Top Ten Questions Asked by Beginning Runners

Article Summary: beginning runner loriThis article was written to answer the most common questions asked by new runners, and by people returning to running after a layoff of at least a few years.

Question: How long should my first runs be?
Answer: During the first week, 15 minutes is plenty. After that, your goal should be to increase the time very gradually.

Question: What should I do if I can’t run non-stop for 15 minutes?
Answer: Don’t feel badly. In the beginning, most people have trouble running for even a few minutes. In other words, you’re normal! I suggest the following training plan.

Stage One:

Takes you from ground zero to running 45 minutes using a one minute walk, 10 minute run program. Stage one will get most people ready for a 5k race.
Week Walk Minutes Run Minutes Repetitions Total Minutes
1 1 1 7 14
2 1 2 5 15
3 1 3 4 16
4 1 4 4 20
5 1 5 4 24
6 1 6 4 28
7 1 7 4 32
8 1 8 4 36
9 1 9 4 40
10 1 10 4 44

The walk/run method I based the schedule above on is common among many running programs. Walk/run is probably most well known in Jeff Galloway’s program in the U.S. and in Running Room programs in Canada.

Stage Two:

Gradually weans you off walk breaks so you can comfortably run 60 minutes without stopping. Stage two will get most people ready for a five mile race.
Week Walk Minutes Run Minutes Repetitions Total Minutes
1 1 15 3 48
2 1 15 3 48
3 1 20 3 63
4 1 20 3 63
5 1 30 2 62
6 1 30 2 62
7 walk 1, run 40, walk 1, run 18 (total=60 minutes)
8 walk 1, run 45, walk 1, run 13 (total=60 minutes)
9 walk 1, run 50, walk 1, run 8 (total=60 minutes)
10 run 60 minutes continuously!

Question: How often should I run?
Answer: For beginners, I recommend three or four days a week. I also recommend alternating between running and rest days. This will give your body time to recover and adapt to the stresses you’re giving it.

Question: How far should my runs be?
Answer: I intentionally avoid mentioning distance in this plan because if you focus on distance, you’ll likely also start focusing on speed. In the beginning, you should avoid an emphasis on speed because too fast too soon can lead to injury.

Question: How fast should I be running?
Answer: You should be able to comfortably carry on a conversation and you should not be out of breath. This is, for some people, a hard guideline to follow because they feel as though they are running too slow. If that’s you, please remember that in the beginning part of your running career it’s vital that you focus on a pace that is comfortable. Why? Because, without getting into the science of it, running too fast too early does not build the proper cardiovascular improvements you need to be a successful runner. So, take your time and enjoy yourself!

Question: I’m afraid I won’t be able to stick with the plan – how do I stay motivated?
Answer:

  1. Sign up for a race. Do it now! Having a race goal (and race fees!) on the line will be a powerful source of motivation. I guarantee it.
  2. Run with a partner. And promise to get each other through the rough patches. Neither of you will want to let the other down.
  3. Focus strongly on getting through the first three weeks. It takes roughly three weeks to establish a habit. If you can get past the first three weeks, your mind and body will find it much easier after that.
  4. Don’t overdo it. Running too fast, too far or too often in the beginning can burn you out, make you sore or get you injured and none of those things are very motivating.
  5. If you are taking up running to lose pounds, try not to focus solely on weight loss. This is because especially in the beginning of your running career you will likely gain some weight due to muscle growth – a very good thing because muscles burn fat. To get your attention away from the scale, take tape measurements and photos of your body every few weeks. You’ll be happy to see the inches dropping even if the pounds don’t initially follow suit.
  6. Journal your experiences in a running blog or on a forum and connect with other runners for support. You’ll be amazed at just how much support you’ll get!
  7. Remind yourself often that at the end of the program you’ll be fitter, thinner and will be able to run for non-stop for an hour!

Question: How do I know if I’m running correctly?
Answer: This is a wise, common question among beginners. Unfortunately the answers are often not as good as the question. Beginners are often told to run in a manner that feels “natural”. I have a very different opinion. I believe that, for many of us, “natural” doesn’t always mean correct. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it is often said that 50 to 60% of runners are injured every year (please don’t ask me to quote sources!).

In the past, many experts told runners to land on their heels and roll forward toward their toes. As I see it, the problem with landing on your heels is that it means your foot is landing ahead of your body – your feet are acting like brakes. And this, in my opinion, can lead to all kinds of problems.

Thankfully, I am noticing many sources on the web starting to convey a different message – that landing on our mid/forefoot is the way humans are supposed to land. I recommend you check out the Pose Method of Running and ChiRunning – two methods that teach similar ideas. I have personally had a great deal of success using the Pose Method.

You may also want to spend some time reading up on barefoot running. Finally, you might ask yourself why most of the top distance runners on the planet do not land on their heels.

My long-winded answer is over but I’d like to leave you with two messages. First, that this is the time to figure out how to run correctly. After the beginner part of your running career, it is more difficult to change how you run. Second, that you should research this question until you are satisfied you have the right answer. You might start with searches on running form, running technique, or running mechanics. Good luck!

Question: Should I stretch?
Answer: Only a few years ago, the answer from just about anyone you asked would have been an absolute “yes!”. But more recent research has been telling us other things:

  1. Stretching before running may actually be bad for you. It may lead to injury.
  2. It is better to warm up slowly (e.g. by starting out walking) than to stretch before you run.
  3. Stretching after five minutes of easy running is more advisable than stretching before running.
  4. Stretching after you run is always a good thing.
  5. Doing stretching as a standalone activity (e.g. taking up Yoga) can be extremely beneficial to runners.

Complete Running Network has got more great information on stretching here and here.

Question: Should I change how I eat now that I’m running?
Answer: For beginning runners running under an hour a day, nutrition is not a big issue. You really do not need to add anything special to your diet. That said, if your nutritional habits were poor before you started running, this is a good time to fix them. Water is a runner’s best friend. Drink water before and after you run.

Question: I am taking up running to lose weight – how much can I expect to lose?
Answer: Ahhh, the age-old question. There are many factors to consider. I could/should write a book (hmmm…). For now, here are a few things for you to think about:

  1. Running is at the top of the list of activities for the number of calories it burns so you’ve made a good choice including it in your weight loss strategy.
  2. Many runners don’t lose weight because they reward themselves for running by eating more or binging. So, rewards are sometimes not very rewarding in the long term.
  3. While you are likely to lose weight running 30 or so minutes three times a week, more pronounced weight loss usually doesn’t happen until you are running more frequently and for longer durations. The message: Stick it through as a beginner and you’ll reap the benefits in much greater quantity for the rest of your running career.

13 responses

15 10 2008
patmos09

very informative.TY

15 10 2008
darklagem

I’ll apply it…

16 10 2008
rodeloliv

Thanks for sharing.

15 05 2009
absolutegrace

Very helpful info. Except for Navy training and PT, I’ve usually just been a walker. But now, at 55 (almost), I’d like to take things up a notch, and start running. Thanks for the hints and helps! Blessings, Linda

18 05 2009
runnerforchrist

You’re still young Linda, I have a buddy who is 63 and a strong runner. God bless.

21 07 2009
Kelly

Ronnie- I just found your blog and I love your mission to run for Christ and to blog about it. I have been out of running since I retired from the military 5 years ago due to laziness, added weight, and some injuries including a little arthritis in my ankle. I very much miss my lsd runs as that was always my me time (usually 60 – 75 mins for me). I am, however, only 42 so now is the time for me to try again and get back to the sport I loved. Thank you for this article and for pointing out the wisdom of starting slow. I am going to take that advice to heart this time. Your sister in Christ, Kelly.

21 07 2009
runnerforchrist

Hi Kelly, you’re still too young and with big potential to excel in this field. Nice to hear that you’re an ex military personnel. Where are you from? i’m glad to know that you’re a Christian too.
Let’s keep the flame burning…until He comes.

God bless.

24 07 2009
Kelly

Hi Ronnie. Thanks for the encouraging words. I live in Tacoma, Washington. Last night I stopped thinking about running and went on my first run in a few years. I was true to the plan and alternated 1 min walking with 1 min running and did the 14 minutes. I can honestly say it was not the way I remembered but I know I have to start from where I am. I will be back for more encouragement! God Bless….

26 07 2009
runnerforchrist

Thank you Kelly and I’ll be here if you need my help. God bless you and your family.

Shalom!

24 08 2009
Alan

Thanks for the info…now I have guide.

God bless!

26 08 2009
runnerforchrist

Hi Alan…You’re welcome.

Keep running and praying…for His Glory!

26 08 2009
runnerforchrist

Hi Alan…I can give you training guide as a starter. God bless.

26 08 2009
Alan

I really want to know the ‘secret’ how people would be able to finish a marathon, more so an ultra marathon, and hopefully God willing I would be able to join and finish several races as well in the near future. I’m willing to do it one level at a time so for now my goal is to improve on my 5k run first. I want to know what’s the proper/needed diet for runners…how to avoid injuries…helpful gadgets…discipline needed…all sort of things for me to improve on this sport. Your Training Guide would surely be of great help for newbies like me. Thank you sir!

God bless!

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