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How to start running: A five step guide

How to start running: A five step guide

Running is one of our earliest skills and our earliest joys. Ask a child ‘how do you start running?’ and watch them hurtle away! As adults, running comes in very handy for chasing errant dogs, catching that important bus and retrieving our own small children.

Even better, it is a great form of exercise.

Why is running such a popular way of keeping fit?

Running is accessible and cheap

In the purest form, all you need to do is open the front door! The only special kit needed to begin running is a good pair of trainers.  Any trousers and top will do to start your running, the ‘real’ kit can wait.

Running gets you out in the fresh air

Most of us spend far too much time indoors. Running gets you outside for that fresh air and a dose of vitamin D from the sun. Even on cloudy days!

Running gives you peace and quiet - and can also improve your social life

For those needing some ‘alone time’, a run is the perfect way to clear your head. You can literally leave all your troubles behind. For those feeling sociable, a group run or running club lets you catch up with friends and exercise too. The organised running events are also great fun, and never too serious. No-one minds if your fun run ends up as an intermittent walk.

Running is fun!

Look at those kids again – running about is so much fun! The joy of free movement is something that we should all appreciate.

So how do you become a runner? If you haven’t moved out of a walk in years, some planning and training will be essential. Adult body weight thudding down on to hard surfaces can play havoc with unprepared knees and feet. To make sure that running makes us fitter as well as being enjoyable, we need to build up to it.

You do need to buy those trainers, but then you are ready to become a runner. Here are your five steps.


There are plenty of running schedules available on line. Look for a running plan that is suitable for beginners. You might be surprised at how slowly the plans start – that is the right approach. The NHS ‘couch to 5k’ plan is a popular method because it assumes no previous experience or level of fitness.


With a schedule chosen, you now need to know where to go to carry it out. You want a route that allows you to cover the distance you want and (obviously) brings you back home again! If you are familiar with your local distances, it is easy. If not, there are plenty of websites that will work out a route for you. Enter your start point and destination, ask for either a loop or an out and back, and the distance will be calculated for you. If you have a smartphone, you can download the plan to it for a portable route guide.


This is the real meaning of ‘we must walk before we can run’. Walking warms up muscles and gradually increases heart and breathing rate. All the running plans start with walking, with good reason. Be patient!

4)     BUILD IT UP

Gradual increase is the name of the game. Trying to go too far, too soon can cause injury and set you right back. Those plans are set up to build your fitness and stamina, so follow them closely.


Stretching warm muscles after your run is very important to cool down and reduce soreness. Remember that stretching always FOLLOWS exercise.

So that’s the plan. What about those common questions?

What kit do I need?

The only essential is a good pair of correctly-fitting running shoes. You don’t always get what you pay for, so make sure you are buying function not fashion. If you become a regular runner, those shoes will have a limited life. Worn out shoes can also cause injury, so keep an eye on your soles.

Otherwise you can begin with tracksuit trousers, a t-shirt and a fleece top. Running leggings and technical clothing will really help if you run in deep winter or high summer, so look to these once you know running is for you.

How long should my first run be?

Probably much shorter than you think! The beginner training plans often start with a brisk walk. Your first outing that includes running may only involve a couple of minutes at a faster pace. Don't be disheartened, it still counts!

What is interval running?

This is the system of a short and intense burst of exercise, followed by an equal recovery time. You could look on it as an extension of the beginner ‘walk then run’ that is in the couch to 5k plan. ‘Full-on’ interval running is very demanding and so is a technique for more advanced runners. With luck, it won’t be long before you can join in.

So there’s the plan and the simple steps to carry it out. There’s nothing to stop you becoming a runner!

the author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.