the race number gives officials/volunteers your personal i.d. while participating (national sanctioning organizations now require it).
DO NOT SWITCH
RACE NUMBERS WITH ANYONE ELSE! All your personal data is keyed to your own
assigned bib number. If you pick up bib numbers for other people -- BE
SURE EVERYONE RECEIVES THEIR OWN BIB NUMBERS. Once you finish with
someone else's bib number you are scored as the other person, regardless if it
is even a male & female number switch. At many races, results are
delayed because people have inadvertently
switched bib numbers with their children, spouses, teammates, friends. (Or, some just don't care that by letting someone else wear their number, they can -- and do screw up age group/award divisions.
· Do not remove the bottom portion-tear pull tag. Do not pin only the tear tag -- pin the entire large number to your shirt.
You are finished
at the clock -- which should always be placed on the finish line. But
the official finish time is never the finish line clock -- it always the timing
device used by the event's official timers. Once you pass over the
finish line . . . you are done! Slow down, STAY IN SINGLE FILE IN THE
FINISH LINE CHUTE . . .
DO NOT PASS ANYONE ONCE YOU HAVE CROSSED THE FINISH LINE. IF YOU PASS ANYONE IN THE FINISH LINE CHUTE YOU WILL TAKE THEIR TIME! EVERYONE IS RECORDED AT THE FINISH LINE - - NOT IN THE BACK WHERE YOUR TAG IS PULLED. The tags are stacked in order of finish, then matched to the times recorded at the official finish.
NEVER duck out of a finish line chute. Finish times are all knocked off by one place each time this happens. If you cannot walk to the back to have your tag pulled, ask the runner in front of you to hand in your tag (we have all done it or given assistance), or ask for volunteer assistance. Most races have staff to assist at the finish line area.
If you do not register for an event, but participate, you are stealing from everyone: The race organization (they are still going to assist you), the refreshments they put out if you "help yourself". Others have paid a fee for this, plus the timers are going to record you when you cross the finish line. SO DO EVERYONE A FAVOR, ENTER OFFICIALLY OR STAY OFF THE COURSE. (The best one we encountered from a "bandit" was that he complained about a service of the event he encountered during the race!)
· KNOW WHAT TIME THE RACE STARTS, and arrive on time. "Time waits for no one."
· Buy books, magazines on the sports you will participate in. Familiarize yourself for the "road ahead" and the commitment to the rules of good sportsmanship.
· NEVER use foul or abusive language with an event volunteer, event committee-director, or fellow competitor. If you encounter a problem (and you will -- whether your fault, a volunteer's, spectator's, race logistic, etc.) . . . ask for the race director. Try to remain calm and voice your problem, complaint, or suggestions clearly. If it is a timing problem -- ask for the head timer.
· If you have enjoyed the event, have realized how hard so many worked unpaid, saw how many people cared for your success, and have given their best . . . just like you did -- let them know also! It is greatly appreciated.
Participating in sports can be a life-long passion. Yes, passion.
As years go by our level of participation will change, just like we all do in
life. But the love of your sport will help you through bad times, and
give you many good times. It can be your best friend . . . and sometimes,
your only friend.
One of the advantages of running compared to some other sports is that you don't need to buy much equipment. You do need a pair of shoes that is right for you and, if you are a woman, you need a proper sports bra.
Whenever possible, go to a specialized running store. You'll get a better selection, and good advice. Support running shops rather than the big chains. The running stores donate prizes to almost every race event RRRC puts on.
There is no such thing as a "good brand" of shoes, or a "best model". Every runner is different in the way they run, and different running shoes are suitable for different running styles. And it is quite possible that a $60 pair of shoes would suit you better than a $100 pair.
Most of the population "over pronate" - that is, they roll their foot inwards too much. Many running shoe models are designed to prevent this - these are shoes that promote "stability" or "motion control". There are different degrees of over pronation, and different shoes act in different ways to prevent it.
There is no substitute for trying several different models, from several different brands, to see which model works best for you.
To buy suitable shoes:
· go to a specialist running shop . Don't go to
a general sports chain. You need an experienced shop assistant to watch
you run in different models to see how they affect your
· go during the week Try to go when the shop is not going to be busy (avoid
lunchtimes) so that the staff have time to help you.
· try the shoes. Don't just put them on, but run up and down the street in them. You need to feel comfortable in them, as well as be reassured that they have the right degree of stability for you.
Probably not. They are unlikely to have sufficient support, and (assuming they were bought with fashion and utility in mind rather than running) are unlikely to suit your running style.
Currently manufactured running shoes are designed to last 300 to 500 miles. This is for average runners. If you are heavy, run everyday in the same shoes, or don’t take care of your shoes they may not last this long. You cannot tell when a shoe is worn out by looking at the soles. The midsole, which provides cushioning and stability, breaks down first. The best thing to do is keep track of your mileage.
Most running injuries are due to improper or worn out shoes. If you are having foot or shoe problems your best option is to take the shoes to a local running store such as Runner Bill's, The Road Runner Running Store, or 3Sports. They will be able to help you find the best shoe for your running style.
If you want to find out more about a specific running shoe you can go the manufacturers website listed below.
Apart from shoes and a bra, all you need to run is a t-shirt, shorts and socks. You don't need to spend a lot of money on special running gear.
That said, as you run more and more, you may want to buy one or two technical t-shirts. These are clothes (marketed under names such as "DriFit" from Nike) which take water away from the skin, and which stay relatively dry. Cotton t-shirts can become waterlogged quickly, whereas technical clothes remain comfortable for longer. Technical gear is, however, expensive, and you most certainly do not need it at first. You might promise yourself a DriFit top when you run your first race!
Oh sure, if you want to spend some money you can buy everything from heart rate monitors to elastic laces, from water bottles to reflective vests. You don't really need any of this stuff, however. You can always buy it later if you get more and more into running.
Many of us run to relieve the pressure of life. It is important not to let running become just another stress. It is too easy to let running become a chore, something you worry about fitting in to a busy day, a pressure on your time. Here are 10 tips on how to make sure running is part of the solution and not part of the problem.
2. Don't try to stick religiously to a detailed daily
program. Use your program to
guide you on the amount of running you are aiming for, and the type of running
you should be doing, but don't worry too much if you can't fit in a particular
session on a particular day. Run according to how you feel: don't let it
become a duty.
3. Keep a running log. You can use your log to track your progress. You may be
surprised at how effective this can be at maintaining your interest, as well as
providing useful information about what works for you.
4. Take off a day every week, have an easy week every
month, and take a month off every year. Your body cannot go on working hard every day of the year. Have a
day off every week - if you want to exercise, cycle or swim instead. Each
month, have an easy week where you don't push yourself so hard. And take
a month off running each year. You'll find you return to running
refreshed and enthusiastic.
5. Vary your routes. Don't just run the same old routes every day. Go out and
explore your neighborhood or a park. Check out our website section entitled
“Great Places to Run.” Try to find a trail in a forest, or along a river,
or a path in a park, so that you are not running on road the whole time.
(You should in any case vary your route for your own security, and to avoid
injury, as well as avoiding boredom.)
6. If you feel you are getting stale, run for a week
without wearing a watch. Run how you feel, not according to the time it is
7. Join a running club. You will meet other people, find new running partners, hear about
interesting events and learn from people who have been running for years.
A running club is a good way to find out about events that you might not have
tried, like cross country, track and field, or triathlons.
8. Enter races. You don't have to be a great athlete to run races - people of all ages
and abilities enter them, and they are a fun day out. You can use them as
a training run, or to test your progress. They are also a great way to go
for a longer run, because the route will be marked out for you, free of
traffic, and there will be water tables on the way round.
9. Run in the mornings. Although you may not be at your best in the morning,
you can at least be fairly sure that nothing will intervene to prevent you
going out. If you run in the evenings, you may find you have to work
late, or an unexpected social engagement gets in the way. Use your morning runs
to clear your head and plan your day. There is something quite special
10. If you do not enjoy running, do something else instead. Running is unquestionably good for you: it will help you lose weight, get fit, and manage stress. But if you do not enjoy it, you are not going to keep it up. You might better off finding something you do enjoy, such as swimming, cycling, aerobics or football.