7 FAQ’s for Beginner Runners

Beginner runners have questions that don’t even occur to people who have been running for years. When you’re far removed from those early days of not really knowing what you’re doing, or if running is for you, you forget that once you had questions about things that seem second nature not. I hear these questions all the time from people who are just starting to run, or want to start running, but have no idea how to start. We’re all beginners sometime, and it helps when you can find the answer to all your questions!

7 FAQ's for Beginner Runners - Just starting out running? Here are answers to your beginner runner questions!

7 FAQ’s FOR BEGINNER RUNNERS

What shoes do I buy?

Running starts with the shoes and there is SO much information about running shoes out there, it becomes overwhelming to someone new to the sport to even know where to start. Added to that are terms being thrown around like ‘over-pronation,’ ‘zero drop,’ ‘minimalist,’ ‘maximalist,’ ‘neutral,’ and ‘stability’. It’s no wonder what shoes to buy is one of the most-asked questions by beginner runners.

Luckily, there is a simple answer. Buy the shoes that feel the best on your feet. There are some stores where you can have your form and footfall analyzed on a treadmill run, and have shoes recommended based on that analysis, but 2 minutes on a treadmill in a running store is a little different from going out for your regular run. I’ve had it done before and felt not warmed up, awkward, and uncoordinated. I’m certain whatever kind of form was being analyzed was not how I actually run when I’m not thinking about how I’m running. 

Try on a lot of different shoes and see which ones just feel good when you’re standing in them. Then, buy a pair, but make sure it’s from somewhere that offers a wear and return policy. You really need to run in them properly to make sure they feel good. Ask at your running store if they have this policy, or most online stores offer a return window, regardless of whether the shoes have been used or not. Check out Road Runner Sports, Running Warehouse, and RunningShoes.com, all of which have wear and return policies.

Why do people like running so much when it sucks and it hurts?

The sucking and hurting doesn’t happen as often as you become a regular runner. Anything that you’re trying new is going to challenge your muscles in ways you’re not used to, and cause some aches and pains. As your body adapts to the movements of running, it won’t feel so taxing. It could also be that you’re trying to do too much, too soon. If you’re brand new to running, try incorporating walk breaks into your runs to build up your endurance and muscle adaptation.

And occasionally people who have been running for years have runs that are just awful. Everything feels bad, it’s not enjoyable, it hurts, you never get into the flow…luckily, though, for every run like that, there are a lot more runs where it feels good, and even the rare unicorn run where it feels like you could just keep going forever. Stick with it! I promise it gets better.

How do I get rid of a side stitch?

There are a couple of theories on why side stitches happen. It could be your diaphragm seizing up and cramping from irregular breathing patterns, or from going to regular breathing to labored breathing quickly. The other main theory on stitches is that it’s more to do with your digestive system – that if you’ve eaten something right before you run, or something that’s high fiber, or high fat, your digestive system is complaining via the form of a sharp pain in your side.

To get rid of the stitch, slow to a walk, start to regulate and deepen your breathing, and you can also try walking with your arms up over your head to stretch out your side a little. But even better, try to prevent stitches by warming up properly pre-run (here are some dynamic warm ups you can try!), focusing on breathing slowly and deliberately while you run, and also experimenting with what to eat pre-run, to see what is best for you to eat without feeling sluggish or experiencing stitches.

7 FAQ's for Beginner Runners - Just starting out running? Here are answers to your beginner runner questions!

How should I breathe when I run?

Speaking of breathing, it’s another frequent question from beginner runners. When you’re new at running and not quite cardiovascularly conditioned yet, breathing while running becomes a chore. You may feel like you’re gasping for breath, or your lungs are burning, or you can’t quite catch your breath. If this is the case, first of all, slow down. Take walk breaks. That’s your lungs telling you they’re not ready for that volume of work. And while you’re building up to being a consistent, getting into a breathing routine is a good thing to start. 

You’ll find a lot of techniques based on counting, like breathe in 2 counts, out for 2 counts, or trying a 3-2 count instead. But thinking too hard about how to breathe is just going to distract you from the actual process of running. My advice is to try to keep a consistent rhythm to your breath, without over-thinking it. Try yoga, to learn the technique of breathing with your belly rather than your chest, because that will make a difference when you’re doing any form of cardio. And use your nose, mouth, or any combination of the two that feels natural to you. Every person is different, and trying to mess with what your body is trying to do naturally may not be productive.

Should I stretch before or after I run?

The best way to warm up for a run is with dynamic warm ups, or active, moving stretches that target the movements you’ll be utilizing in running. Static stretching is indicating to your muscles that you’re ready to relax, which is not ideal when you’re about to call on your muscles to go run a certain distance. Save your static stretching for after you finish your run, when your muscles are warm, and you’re about to take it easy.

How many miles should I be running?

Runners often talk in miles, so trying to figure out how many miles you should be running is definitely a common question for someone starting out. Something I find helpful for anyone starting to run, or coming back to running after a prolonged break, though, is to switch from running for mileage, to running for time. Since all you’re doing when you start running is trying to get your muscles and cardiovascular system used to running as a regular exercise, it makes more sense to run for time. Mileage will become important later, especially if you decide to start racing, but in the meantime, just check your watch for the time. When I write a beginner running program, I usually start people off with 20 minute runs (with walk breaks included), build up to 30 minutes, then gradually increase the time, while decreasing the length and frequency of walk breaks. If you want to keep track of your mileage and pace for your runs, you can still do that when you’re running for time (and it’s actually an easy way of gauging progress), but you don’t need to make the mileage a priority at first.

Can I take breaks, or walk for a bit during my run?

Yes! Yes and yes! I may have already mentioned this technique once or twice in this article already. 😉 Walk breaks are a great way of breaking up your run, recovering some energy, and being able to finish strong. Some experienced runners still swear by walk breaks, even in races, as a way of being able to maintain a certain pace consistently.

If you’re a new runner and you want more tips once you’ve checked out these FAQ’s for beginner runners, check out some of my previous posts aimed at new runners:

50 Running Tips for Beginners

12 Mistakes Beginner Runners Make (and how to fix them)

5 Ways You Can Make Starting Running Easier

Tips on Trail Running for Beginners

Running Tips: Starting from Scratch

What was your biggest question when you started running?

How do you choose your running shoes?

Comments

  1. This is a great post for beginner runners. I have a couple of friends who are thinking about getting off the couch that I am going to share this with. Thanks!

  2. I always have side stitch whenever I run. Will definitely try out your tips! Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I as well like to go for a run. But, not as much as before, like I do it like 3-4 times a week. And now, I just do it 1 or 2 times a week and I just really want to go back doing it. Having a hectic schedule really affects my daily routine. Anyways, I still consider myself as a beginner. And reading this helps me gain more information that I should have known in the first place. Awesome post, indeed!

  4. Great tips, thanks for sharing. These are also great reminders for someone considering coming back to running after a prolonged break (ahem, yes, I’m talking about me!). It’s been a few years for me, so there’s so many more high-tech, gadgety tempting equipment options out there than there were before. But my favourite advice that you give: Step 1 = go for a run! And also to wear what feels comfortable, which is different for everyone.
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