Tips for beginners in running

Some general advice for beginners and medium level runners

Are you into running just for fun and for generally maintaining a good fitness level? If so, what should you consider to do to avoid mistakes in the training, of which some may lead to injuries?

Some strength training will always be good, but without exaggeration. Too much training with lunges, jumping and one-foot jumping etc., may represent a too high load for knees, hips, hamstrings etc., in particular if you are a beginner. Therefore, be careful about the progression and make sure you are building up slowly. This cannot be emphasised enough, 

because there are so many who enter into the “beginner trap”, training too much and too intensive and hard from day one. This may lead to a quick progress, but it may just as well lead too injuries which may stop your training and your drive for training too early. This is silly, because it is avoidable.

If you are running more than 2-3 times per week, I think it is important that you get yourself two (different) pairs of shoes. This will ensure that you get a variation in the load on feet and legs during the different training sessions. This is a good thing for you, in particular if you are a beginner and want to avoid injuries. Preferrably, the shoes should have good, but different, degrees of cushioning.

The main message is: Be patient!

Recovery is essential

After a training session the body needs to be refilled with nutrition, in order to shorten the recovery time. This will make it possible for the body to absorb the training it just received, prior to next session.

I get questions every day about what and how much one should eat and drink after training. My answer is rather simple: Drink a big glass of chocolate milk, or something with similar content, as quick as possible after the session. Then you will refill a certain amount of carbohydrates, fat and proteins, which is good if you want to recover quickly.

Unfortunately, many are ignoring the need for this, in particular beginners. This may lead them into the “injury/exhaustion trap”, which is an unwanted and not a comfortable place to be.

Too frequent training sessions

Too many have sessions that are too tight upon each other. For example, some have long runs both on Saturday and Sunday, due to lack of availability of time during the rest of the week. This is not so smart if you want to build up gradually, like you should. If you are a beginner, start with appr. 3 sessions per week, which should be evenly distributed throughout the week. If you are having a long run during the weekend, you may have an interval session on Tuesday or Wednesday, and then have a semi long or semi intense session on Friday. This is just one good example on how to do it.

Variation of the surface

It is also smart to vary the surface you are running on. Vary between grass, natural paths, gravel roads and asphalt. The power impulse you get every time you land during your running stride gets distributed into the body and impacts feet, legs, knees, hips and back. Some variation will ensure that you don’t always get the repeated load at the exactly same spots in your body.

Preventive strengthening

Many who start running have been doing regular strength training before, but stop doing this when they get into running. Similarly, many who start running, but have not done any training before, ignore the need for some strength training. This is not so smart. However, the type and amount of strength training you need for running, is not so demanding. You may simply do some circuit training twice a week, 10-15 minutes every time. You can of course do more, but this will do as a minimum if you do it right. Such circuit training should contain exercises for the legs, hips and core muscles, such as plank exercises, hip lifts, squats, hip flexor exercises. See this article for a good example of circuit training.

When are you ready for interval training?

If you are a beginner, just do some normal runs, for example 3 times per week. Do this for some weeks (6 – 8 weeks) before you start to do any interval training. This will create a physical basis, which will make you ready to start further progression of your fitness level. If you start careful and gradually like this, you will have a nicer and more steady progression than if you start too hard. In addition, you will more likely avoid injuries.

Warming up

Always start the sessions easy, in order to get carefully and properly warmed up. Unfortunately, the risk of injuries increases with age, so the older you are, the more warming up you need.

Warming up is in particular essential when you you are going to have interval sessions. After 10 – 20 min warming up, you may perform some faster runs (appr. 80m), with easy and careful increase of the speed. This in order to prepare the body for the coming intervals.

Vary your tracks and distances

Many beginners have a fixed track they run repeatedly, where they try to improve and make a “record” every time. This is not so smart, and will easily lead to competing with yourself, and by that making the training too hard. Remember that every run shall feel good and you shall have a feeling af mastering the runs. The runs shall not be exhausting every time. If they are, it will often lead to longer and longer time between each training session. Also remember that you shall be able to talk during most of your training sessions. Then you are training at the right level which will give you the steady progression I am talking about.

Alternative training

If you are not used to running and want to improve your fitness level quickly, it is smart to do some alternative training, such as bicycling, nordic walking, swimming, rowing etc, besides the running sessions. This will reduce the risk of overload and injuries.

Intake of fluid

When I am out running, I see surprisingly many who are running with drinking bottles in their hands. This is not smart. It will lead to a not optimal running pattern and worsened running economics. If you need to bring drink with you when running, I recommend to use a running belt with bottles or a hydration backpack.

By this I hope I have given you some useful tips for the running season. Summarised, my main advice is this: be patient and careful in your progression. Then you will get a good and steady progress which will inspire you for further running.

Read more about basic principles for training here:

Good luck with the training!

Author: Ingrid Kristiansen

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