7 Things Every Beginner Should Know (and Understand) About Running

runners with a headache

Whether you’ve decided to start running to lose weight, reduce stress, or just get in a better shape, it’ll require some trial and error.

In other words, you’ll make lots of mistakes along the way.

To make things easier on you, I decided in today’s post to share a few of the things you need to know to ensure a smooth and safe transition to becoming a true runner.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

Running Gets Easier

This is one of the profound running (and fitness) lessons you can learn when starting out.

The high-impact nature of the sport can take a toll on your body (and mind), causing soreness, cramps, blisters, injury, or even burnout. But, thanks to consistent training, sooner or later, your body will adjust, and things will get easier.

To make your body adapt to the rigors of running, run at least three times a week. Schedule your sessions the same way you schedule an important work meeting or family event.

But don’t go running long distances from the get-go. As a matter of fact, run too much too soon without giving your body enough time to adapt, and you could end up with burnout, injury, or worse, a disdain for the sport.

Instead, start with a realistic distance such as two miles and build it up using the walk-run method.

Once you can run for 15 to 20 minutes without much huffing and puffing, start increasing your mileage.

You Cannot Outrun a Bad Diet

Proper diet is king—whether you’re looking to lose weight or beat your PB. That might sound like a cliché, but it doesn’t make it less real.

Your body needs the proper fuel to help you reach your fitness goals, whether they are weight loss or performance-related.

In fact, there’s no amount of running you can do that balances out a bad diet.

The right things include complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. Eat plenty of vegetables, greens, whole grains, poultry, fish, fruits, and healthy sources of fats such as olive oil and avocados.

And please, get rid of junk food. It’s not doing you any good.

For more diet guidelines, check these four posts:

The Right Gear Matters (and it’s not just the shoes)

Sure, running is free, but it’s not that cheap—especially if you’re looking to reach your full potential.

Comfortable and happy runs make for consistent runners, and having the right gear helps a lot. In my opinion, proper running gear is the most vital investment you can make—for both the short and long terms.

When I started running, I used whatever sports shoes I had, tennis shorts, cotton socks, and cotton T-shirts, and kept wondering why I was suffering from painful blisters and other nagging pains.

Of course,  I was, obviously, using the wrong gear.

Here’s what to do. Head to your local running store and let the experts there help you determine the type of running shoes you need for your foot type and running gait.

Next, get the right gear for every possible weather.

Proper running clothing is made of technical fabric that wicks moisture away and helps keep your skin dry and warm. This is crucial for preventing chafing and blisters.

Other items you need to consider investing in include water bottle belts, GPS watch, mid-run fuel, running books, more shoes, etc.

What’s more?

Look online for the best deals, and fear not to stock up when your favorite gear is on sale.

There Are Apps for Everything

I used to bike my running routes to figure out mileage until running apps and GPS technology came into wider use

Nowadays, running and running apps go hand in hand—especially for committed runners.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of runners apps you can get for free (or the paid versions for more options).

These can track your speed, running distance, elevation gain, training pace, calories burned, and even map your routes, as well as offering all sorts of fun games to keep your mind busy while challenging yourself every time you hit the pavement.

What’s more?

There is a myriad of apps for every runner out there, so regardless of your running goals, whether you are just starting out or training for your 18th marathon, there is an app for you.

Here’s the full guide to running apps.

Running is a Mental Game, Too

If you don’t train your mind the same way you train your body, you’ll definitely fall short of your achieving your running goals.

I’d go as far as to say that running is way more mental than physical. Getting that thing between your ears to work for you will set you up for success. That’s no secret.

Your first step is to accept that your inner state (thoughts, feelings, and emotions) and your outer state (performance) are interrelated, each one having a profound impact on the other.

Mental training is best summed up using this simple equation construct:

Thinking –> Feeling –> Performing

By experiencing it first hand, you’ll improve your inner game as opposed to being the victim of whatever mental state you happen to be in.

Fortunately, you can train your mind to perform better.

One technique is visualization. This is a useful tool that you can use to keep your motivation going strong in every aspect of your life—not just running.

Here is how to use mental imagery to become a stronger, effective, and happier runner: Take at least 10 to 15 minutes every day and visualize your running goals as clearly as possible.

Begin by putting yourself into a relaxed meditative state, then as vividly as possible, make up a series of mental images of your running goals, then mentally rehearse these “mind movies” over and over again.

Remember to visualize every little detail, picturing yourself succeeding in your mind’s eye before you actually do it in reality.

What’s more?

Believe you’re capable of going the extra mile. Most discomfort you f is impermanent and will eventually go away once you build enough (mental and physical) endurance.

explain vo2 max
Young female runner jogging in the city street.

Breathing Matters

I remember breathing technique to be one of the first things I tried to Google. As a matter of fact, it’s still one of the most common questions I get on from my clients, running buddies, and blog readers.

Improving your breathing technique is one of the best things you can do to improve your running performance.

So how should you breathe while running?

Effective breathing. Stop breathing from your chest—that’s how most beginner runners breathe. Chest breathing is really inefficient and will only lead to you underperforming.

Instead, opt for diaphragmatic breathing, also commonly known as “belly breathing.”

This involves using the whole muscles of the diaphragm—aka your belly—in the action of inhaling and exhaling.

Focus on using your diaphragm to breathe, drawing your breath deep down from your abdomen. The deeper you breathe, the better you will breathe, and the more oxygen you will feed your muscles and body.

You can Run With Others

I’m an introvert. And for the longest time, I ran mostly by myself and turned down any opportunity to run with other people.

But as I soon discovered, running solo is too isolating, and there’s a lot of fun (and many benefits) to training with others.

Running with a partner—or a group—is an impressive strategy to help push you out of your comfort zone, brush up your running skillset.

It’ll also keep you accountable for your actions—crucial for consistency.

Schedule at least one run per week—preferably a tough workout, such as a long run or hill session—and make sure to do it with a partner or group. Ask your running friends to join. Or join a running club.

Cross Training is Awesome

After a couple of years of running, I thought that was it, and there is nothing more I can do. Then I discovered P90X, Yoga, CrossFit…and my whole approach to training was never the same.

If you do nothing but run all year, then you might be setting yourself up for boredom, burnout, and even overuse injury.

Why is Cross-training awesome?

For starters, cross-training helps strengthen your non-running muscles, which is critical for fixing muscle imbalances that lie at the root of many an overuse injury.

The right cross-training regime will also help improve power, speed, mobility, stability, balance, and proprioception—key elements in becoming a well-rounded athlete.

What’s more?

If you’re in a running rut, adding variety to your training program can also help you ward off boredom.

So whether you are a newbie or an elite marathoner, you can benefit a lot from adding variety to your training program.

Ideal cross-training activities for runners include cycling, yoga, swimming, weight lifting, and why not if you have the time and willingness, CrossFit.

There is no Such Thing as a Bad Weather

Sure, spring is here, and the weather is awesome, but what about when it’s too cold in winter? Or when it’s too hot in the summer?

If you’re going to become an all-year-round runner, you’ll have to keep your runs consistent under all sorts of weather.

Should you be worried, though?

The truth is running in bad weather won’t kill you.

Au contraire, my friend, running in the cold and or the heat will make you feel unstoppable.

Provided that you have the right gear and have taken the right measure, it’s possible to run when the weather isn’t perfect.

Just be smart here and dress right for the weather and pay attention to your body. Opt for running clothing made from special fabric that wicks away moisture and helps keep your body warm and dry.

Here are two guides to help you run in the summer and winter with ease.

Still too much? Hop on your treadmill.

Running Sucks Sometimes

Motivation is a fleeting mistress.

It comes and goes, even for the most disciplined and serious runners, and that’s completely normal.

A bad run, just like a bad day, is a part of any sport. You can’t avoid it no matter how hard you try. Even after becoming an elite runner, bad days are a part of the running deal.

On some days, you will feel great for the whole workout, and on other days, you will be struggling just after a few minutes into your run.

Why? There can be a million reasons: lack of sleep, overtraining, injury, travel, stress, bad nutrition, etc., but all in all, some runs are just going to suck, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Embrace that fact, and realize that you can’t expect to love every run and have enough motivation every day of the year.

You just need to have faith, trust the process, and know, deep down, that if you keep going strong, you will eventually reach your destination.