The complete guide for new runners

I’ve been chatting to lots of you on social media who are considering starting out on your personal running journey.

These first steps, and the way you tackle your first runs will make all the difference as to whether you run again or you hide your brand new trainers in a far flung corner of your wardrobe!

And of course it won’t surprise any of you to hear that I focus in on running injury here too – the habits you learn in your first runs can stick with you, and that can lead to problems down the road if they’re bad ones.

OK, so starting out running can be one of the most satisfying things you ever do, I know I feel such a passion for it and I love hearing from new runners who’ve found a successful path to this sport.

I’ve worked with runners of all levels of experience and I’ve been able to identify the habits that lead to success, and of course I’ve seen the other side of this coin, so I’ve written this article as your one stop resource to try to show, in bite sized chunks, how easy it is to start running but also to help steer you in the right direction and away from incorrect movement patterns and those bad habits that can lead to injury.

As you work through the article I’ve singposted several other pieces of useful content which will help you, from my guide to picking your ideal pair of running shoes to designing a simple 3 day a week training plan that will give you your quickest 5K yet.  To make it easy to find information later, I’ve brought all of the links together at the end of this article.

Let’s Break it down

To make this easier I’ve broken this post down into sections, and linked in useful articles that I think you’ll really find useful.

Here are the sections we’re going to cover: 


First steps

Building up your mileage

How much is too much – the danger of Overtraining

Injury tips – for when you prefer to be running and not sidelined

Cool Downs – why you should commit

Strength and other training and why it’s so important


And don’t forget, to be a part of the focusedperformance community simply subscribe to my blog now at or join in the debate at YOUR Running Coach on Facebook



What to wear?

It’s a perennial question and one that shows no sign of ever being resolved, after all, people have different shaped bodies and feet and run in different parts of the world in different weather conditions.

I’ve run and raced in the harshest conditions the mountains and roads of the UK could throw at me, and on the route of the UTMB (Ultra Tour Du Mont Blanc) in the French Alps – and I can tell you that the gear you chose makes all the difference in a variety of ways:

  • The likelihood of injury
  • Your running form, good and bad movement patterns
  • Your speed

So to really help you decide what you should wear I’ll give you my top tips.

Running Shoes

Ok, this is a big area, and it’s the one that causes a huge amount of questions online across social media.

How DO you chose the best pair for you?

I’ve devoted a separate article to this topic, use my – How to choose the best running shoes – quick guide to help you.

Next – clothing more generally

Your choices here can be equally confusing, for example it took me weeks to decide on the best running watch.  I worked out exactly what I needed after going for a few training runs, and this way of doing things can help you too.

I’d suggest that for most of us we’d be looking to have:

Comfortable tee shirt

Long sleved top





GPS watch or smartphone with GPS enabled app for tracking

Hat and gloves



High Visibility top


As I mentioned before, getting out first and seeing what you feel would be useful is a handy way to work out what type of gear you’ll need, and of course the environment you’ll be running in will also require particular gear.  So, are you running near the coast?  That windproof or waterproof might be a good idea, running roads in the dark?  Then a high vis top is a great choice.

If you’re a member of a club ask some of the runners there, or post a question on social media, people just love helping out and sharing their experiences.


First Steps

So you’re planning on running.  You’ve got all or at least some of the gear and a great fitting pair of trainers.  The only question is, how far/how long/how quickly do you run (ok three questions!)

So often runners go all out, running as quickly as they can under the misapprehension that intensity will deliver big benefits.

Intensity training has its place, but for me that place isn’t right at the start of your running journey, it’s after a good base has been built up, after you’ve introduced your body to the stresses of running and after you’ve built up some all important confidence.

To start with I recommend all my runners, whether they’re regular runners or absolute beginners, warm up.  This doesn’t have to be a long drawn out job, but it is an essential part of each and every run you do.

In my ebook on avoiding running injuries I have devoted a chapter to warm ups and cool downs, but the key take away is that despite many runners putting this off, or worse never committing to warm ups at all because they feel like they haven’t got the time, time spent warming up is time well spent.


I also think of it like this: those minutes you are warming up and cooling down are a drop in the ocean compared with the length of time you’re stopped from running with an injury.

I know warm ups and cool downs are only part of the injury prevention story, but they’re an important part of it and you should defiantly include them from your first ever run.


Your Warm up routine to keep injury at bay

So where do you start?

First let’s clear up the confusion between the best type of warm up.

Stretching muscles is great – after your run.  Before your run, your muscles need to be slowly introduced to the type of activity to follow, so in our case we need to do things that are similar to running.

  1. Start with a walk, and add speed, the fastest you should be going is a slow slow jog.   This should feel almost too slow.
  2. After around 30 seconds, add a little speed, to make this easier pick a rectangular area to warm up in and chose the long sides for slow jogging, the short sides for a slightly faster pace
  3. Try variations. Run backwards, then forwards. Drop one arm then the other, this is even more fun if you’re running with others and you chose one person to call out instructions, e.g left arm to the floor, right arm to the floor, change direction, speed up, slow down, run backwards.

By now you should feel like your heart rate has increased and you’ll be a fair bit warmer.

  1. I try to add a game of tick in here, it’s a laugh for groups and will have you ready for your run after about 2 minutes!
  2. Don’t forget your arms, running on the spot, slowly, concentrate on your arms and point them out to your sides, circle them first in tennis ball sized circles, then increase to football sized and finally basketball sized circles, before repeating by reducing the size of the circles.

Warm up done!

Getting out there

That’s it, you’re warmed up so get running.  How far and how long is going to be determined to a large extent by how you feel, and I strongly recommend listening to your body at all times, whether you’re a new runner or have been running for years, our bodies are frequently giving us feedback all we have to do is listen.

For a guide, I suggest following a Couch to 5K plan, there are lots online and many have apps which you can download and easily follow on your smartphone as you run.

I strongly recommend all new runners take the time to follow this plan or a similar couch to 5K, I used this approach when I came back to running and found it worked extremely well.

New to exercise?  Do this first:


Coaches Tip

Have a goal – heard of a race you’d like to do with friends? Want to join a running club but don’t want to be a total beginner? Set a goal in advance of starting out and this will really help motivate you


Building up your mileage

You’re now at the end of your C25K, congratulations!

You’re running a 5K or around 30 minutes with few if any breaks.  That’s a fantastic achievement.

How do you get from here to longer distances, or faster speeds? To running hills or trail running?  Where do intervals fit in and what are fartleks?

There is a lot to running as you dig deeper, and discover the many varied training options you have.

Building up from your first few miles is a time of transition, you’ve moved from being someone who doesn’t run to being a runner, it’s a fantastic achievement and one to be really proud of and, if you’re really keen on moving onwards then there is so much to discover.

You can easily make big changes to your fitness now, this is the moment when it’s relatively easy to boost your running abilities and fitness.

It’s incredibly important to understand how to structure your training so that you obtain the benefits, but without the very real risk of injury when the temptation to do more than you should pops up.

Training plans by their very nature are individualised for the best effect.  So my first advice is contact a coach to get a good all-round plan for you.  However, there are some useful guidelines that you can apply, these will help set you up for success in running.

Start low and slow, low mileage combined with a slow speed

Trying to ratchet up mileage too soon, even if you feel like you can handle it, isn’t the best idea.  Excess mileage, too regularly, will likely generate too much fatigue and whilst some fatigue creates the necessary changes for improvement, too much too often gives your body little chance to recover.

Without such a chance to recover, you can’t harness the benefits of your training session and instead run the real risk of overtraining.

Equally, speed is an essential contributor to your running plan, but too much too soon can have the opposite effect.

Speed needs careful management in your early training, and in fact it’s probably fair to say throughout any training you do.

Leaving speed work out from the start is the best idea, and generating a good base mileage in a structured and sensible way will produce the greatest results.


Creating a reasonable training plan is really useful, random running will most likely generate random results, and so planning out what you’ll do will help you produce real improvements in your running.

So how do you increase mileage safely? 

Following the simple 10% increase plan will make sure that you don’t increase mileage too quickly and end up with an injury.

Here’s my plan for building up mileage:

So for example say you’re running 20 miles per week, you can increase your miles by 2 per week.

I would add those into your plan weekly, but wait for a full month before attempting to add any more.

If you feel any pain or discomfort, or perhaps previous injuries flaring up after this increase then take a break from all exercise for at least a couple of days and then revert to your earlier, lower mileage.  One final point on this, only increase for the first 3 weeks, on your 4th week (and every 4th week thereafter) reduce your mileage to the level it was 3 weeks prior.



week 1 = 10 miles total

week 2 = 11 miles total

week 3 = 12 miles total

week 4 = 10 miles total


The 10% rule is designed to make sure you don’t increase too much too soon, it’s one of my tips for keeping your running injury free – too many runners accept injury as part of their running, I just don’t think that’s necessary anymore and if we train in a focused, smart way we can really reduce the chances of further injury.

The key is to start as you mean to go on.


How much is too much – the danger of Overtraining

Training plans designed by coaches for their runners take several factors into account, one of these is balancing the workload with an appropriate amount of recovery.

Failing to fully recover doesn’t have to be a bad thing necessarily, in fact very often as a training tool it can be used to good effect.

However, continuing to train without appropriate recovery can result in overtraining.  It’s sometimes difficult to observe when you’re suffering from this particular issue, but if you notice any of the following symptoms then it’s time to take steps to combat it.

  • Are your sleep patterns disturbed?
  • Do you feel like you no longer want to be running? Is your motivation to get out of the door reduced?
  • Are your stress levels raised generally?

These are only some of the possible symptoms, but the way to tackle overtraining is the same regardless.

  • Get rest – the sometimes obvious response is to run more, to train harder in an effort to combat the reduction in performance, but this will be counterproductive
  • Stop exercise. It’s hard to take such action but it really is essential.  Eventually overtraining will stop you completely anyway, it’s a lot easier if you catch it early, take the inevitable rest you need to take and therefore recover fully.


Injury tips – for when you prefer to be running and not sidelined

We’ve just reviewed the risks of overtraining, and in my opinion I class overtraining as a running injury, because once you are suffering from it, you’re out of running until fully recovered, just like many other conditions that can affect runners.


Check out my ebook on avoiding running injuries here in it I’ve compiled a resource for runners to use to avoid getting injured in the first place.

Here I’m going to touch on some other options you can utilise to help reduce your injury risk.

Improve your running form

I’m currently working on a package of movement patterns which will help runners improve their form.  Very often the way we move isn’t as efficient as it could be, so if we work on this aspect of our running we stand a great chance of moving in ways that keep us balanced and coordinated and therefore able to move more quickly too.

Keep updated on my YouTube channel for these videos and of course if you’re a subscriber to my website I’ll keep you updated once I release these.

I’d also advise getting some general conditioning in place prior to starting movement pattern work, so if you’re new to running or exercise generally, then wait for a few months before kicking off your these.

Don’t forget that your warm up which I mentioned earlier in this article should always come first, even before you do the things I mention here, it can often be quite intense and so it’s really vital to get your body ready for what follows.

So what should I be doing when I’m running? 

The simple fact is, over the years we pick up bad movement patterns.

My quick tips for proper form are:

  • Upright posture – sprinters are likely to lean forwards during acceleration, but once your correct pace is reached you should have an upright posture
  • Arms – your elbows should be bent at around 90 degrees, moving forward and backward in a reasonably straight line, and attempting to avoid the cross body movement that is sometimes an easy habit to fall into
  • Try to keep your head up, which will help with your posture overall


Cool Downs – why you should commit

We discussed the power of warm ups earlier, now it’s time to review the other bookend of every one of your workouts – the cool down.

I’m going to share with you some of the cool down routine I use every run, because I think it’s made a big difference to how I recover post run and also how long it takes my body to recover from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (aka DOMS) – that painful sensation in your muscles felt 1 or 2 days after your run.


I’ve recently learnt some new techniques for the cool down from studying elite runners and I’m going to share those with you here.

I think they add an extra dimension to the routine and importantly they fill the gap between the running action and bringing your muscles back to a rested position.


Effective Cool Down Routine

  • Start to slow down your run over the last mile, gradually reducing your pace until you finish at a walking pace
  • Once you’ve finished running start by jumping up and down on the spot, keep a fast pace here trying to keep off the ground rather than lingering on the ground
  • Add in star jumps
  • Repeat the jumping and star jumps, moving from one to another for 30 seconds each


Follow these steps after every run and you’ll be well on your way to reducing your risk of injury and setting you body up positively for a strong recovery.

Do you normally stretch post run?  That’s fine, carry on with these after the steps I’ve just outlined and if you’re looking for stretches that I recommend to my athletes subscribe to and I’ll email you my latest videos as soon as they’re launched.


Strength and other training and why it’s so important

If you’ve read my blog articles you’ll know I’m keen on building the strength of my runners but often beginning runners aren’t absolutely sure what strength in running means.

Often specific muscles are targeted when we run, as a result other muscle groups can become neglected and are therefore weaker, resulting in an increased risk of injury.

But strength isn’t just about injury prevention!

5 other major benefits of strength training for runners

  • You strengthen the core of your body, this helps to produce better and more efficient movement
  • Your bones/ligaments/muscles all benefit, becoming stronger, leading to a more effective body
  • You will be stronger and therefore more able to manage fatigue
  • Lean muscle mass is key – strengthen the whole chain of muscles as they work together, and let your whole body produce greater results than just working your standard running muscles
  • You can improve your performance! Need some Evidence?  In May 1999 a study was conducted on Endurance athletes to determine if simultaneous explosive-strength and endurance training would affect performance.  The results showed it did help reduce their 5K times Paavolainen L, Häkkinen K, Hämäläinen I, Nummela A, Rusko H.


Coaches Tip

Build a variety of strength techniques into your regular schedule and you’ll really see the benefits, try hill repeats, speed work, weight routines

Key Links – We’ve covered a lot of information in this article, so to help you keep a handle on where everything is, here are the links again.

How to choose the best running shoes – quick guide to help you.  How to choose your next pair of running shoes

New to exercise?  Do this first:  Before your C25K

Check out my ebook on avoiding running injuries here Stop running injured

So that’s it folks, I’d love to hear what techniques and tips you have for starting out running, please let me know in the comments below!

For other helpful articles subscribe to my blog, follow me on twitter for regular updates and strategies and join YOUR running coach on facebook for a community of like minded runners working to share the best info out there for other runners.

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