Runners laugh together

Everything You Need to Know About How to Start Running

Running can help you improve your health, reduce stress, reach a healthy weight and connect with others.

According to the World Health Organization, adults of 18 to 64 years should complete at least or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week or twice as much moderate aerobic exercise in order to maintain good health.

Recent estimates show that over one quarter of adults and three quarters of adolescents don’t meet the recommendations for aerobic exercise.

How To Start Running

Running is a great way to get the aerobic activity that your body requires without a gym membership or fancy equipment. You just need the right pair of running shoes and comfortable sweat-wicking apparel to get started.

A few simple guidelines will help you stay on track and pursue your goal in a healthy way.

  • Get fit for a comfortable pair of running shoes (More on this below).
  • Start your run hydrated to sustain your run and avoid an upset stomach.
  • Try some dynamic stretches to get your body warmed up first.
  • Incorporate walk breaks (try one minute of running followed by one minute of walking)

Now is the time to make a change. Your health matters, and our how to start running guide is here to provide the advice, motivation, inspiration and gear you need to start running today and make it a lifelong habit. What are you waiting for?

A group of women stand on a track together wearing Brooks Run Bras

Every Body Runs

Many people begin running to lose weight, improve their heart health or find stress relief. No matter the health benefits of running, the most important goal should be to feel good in your body, no matter its size or shape. If your body runs, you have a runner’s body– simple as that.

Read more about how to start running at any size, and how to feel your best doing it.

The Run-Walk Method

A man and woman jog side by side

Sometimes new runners make the mistake of trying to run too much too soon, and wind up quitting because they’re discouraged or injured. So, try easing into your new routine gradually.

The best way to start running is by using the Run-Walk method, especially if you have not had much aerobic activity in the past few months.

Start by walking 10 to 30 minutes on a regular basis, and increase that time gradually. Once you can walk comfortably for 30 minutes, you’re ready to incorporate some running.

Before you get too far down the road, check with your doctor if you have a pre-existing condition that may require you to alter your plan.

Here are some suggestions based on your familiarity with aerobic activity:

  • Beginners: completely new
  • Intermediate: some aerobic exercise, but not frequent
  • Advanced: frequent aerobic exercise

Level

Run Time

Walk Time

Beginner

10-30 seconds

1-2 minutes

Intermediate

1-5 minutes

1-2 minutes

Advanced

5-10 minutes

30 seconds- 1 minute

How to breathe while running + -

When you start out running, breathe however feels natural to you. If you are prone to asthma or find yourself frequently gasping for air, consult a doctor before continuing to run. Some runners prefer a method called “square breathing”, where they breathe in for two counts through their nose, and breathe out for two counts through their mouth. The most important thing is to find what works best for you!

Finding Shoes and Gear

A woman chooses between shoes during a socially distanced outfitting session.

Your shoes, socks and apparel can mean the difference between an enjoyable run and a blister-filled sufferfest. To keep your feet happy, start with expert outfitting for the perfect pair of shoes, socks and insoles.

Read our expert outfitting advice in our article: Essential Gear You Need to Start Running.

Your comfort is the most important thing, and an expert outfitter can help you find your best fit. Get a 3D scan of your feet, recommendations for your foot shape, then try on shoes to see what you like the best.

Learn more about Fleet Feet’s fitid® outfitting process (it’s free!)

These are our top five tips to choosing the best running shoes:

  1. Plan Ahead: Looking to get into a consistent running routine? Or maybe take on your first race? No matter your goals, create a plan around the surface you want to train on and how you want your shoes to feel while you’re running.
  2. Get Started By Walking: Running shoes are great to walk in, and walking is often a segue for beginning runners as you feel out the way your body moves for prolonged periods of time.
  3. Learn How You Move: The natural alignment of your joints and the degree to which you pronate can make a big difference in how you search for shoes to support your body. Using our in-store fit process or at-home wear analysis can help you determine how much you pronate and what kind of running shoe to buy.
  4. Find Your Fit: A good rule of thumb to determine that you’re wearing the right size is to keep a thumb’s width of space between the end of your toes and the tip of the shoe. Your foot should feel secure from heel to toe, without any squeezing or pinching. Pay attention to the way your foot aligns over the midsole to determine if you need a wide size shoe.
  5. Put On Some Miles: Once you find shoes with the support you need and a comfortable fit, hit the road! The average running shoe lasts about 300 miles for regular runners.

Find more details and tips to finding the just right pair of running shoes for you in our article: How to Choose Running Shoes.

In addition to the right shoes, finding comfortable and functional clothes to run in is essential. Whether you’re running in cold weather and need to layer up or you’re looking for the latest styles to spice up your run kit, our Best Running Clothes guide has something for everyone.

Stay safe in our COVID-19 Safety Gear For Running.

Ladies, the right running bra is your second priority. The right bra will change the way you run by reducing strain on your back and shoulders and eliminating painful chafing.

Get the support you need to maximize your comfort by shopping our Best Sports Bras for Running guide.

With the right shoes and some seasonal pieces of sweat-wicking clothing, you can run outside in almost any conditions.

Are running shoes good for walking? + -

Yes! The soft cushioning and accommodating fit of running shoes makes them great for walking too.

How long do running shoes last? + -

A premium running shoe lasts between 300-500 miles. It all depends on how often you run in them, the surface you run on, and how many miles you put on your shoes. It is important to pay attention to when your shoes do begin to wear out, so you can get new ones and prevent discomfort or even injury.
A man laces up his trail running shoes on the side of a trail

Beginning Trail Running

Looking to shake up your running routine? Or maybe get in touch with nature? Whatever your reason, trail running is an excellent escape from traffic, city noise and hard surfaces. Trail running takes a little extra time and preparation, but the benefits are worth it.

If you’re tackling the trails for the first time, be sure to plan ahead. Know your route and be aware of conditions you may find on the trail. Hills and uneven surfaces make running more strenuous.

Consider bringing water and calories along, even if your route is on the shorter side. Running on steep trails takes longer than it would on the road, so don’t be caught off-guard, especially if you take a wrong turn.

A good pair of trail shoes will give you the extra grip and protection you need on uneven surfaces like rocks, mud and snow.

Learn more about the best trail running shoes, and the benefits of trail running, and how to prepare for a trail run in our Beginners Trail Guide.

Build Your Training Plan

Whether you're running to get in shape, get faster or complete a new distance, there are tricks to making progress without injury or burnout.

Depending on your comfort level with running, you can approach your training schedule in one of two ways. You can assign yourself weekly mileage you would like to run, at a certain pace or without stopping. Or, you can assign yourself weekly time you'd like to dedicate to running, also either at a certain pace or without stopping.

No matter how you decide to begin running, it's important that you listen to your body and do what is most comfortable for you. The best way to get in shape is to put in time moving on your feet, regardless of how far or fast you go.

Here is our suggested plan of action as you begin to establish a weekly running schedule:

Level

Weekly Running Mileage

Weekly Running Time

Beginner

10-15 miles/week

100-150 min. activity/week

Intermediate

20-30 miles/week

200-300 min. activity/week

Advanced

35-40 miles/week

350-400 min. activity/week

Types of Workouts

A balanced running schedule has all of the elements listed below in your weekly schedule:

Easy runs: Relaxed effort; you should be able to carry a conversation without being short of breath.

Speed workouts: Hard effort; can barely talk, breathing heavily, reasonably outside your comfort zone (you’re not Usain Bolt). Here are a few of our favorite workouts to help you get faster:

Man runs with handheld running water bottle

  • Intervals: The classic “run for two minutes, rest for one” run. They are great for building fatigue resistance and for getting a good sense of what a hard effort run feels like. Extend the period of time you run for and rest for less time to push yourself.
  • Tempo runs: These runs are done at just below your goal race pace (the fastest you can go for a sustained period). For beginners, this may look like 3-4 miles or 25-30 minutes. For more experienced runners, you may want to get comfortable doing your tempo runs at 75% of your goal race distance. For example, if you are training for a half-marathon, incorporate 9-10 mile tempo runs into your regimen.
  • Hill repeats: Good for endurance, good for the booty, good for everyone. Hill repeats are a great way to build strength in your leg and back muscles without going crazy at the gym. Running uphill keeps pressure off your joints and is a great way to diversify your training plan. Try this super-fun hill rep workout with HOKA triathlete Heather Jackson.

Want more? Here’s How to Improve Your Pacing and Run Faster.

Long runs: Moderate effort; can talk in short spurts, breathing is a bit more labored, within your comfort zone but working.

Long runs can look different for everyone depending on how comfortable you are with distance and what your goal race distance is. But no matter your personal goals, long runs should be about 20-30% of your weekly mileage. This way, they are an effective workout but are not adding additional risk of injury.

For example, if you are running 30 miles per week in preparation for your race, your long run should be around nine miles.

Read more about the benefits of long runs plus some tips and tricks from Fleet Feet coaches.

Rest days: Whether you choose gentle stretching, a relaxing walk outside, or spending time with friends, make sure to indulge in your rest! This is when your body recovers and develops the strength you need to keep training.

Curious about the science behind rest? Read more here about the importance of rest days.

Strength training: This activity can range from body-weight exercises to traditional weighted exercises at the gym. It is essential to focus your strength training on your whole body, that means arms, back and core in addition to legs! Well-rounded strength training helps you see the most benefits and can even help prevent injury.

Learn from certified personal trainer Tim Lyman about what kind of strength training is best for runners.

New Balance elite runner Boris Berian prepares to lift weights.

Here are a few of our favorite strength workouts:

  • This full-body core and leg strength workout with Superfeet ambassador and coach, Tara Garrison
  • Emma Coburn’s pre-run muscle activation exercises
  • Squats: there’s a ton of fun variations you can try, weighted or unweighted, but overall squats are a great way to build muscle and improve your range of motion.
  • Side lunges: these engage the muscles around your hip to not only build strength, but also to prevent injury as you put on more mileage.
  • Power bridges: with or without a resistance band around your knees, power bridges focus on your hamstrings and glutes to build strength in your posterior chain. This can help you get faster and improve your running form.

Cross-training: Think activities like swimming, hiking, a bike ride, anything that will engage muscle groups you don’t normally use while running (without being too strenuous). Cross-training helps you gain well-rounded fitness and protects key muscle groups from overuse injury.

Exercises like HIIT are a great way to get your heart rate up while working key muscle groups. Follow along with Fleet Feet coach Ashely Arnold through a 12-minute HIIT workout.

The Importance of Training Groups

A man and woman practice social distancing while they run with masks on

Training groups provide a social environment to help you work on your fitness and speed with other runners. Running with others is shown to increase happiness related to social connection. It also has a huge effect on motivation, making you more likely run faster and for longer distances.

You don’t have to be competitive in order to be a runner. Many people love the simple joy of finding community while logging miles with their friends and family. Many others prefer to use running as a sacred opportunity to be alone. Do what feels right to you, and make running your own.

Concerned about venturing out with friends during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s some pointers from healthcare professionals on how to run safely while social distancing.

Find a training group near you!

Nutrition and Hydration for Running

Whether you’re running for weight loss or training for a race, nutrition and hydration are key elements of a healthy lifestyle.

But it’s not all about counting calories and heavy dieting; fueling your body to feel and perform its best involves listening to its needs and giving yourself the healthiest, most effective nutrition possible.

What to Eat Before Running

When it comes to running, a bit of trial and error is required to discover what energizes your run without upsetting your stomach.

You will want to match your fuel to the type of run. Keep the planning simple and stress-free (your gut prefers simplicity, too!).

No matter what you eat, be sure to drink plenty of water, which aids digestion and energizes your system.

  • Easy runs: All you need are fluids and electrolytes. If you’re hungry, add simple carbs like crackers or a banana.
  • Hard runs or speed work: Go for simple, clean-burning carbs. Try sports drinks or gels, toast with jam or a banana.
  • Long runs: Complex carbs will keep your energy up. Aim for a carb-heavy meal a few hours before (time for digestion is key), and add a bit of protein and healthy fats. Try overnight oats with a scoop of almond butter.

But your nutrition isn’t just about on-the-run fuel. What you eat is crucial for your recovery and general everyday health. To replenish your body, it’s important to eat a balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats from wholesome, nutrient-dense foods.

When you start running you are likely to burn more calories and may feel hungrier than usual. It’s important to be mindful not to go on a hangry binge, but to eat (mostly) healthy foods to replenish your system.

Read more about all things nutrition and hydration, and how it helps to improve your running.

Motivation and Goal Setting

Setting goals is important when you want to establish a new routine. You’ll want to find the sweet spot where your goal challenges you but doesn’t leave you overwhelmed and likely to burn out or quit. SMART goals are a popular concept for good reason. They hold you accountable to goals that are realistic and meaningful to you. SMART goals are:

  • Specific. Set up a time and a place for your goals to be achieved. Signing up for a race or identifying an event for which you want to lose weight are good examples. 

  • Measurable. Instead of setting a nebulous goal, like “I want to be a faster runner,” go into a bit more detail. It could be, “I want to run a two-minute PR in the half marathon,” or “I want to lose 10 pounds for my wedding in August.” 

  • Achievable. Choose a goal that pushes you but isn’t totally out of your reach. 

  • Relevant. Your goals should sprout from your own personal ambitions, not just something your running buddy wants to do. 

  • Time-bound. Keep your training on a timeline. If you signed up for a race, this takes care of keeping it time-bound.

With a positive mindset and meaningful motivation, running can be an empowering, fun experience!

Your running goals are yours alone. It doesn’t matter what your friends are doing, what your sister is doing, or what you think a “real runner” does. You don’t have to run a race or hit a particular number of miles per week in order to be a runner. You simply run the distance and the pace that feels right to you.

Injuries and Prevention

Two runners use Addaday massage tools.

Runners end up injured for two main reasons: improper recovery and sudden changes in training. With proper training and technique, most injuries can be avoided.

Read more about common running injuries.

As you start running, a dynamic stretching warmup and recovery routine will be crucial for injury prevention and overall running health. Tools like foam rollers, massagers, braces and more can help your body recover after a run so you can bounce back and keep getting stronger.

Looking for guidance as you recover from your run? Follow along with Fleet Feet contributor Kelly Starrett as he walks you through the best stretches for runners.