At the start of each new year, thousands of people resolve to become runners. While a common cliche states it takes 21 days to build a habit, it actually takes longer to adjust to running. The first few months of running are challenging, as your body needs to adapt and the risk of injury is high. This deters many people from running, but with these training tips for new runners, you can start a lifelong habit of running.
Each month, several running bloggers share their best advice for runners in the Just Run Round Up. This month, we are offering training tips for new runners so that you can start running – and continue to run.
Give Your Body Time to Adapt
You maybe have heard the 10% rule for mileage, that you should increase your mileage no more than 10% each week. While that rule is grounded in common sense, it’s not the best approach for new runners.
When you apply a new training stimulus, such as more miles or higher intensity, your body requires time to adapt before you can apply the next stimulus. Otherwise, you apply load upon load without adaptation until your body is overloaded – and you are mentally burnt out or overtrained.
For beginner runners, it is not only your cardiovascular system that needs to adapt. Your musculoskeletal system needs to adapt as well – meaning that, even if you have a high level of aerobic fitness from another sport, you still need to build up your mileage slowly at the start.
Instead, give yourself two to four weeks at the same mileage before increasing. For example, you may start with three runs of three miles and maintain that mileage for three weeks before adding in a fourth run or increasing your daily mileage to four miles. Read more about how to safely increase your running mileage in this post.
Utilize Walk Intervals
For some beginner runners, running one or two miles continuously can be intimidating. However, there is no requirement that you start out running continuously. Walk intervals are utilized by beginner and more experienced runners alike to run farther at a more comfortable effort.
Walk intervals make a run less intimidating. Instead of thinking about running three miles without stopping, you break the run into smaller segments: 2 minutes run, 1 minute walk, repeated for 30 minutes, for example. As you progress, you can lengthen the run intervals until you do not need a walk interval at all. Or you can keep using them! I coach runners who use walk intervals to run half marathons and marathons.
Many runners – myself included – begin on the treadmill when they start running. However, the treadmill poses a few problems for new runners. First, you have to set the pace – which means you could set it too fast and be convinced that running is too difficult for you. Second, the treadmill is monotonous, boring, and (at least in my opinion) feels more difficult than running outdoors.
That’s not to mention how starting on the treadmill can teach an inefficient running form. Many runners tend to overstride or lean back on the treadmill, and these two form flaws can lead to injury. Running outdoors helps you intuitively learn a natural, efficient running form.
If outdoor running is intimidating to you, find a loop or even a track so that you are never too far from your home or car. Run with a friend, carry your phone with you, use Garmin LiveTrack or Strava Beacon, or whatever you need to do to make those first few outdoor runs more comfortable.
Invest in Injury Prevention
Injuries are common in new runners, as your bones and muscles need time to adapt to the repetitive motion and impact of running. You can prevent injury by smartly increasing your mileage (see above); however, specific exercises to strengthen the muscles used in running will prevent future injury and make you a stronger runner in the long term.
The glutes, hips, and core are the powerhouse of running. Weakness in these muscle groups can cause injury, especially the common injuries that plague new runners such as runner’s knee and Achilles tendonitis. Functional exercises like squats, lunges, glute bridges, and leg lifts will strengthen your powerhouse and reduce the risk of injury. You don’t even need to join a gym – many of these exercises can be done using your own bodyweight or a resistance band at home.
For more training tips for new runners, be sure to read the other posts in this month’s Just Run round up:
What tips would you offer to a new runner?
If you are a new runner, what has helped you?