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25 Must-Read Tips for New Runners, Sourced from Experts

Kick off your running routine the right way.

By Jenny McCoyJanuary 29, 2024


Want to start running? We have good news: There's no large upfront investment required—all you need is a pair of proper sneakers and a few pieces of breathable workout clothing. But before beginners lace up, there are some foundational tips they should keep in mind.

That’s why we consulted with three experts, including Peloton instructor Susie Chan, on everything from preparing for your first run ever (or your first one in a long time) to maximizing your time on a treadmill. Here are 25 of their go-to tips on how to build a running routine that lasts.

Tips for Getting Started 

If you're preparing for your first run, here are four things you can do to help make it safe and stress-free.

1. Get Comfortable Shoes Designed Specifically for Running

Proper footwear is key. So if you don’t already have a pair of shoes designed specifically for this type of exercise, it’s time to take a trip to your local running store. 

Susie suggests trying on different types and paying attention to how you feel while walking or running around in each pair. Pick the shoes that are most comfortable, says Spencer Agnew, a physical therapist and founder of Peak Endurance Performance and Physical Therapy in Madison, Wisconsin.

2. Don’t Stress About Wearing the Perfect Running Clothes

In an ideal world, you’d wear running clothes made of lightweight, breathable fabric to prevent sweat from sticking to your skin, Susie says. However, those pieces can be pricey. If you’re just starting out, she recommends wearing whatever weather-appropriate athletic attire you have on hand. You may decide to invest in running clothes down the line, but they’re by no means necessary to get started, Agnew adds.

3. Aim for a Conversational Pace

Instead of pushing your pace the first time you go on a run, strive for an easy effort that keeps your heart rate low, says Anh Bui, a California-based physical therapist and founder of Run Resiliently. A good goal is to stay within zone 2, one of your five heart rate zones. It’s a slow, low-intensity effort that hovers around 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, aim to run at a conversational pace that allows you to speak in full sentences, Bui says. Depending on your fitness level, you may need to alternate between walking and running to stay in zone 2. If you feel yourself getting too winded, take a walk break.

4. Remember That Running Is Hard for All Beginners

Even if you go at an easy pace, running can (and likely does) feel intense at first. “That's how it feels for everybody,” Agnew explains. Don’t be surprised if your 15-minute jog around the block is way more exhausting than you anticipated. Trust that with time and consistency, your running abilities will improve.

Tips for Avoiding Injuries

You may not be able to completely eliminate the risk for a running injury, but you can greatly reduce your chances. Here’s how.

1. Start By Running Twice Per Week

Running twice per week gives beginners' bodies time to gradually get used to the activity, Bui says. What’s more, she advises against scheduling these runs on back-to-back days so your muscles have at least 24 hours of downtime between runs to recover. Once running twice per week feels comfortable, you can bump the frequency to three weekly runs. 

2. Finish Each Run with More Fuel In the Tank

Pushing yourself too hard at the beginning of a run only increases your risk for injury (and makes the whole experience less enjoyable). A better approach? Taking things easy out of the gate and finishing your runs feeling like you could keep going, Agnew says.

“It's not about being super fast and really out of breath,” Susie explains. If you notice your heart rate skyrocketing, slow down. Again, this is where walk breaks come in clutch.

3. Learn to Differentiate Soreness from Pain

It’s normal to experience some soreness when you start running, but that shouldn’t lead you to brush off every ache and pain. So, how can you tell the difference between pain and soreness? Bui says to imagine a scale ranging from zero to 10, with zero being no pain at all, five being a sharp pain that changes the way you stride, and 10 being pain so severe that you can barely walk.

If a sensation crops up that’s above a three on this scale, is localized to one area, and/or gets worse during and after your run, stop running and schedule an appointment with a medical professional, Bui says. 

4. Don’t Skip Your Warm-Up

Taking time to properly prime your muscles and joints improves the quality of your run and helps reduce injury risk. And contrary to popular belief, an effective warm-up doesn’t take long at all. For example, Susie has a 5-Minute Pre-Run Warm-Up on the Peloton App.

5. Mix In Some Non-Running Workouts

Most well-rounded, resilient runners don’t exclusively do running-based workouts. Low-impact aerobic activities, such as swimming and cycling, can help you cross-train and improve your cardiovascular endurance, while strength training can lower your risk for running injuries and help you have faster and longer strides, Agnew says.

How often should new runners do these other types of workouts? It’s really dependent on the person, but Agnew says a good starting point for beginners is to do two strength training sessions and one cross training workout per week in addition to two or three runs.

Tips for Running Your First Race

Signing up for a race is a great way for runners to stay motivated and consistent. Here’s how to tackle all aspects of the process, from picking the most suitable event to having a memorable race-day experience.

1. Opt for a Short Distance

It’s great to have big goals, like running a half or full marathon, but consider a shorter distance for your first race to increase your chances of having a positive, successful experience. Bui recommends starting with a local 5K road race, as it’ll likely be a welcoming, non-intimidating environment. Plus, you can make it as competitive as you want. 

2. Be Flexible with Your Training Plan

Once you’ve signed up for a race, use a training plan to prepare. There are countless useful guides to reference, but our favorite one is Peloton's Ultimate Guide to Training for Your First 5K. Whatever you choose, consider it a framework rather than a strict rulebook. And don’t be afraid to tweak the plan if you feel like it’s not working for your body or schedule. 

3. Set a Process-Oriented Goal

Instead of fixating on a specific finish time, pinpoint a goal you want to achieve during training, Bui suggests. Setting process-oriented goals, like running three days per week or learning how to pace yourself, relieves the pressure to achieve a specific result in a competition, she explains. After all, there are a lot of variables you can’t control on race day, such as the weather or crowds.

Tips for Running Longer Distances 

There’s no minimum distance you have to hit to call yourself a runner. But if and when you want to crank up your mileage, keep these tips in mind.

1. Add a Little Bit of Distance Each Week

Deliberately increasing your mileage rather than making drastically large jumps helps lower injury risk by allowing your body to gradually build up its tolerance for distance running. A common rule is to avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10 percent week over week. So if you follow this rule and run a total of 10 miles this week, you wouldn't run more than 11 miles next week.

That said, it’s a “very conservative” approach, according to Agnew. He recommends it for beginners but caveats that it’s not a hard-and-fast rule you must adhere to once you become more experienced. Follow it as you get started but know that your body may be able to safely tolerate more sizable mileage increases in the future.

2. Pack Fuel If Your Run Is Longer Than an Hour

Nutrition is a key component of successful distance running. For any workouts longer than one hour, you’ll want to strategically consume carbs to keep your energy levels steady, Bui says. She recommends consuming sports drinks, gels, or chews with water at regular intervals during a long run. Remember: It can take time for you (and your stomach) to get used to eating while you run, so Bui says beginners should take a little nibble every 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Start Slow

Figuring out the right pace for a long run takes some trial and error, but it’s best to go intentionally slow in the beginning-–and we mean really slow. “If you’re doing a 10-mile run for the first time, use the first five miles to get warmed up,” Bui says. “Then if you're feeling good, you can always speed things up.”

4. Be Patient

Crossing a marathon finish line is a bucket list item for many people, but it takes time and a lot of consistent training to safely reach that point. According to Agnew, it may take a year (or longer) for new runners to properly prepare.

If you’ve set your sights on running 26.2 miles, hold onto that vision but consider training for shorter races, like a 10K or a half marathon, first to keep yourself motivated and excited.

Treadmill Running Tips for Beginners 

Love them or hate them, treadmills are useful in many scenarios, and many runners use them as an integral training tool. Here’s how beginners can make the most of their time on the machine.

1. Don’t Stress About Incline or Pace

If you want to mimic an outdoor run on a treadmill, set your incline to one percent, Bui says. However, Agnew adds that it’s OK for beginners to start with a zero percent incline if that’s where they feel comfortable. 

As for pace, keep in mind that the mechanics of treadmill running will likely feel different than outdoor running, so you might run a little faster or slower than your typical speed, Agnew says. The bottom line? Don’t get caught up in the numbers. Instead, Bui suggests gradually increasing your speed until you feel like you’re working at an easy or moderate effort level.

2. Let Your Arms Swing Naturally

To maintain proper form, avoid gripping the treadmill’s handrails, Bui says. Instead, let your arms swing naturally by your sides. 

3. Don’t Crowd the Console

A lot of runners get too close to the front of the treadmill, but doing this can mess with your arm swing, Bui says. If you catch yourself in this position, try to relax, scoot back a little, and run in the middle of the belt.

4. Prepare for Boredom

Some days, treadmill running can feel like a slog. Spice things up by bringing a friend to run alongside you or increasing the incline to create a mini interval workout, Agnew says.

If you’re a Peloton Member, you can stream TV shows, movies, and live sports on the Peloton Tread or Peloton Tread+ as you walk, hike, or run. Another great option: Try a guided treadmill workout on the Peloton App, such as a 15-Minute Beginner Run or a 30-Minute Pop Walk, both led by Susie.

Outdoor Running Tips for Beginners 

Taking your run outside is an excellent way to explore a neighborhood, get a dose of nature, and practice running on different types of terrain. Here’s what to consider before hitting the streets or trails.

1. Dress for the Weather

It may seem obvious, but countless runs get ruined because of clothing-related issues. Like we said earlier, you don’t have to have the perfect running gear, but you do need to dress for the weather. 

If you’re headed out in hot weather, choose thin, breathable layers and sun-shielding headwear, Bui says. Fabrics that combine polyester and nylon are a solid choice.

For runs in cold weather, build a base layer with a top made of Merino wool, which helps wick sweat without smelling bad, and fleece-lined leggings, Bui says. Depending on the temperature, you may want to add another thermal layer on top, a wind-resistant jacket, gloves, and a beanie.

2. Run Against Traffic

If you’re running on the road, go against traffic so you can see what’s coming ahead and get out of the way if needed, Agnew says. And if it’s early morning or after sunset, wear a bright headlamp and/or a reflective vest so you’re visible to others, he adds.

3. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

If you rock out to music while you stride, make sure the volume is low enough that you can still hear what’s happening around you, Bui says. You should always know if a car, cyclist, or other runner is approaching from behind.

4. Tell Someone About Your Run

Modern technology helps you communicate during emergencies, but Agnew still recommends telling someone where you’re running and approximately how long you expect to be gone. That way, if something unexpected happens—say, you twist an ankle or get lost—and you don’t have service or battery, help will reach you sooner.

5. Protect Your Feet and Ankles If You're Running On Trails

Trail running requires more skill than road or treadmill workouts, in part because “it's super easy to catch a foot on a rock, stump, or root,” Agnew says. Doing a few simple exercises to improve strength and body awareness in your feet and ankles can go a long way. Add one or two targeted moves to your warm-up or strength training sessions, such as a single-leg balance with your eyes closed, a single-leg lateral toe tap, or a single-leg kettlebell transfer.


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