Learn to Run resource and information
By Shelley Miller
Before you start
If you have any pre-existing injuries or health management concerns, please consult a physiotherapist or doctor before starting a running program. This checklist (endorsed by Sports Medicine Australia) may help – complete Stage 1 to help you decide if you need to seek medical advice. Australian Adult Pre-Exercise Screening Tool
What do I need?
There’s really only one essential piece of gear – good running shoes. Running in old or unsuitable shoes can lead to injury. We strongly recommend that you visit a specialist running store to have the correct shoes fitted before you start running. The staff will help you to find the right pair of shoes for your foot biomechanics, experience, goals and budget. Good running shoes doesn’t mean the most expensive – it means the right pair for your circumstances.
Your clothing should be comfortable, non-chafing, and sweat-wicking. You don’t need fancy compression tights or expensive clothes to start running. Likewise, you don’t need GPS watches or apps but if they help your motivation then by all means use them – they can be a useful training aid and a record of your progress. When starting out a basic watch or one of the many free apps will be perfectly adequate.
How do I start?
By walking! It is rare that a beginner can run any distance straight away so don’t be discouraged if you can’t run more than a few hundred metres. This is normal! The key to running is to gradually increase your running distance until you can run continuously without taking walk breaks. If you can walk for 30 to 60 minutes at a brisk pace (you can hold a conversation, but your heart rate is elevated) then you are ready to start running. Our Couch to 5km plan will get you started.
How many times a week do I have to train?
Running improvement occurs when you are consistent and persistent. We recommend walk/running four to five times a week, for six weeks, to be able to run 5km with no breaks.
What about cross-training and rest?
Cross-training is very beneficial for running, particularly strength building activities such as weights or yoga. Cycling and swimming are also great cross-training particularly for injured runners. So if these activities are part of your usual routine you should continue them. Rest is vitally important to allow your body to adapt to change and grow stronger. Try to have at least one day a week where you take a complete rest from strenuous exercise.
Isn’t running bad for my knees?
There is no evidence to suggest that running causes joint deterioration in people without pre-existing knee injuries. Running can actually decrease the chance of developing osteoarthritis in the knee. See here for the science stuff.
If you have a pre-existing knee injury, you should definitely seek advice from a physiotherapist before embarking on a running programme.
Are there groups I can join?
Parkrun is a great option for beginner runners. Parkrun is a weekly 5km run and walk held every Saturday morning. It is free, timed and very friendly – and there are lots of walkers! Incorporating parkrun into your walk/run program enables you to measure your progress each week by seeing how much faster you get over a consistent course. And you will meet lots of other beginner runners.
Signing up for a fun run/walk is a great way to stay motivated. Most fun runs now have walk as well as run categories and you don’t have to be able to run the whole way to enter a fun run. Share your goal with friends and family so that they can help to keep you on track. Crossing the finish line of your first fun run is a wonderful achievement! Check out the fun run calendar for inspiration.
There are numerous other social running groups that offer group runs for all abilities.
Athletics Tasmania also have several cross country options which are very suited to beginner runners.
Do I need a coach?
Coaches aren’t just for experienced runners. A qualified coach can help you plan your training schedule around your other commitments, help you set achievable goals, explain all those tricky running words like tempo and fartlek, and keep you motivated and accountable. Most coaches offer this service for little to no cost. If you would like to talk to a qualified coach, contact us.
Won’t people laugh at me? I’m sure I’ll come last.
Most people feel a little intimidated when they start running but there’s nothing to worry about – runners are incredibly supportive of each other and welcoming to beginners. And a lot of fun runs now offer the TRR Foot Soldier who comes last so that you don’t have to! This video from parkrun Australia might help to ease your mind
Can I train on the treadmill?
If time or location makes it easier for you to train on a treadmill then by all means do so. You will build cardio fitness and it can help you to gain confidence when you are starting out. However, training outside offers the opportunity to train with others, enjoy fresh air and scenery, and also strengthen your legs in a way that a treadmill cannot replicate. Ultimately if you want to participate in social running it’s best if you can run outdoors.