For Beginners

Updated January 6, 2015

You want to start running. That's great! Running is a big step toward better health and wellness, but also toward self-discovery, new friendships and incredibly meaningful experiences that you'll never forget.

I often get asked for advice from folks who want to start running and need some help and direction. Here are 10 tips for getting started. But before you take that first step, it's probably best to see a doctor.

1) A car is only as good as its tires. It's the same with running shoes. Visit a specialty running store that will match you up with the right shoes. It's always ideal to start off in new shoes. Here's a great store-finder tool from Runner's World.

There are basically three types of running shoes:
  • Stability: Provides an extra level of stability for your feet.
  • Neutral cushion: Usually for the runner who has a neutral foot and needs less support.
  • Motion control: For the runner who severely over-pronates (foot goes inward).
At a specialty running store, you'll benefit from a sales person--likely a runner--who understands your foot type and will recommend the right types of shoes. You won't find this level of service or expertise at the big-box retailers. Never buy a shoe for its looks; buy according to comfort.  Running shoes will last about 400 miles (just as tires wear out over time). Keep track of your mileage so you know when to replace them. Always replace your shoes if you start experiencing foot, ankle, knee, hip or back pain.

2) Get some socks specifically made for running. Avoid socks that are cotton and instead shoot for socks made from Coolmax fabric, which will help prevent blisters. I've tried almost every brand of sock and found what works for me (Drymax). Find what works for you.

3) Have a positive attitude and be patient. Running can be challenging, but as you get in better shape you'll find that it feels more natural and is less and less of a struggle. Start gradually. If running is new to you, start off with a 5-minute walk, 1-minute run/jog routine and add onto your running time as your fitness improves. Above all, be patient.

4) Sprinkle in some cross-training. Cycling, swimming and the elliptical are great non-impact cross-training options. When I'm really in a zone and clicking off big miles to prepare for a race, I often forget to cross-train or don't make time for it. Big mistake. Cross-training works different muscles, helps correct imbalances and basically gives your legs a break from the impact. Make time for it.

5) Drink plenty of water. Drink some water before your run (but not too much) and rehydrate with water after your run. Don't force water on yourself; drink to thirst. Take some water with you if it's hot. You don't need sports drinks. Sports drinks are full of sugar and chemicals that will undermine many of the benefits of running. Water is all you need.

6) Try to run on the softest-possible surfaces, which are gentler on your joints. This is especially important for those who are overweight. If you don't have access to dirt trails, run on asphalt if it's safe to do from a traffic standpoint. Or, if you can find a road with a dirt shoulder, go for it.

7) If resources allow, buy some Coolmax clothing. Coolmax is a type of fabric that wicks away moisture and breathes nicely. Cotton doesn't breathe and it doesn't wick, and it causes chafing. Coolmax apparel for running is easy to find and readily available at your specialty running store and even at the big-box stores.

8) Do some dynamic stretches before your run. Static stretching can be stressful on your muscles. Before a run, I do some leg swings to activate my hamstrings and hips.

9) Work on your core. For the runner, strong legs are king, but so is a well-developed core that includes the abs, hips, glutes and back. In time, you will also find that arm endurance is important. There are lots of plank exercises that are great for core and overall strengthening.

10) If a marathon is your ultimate goal, set manageable sub-goals that prepare you for 26.2 miles. For now, focus on a strong effort at a local 5K or maybe even 10K. You need to gradually work up to your goal. Rome wasn't built overnight! Look into local running clubs, where you'll benefit from knowledge, experience and camaraderie. Also consider some excellent training plans from the likes of Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway and others.

Final thought: If you're going to run at dark, please get a headlamp, reflective gear, and ideally a blinking red light. Also carry identification and even a mobile phone. Consider a RoadID bracelet (available for $20). You can buy the lights and reflective gear at a specialty running or bike store.

Below is a video that I think is pretty useful. Form is very important. This will be helpful.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!