How to Start Running: the Complete Beginner’s Guide

Why We Run

People first feel the urge to run from many different sources of inspiration. This could be anything from high schoolers wanting an outlet other than traditional ball sports, or the middle-aged desk jockey wanting to relieve stress after a hard day at the office. No matter the reason we begin running, the underlying goals are often the same: to better ourselves, to improve our health, and to work towards meaningful accomplishments.

In my experience, many adult runners begin to run in order to aid weight loss goals. While this isn’t true for everyone, it is hard to deny that running, along with a healthy diet, can drastically increase the rate in which one can lose five, ten, or even fifty pounds.

Will you burn fat?

A person burns roughly 100kcals per mile of running whether the pace is six-minutes per mile or double that – pair that with an equal amount of time spent on a recumbent bike or doing yoga, and it is clear that running can be considered the most efficient route to expedit weight loss.

As far as diet goes, I believe that people intrinsically know how to eat well on a daily basis. However, because of time constraints, social settings, or plain laziness, we tend to eat rather poorly as a society. Even a fifth grader could tell you that a piece of grilled fish is better for you than a fast-food hamburger, or that fruits and vegetables should be the back-bone of your diet, but very few adults actually follow these common sense dietary choices. If your goal is to lose weight in the context of a beginning runners plan, then an equal importance should be placed on what we eat to supplement this new-found exercise routine.

Get the basics right, or you won’t lose weight

All too often does the adage “I run, therefore I can eat whatever I want” fantasy creep into the minds of new runners looking to shed pounds. Replace this idea with one of “I run, therefore I should eat optimally to get the most out of my body and help myself lose the amount of weight I need to lose”- this will prevent you from fighting an uphill battle with trying to run more, feeling the urge to eat more, and not losing any weight because the calories in are exceeding the calories out, so to speak.

Check here for a very comprehensive guide of running for weight loss.

Find the Right Program

Once a solid set of reasons for running has been established, it is time to find a plan or coach that you can trust. There are plenty of beginner running plans available for free on the web today, but I think that training should always be individualized to a person’s particular goals, time allotments, and goals in the sport.

Go from Zero to 5k in 30 Days

A cookie-cutter couch-to-5K plan is always a great place to start, but then it is time to gradually advance your training so that you continuously challenge your body with new stresses. The best advice for true beginning runners with no prior training experience is to adopt a run-walk plan that builds to thirty-minutes of continuous running. Do not worry with pace or distance in the early stages of your running career, but learn to enjoy the simple act of moving swiftly with minimal effort for a set period of time.

I developed a brand-new 10k training plan for the readers for, that will take you from non-runner to 10k in 14 weeks. The plan has been designed to ease runners into the sport and arrive at their first 10k race fresh, strong and injury-free.

Find a community or online coach to help get your running off the ground; local specialty running shoe stores are often the backbone of an area’s running community, so those are great places to start, as well. If you want to compete or simply enjoy racing in your future as a runner, then certified coaches are the quickest route to success in the sport.

How Can You Keep your Motivation?

Like anything else in life, the motivation to run can sometimes wane due to time constraints, bad weather, or just general malaise. There are many ways to thwart this lack of drive when it comes to your training, whether you are a beginning runner or a veteran of the sport.

Having set goals that you are personally motivated to achieve is essential to consistent running week-in and week-out throughout your career. This can be a big upcoming race, losing ten pounds, or simply running one of your daily routes faster than you ever have before. Also, having a training group that you meet every weekday at 6am or every Tuesday evening for a track session can keep you motivated and striving to better yourself as a runner. Along with these things, using an online log service such as or can be a great avenue for social interaction and accountability to your running.

Other helpful tips for consistent motivation are below. If you keep the running fire alive, it will burn within you for as long as you want to keep pounding the pavement.

  1. Vary your route, surface, and/or venue each running day of the week.
  2. Run at different paces and distances each day of the week, even if by just a small margin; find people in your area who are both slightly faster and slower than you to train with on occasion.
  3. Run at different times of the day when possible.
  4. Do alternative forms of exercise from time-to-time when motivation wanes. Go indoors to use an elliptical trainer, rowing machine, or hop in the pool when weather hampers your will to run. Ride your bike or go hiking on a sunny weekend day rather than aggravating that sore muscle with a run when needs be.

Running Shoes

Running shoes fall into three main categories- neutral, stability, and motion control.

Neutral shoes are designed for runners with a higher arch, efficient foot biomechanics (including mild supination, or the rolling outward of the ankle), and a generally light body frame. These shoes are often lighter than other models, can sometimes be used for racing, and have very minimal components deigned to “stabilize” the foot and arch upon ground strike. A great beginner neutral shoe is the Nike Pegasus.

Stability shoes, however, usually have some form of structure to support the foot, ankle, and arch when running to prevent over-pronation, or the excessive rolling inward of the ankle. Over-pronation is generally linked to certain running injuries, so have an expert watch you run or at least look at your arch type to predict which type of shoe best fits your needs. Our stability favourite is the Asics Gel Kayano.

Finally, motion control shoes are designed for heavier runners needing maximum cushioning, pronation control, and ankle stabilization. These shoes are often more expensive due to the materials used, but will keep the foot from becoming hypermobile upon ground strike if that is an issue for you.

In the last few years, a trend toward “minimalist” running has come about steering runners of any experience level to lower-profile, lightweight footwear designed to enhance form, strengthen the muscles of the feet and lower legs, and reduce injury risk due to lower impact forces with each stride.

As a coach, I recommend shoes to my athletes that technically fall into the “minimalist” category of running shoes, but never to the extreme end of that particular spectrum. I have found through personal experience and guiding other runners that a shoe with a flat outsole, heel-to-toe offset of 4-8mm, adequate cushioning for running on asphalt, and a relatively firm platform helps to prevent injuries and improve biomechanics for more efficient running.

However, minimal shoes are not for everyone, so consult with your local running specialty store to find the right pair for you or visit our running shoe finder. It should not be a “goal” to get down to minimalist shoes at any point in your running career, but it is something to be considered if you find yourself consistently injured and you feel that your footwear might be to blame.

If you want to start with a minimalist running shoe that is not extreme but seems to be appreciated by a vast number of runners, try the Hoka One One Clifton.

A quality pair of shoes will last for 300-500mls before needing to be replaced; I always recommend keeping two-plus pairs of shoes in your rotation to extend their life a good deal (daily drying, bacteria accumulation, outsole break-down, etc.). Another good idea is to alternate the brand/models of shoes you wear at one time to accustom the body to slightly different stresses when beginning to run (different heel heights, outsole cushioning elements, etc).

Click Here for the Running Shoe Wizard

Note: As with training, ALWAYS avoid extremes in footwear. Do not decide to go with a pair of Weirdo Bare-Toes just because they are popular or with a pair of Super Clunker Pain-Pods just because they are expensive. Use your common sense when it comes to footwear, find what works best for you, and you should not have an issue related to the shoes you wear while running.


Running can be a deceptively simple sport. The new runner should have the following items in their daily kit: a pair of trusty, versatile running shoes, quality running apparel that will not hinder comfort or performance (especially socks!), a simple chronograph that is easy to operate, and a keen awareness of one’s surroundings at all times (whether on the road, trail, or in the park, safety first!). That is all.

What About the Fancy Gear?

You do not need fancy gear, hydration systems, heart rate monitors to walk the dog, or IPhone Apps to enjoy running and the thrill of getting into better shape. Those things should always come secondary to reveling in the enjoyment of pure motion as a runner. All too often do people lose sight of why they started running because of all the myriad accessories and consumerist clutter we try to add to the sport. They are not necessary tools to getting faster, fitter, or dropping a few extra pounds.

But I Want Fancy Gear!

However, the following ancillary items can be useful to new or veteran runners wanting to get the most out of their bodies, stay healthy, and improve from year to year once your love of running for running’s sake has been thoroughly instilled.

  1. A High-Density Foam Roller (such as Trigger Point Therapy’s “The Grid”)- use this tool to self-massage tight muscle groups such as the quads, IT Bands, calves, and hamstrings before or after training.
  2. A Reasonably-Priced GPS Sports Watch – great for travel or measuring your favorite routes, a GPS can be a useful addition to your kit as training volume and intensity increases; don’t make it a daily challenge to see how fast you can go, however! – If you want a recommendation on which units would work best for you, check our Running GPS Watch recommendations.
  3. An Electric Shoe Dryer (such as one made by Peets, Inc)- a shoe dryer will help keep shoes from breaking-down prematurely and prevent odor-causing bacteria from spreading in your new kicks
  4. A Gym Membership at a Facility You Enjoy- some days the weather may drive you indoors for safety reasons or you may want to add strength training to your developing running program, so having a gym membership when you need it can be very useful; also, it is nice to be around like-minded people when you are exercising or training for your next big race

This guide is intended as a general blue-print for new runners just taking up the sport. Use at your own risk, and I hope your first strides as a runner propel you to achieve your goals in the sport. Happy running!

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