This blog post was requested by one of our followers on Instagram. Their question was “Can you write a blog on running tips for beginners and how to get started? I want to become a regular runner but don’t know how to start!”

Great question! First off, disclaimer: we’re not professional runners… not even close! So we’re going to answer this question from our personal experience only, and by no means is this advice coming from running experts.

Here’s the back story of how we got into running….

We first took an interest in running back in December 2013. We would jog a few laps around our local football oval – nothing serious. We were inspired by fellow vegans Janette Murray-Wakelin and Alan Murray who at the age of 60+ years, ran together around Australia, 15,782 km, 366 marathons in 366 consecutive days throughout the year 2013. This was an incredible story and we decided to join Jannete and Allan on the last 5kms of their 365th marathon on New Year’s Eve 2013. And to start 2014 with a healthy bang, we also ran the last 5kms of Jannete and Allan’s record setting 366th marathon on New Year’s Day.

Now this was an amazing experience, but it was one of the stupidest things we’ve ever done! Why? Because we had so little training beforehand and were wearing incorrect shoes. The result … absolute agony!! The pain in our legs, and knees in particular, was excruciating! It hurt to just walk for days afterwards and we recall Luca was in so much pain that he had to lie face down to soak his knees in a bucket of warm water and epsom salt! So, not such a great and healthy way to start the New Year after all!

We learned a lot from that experience and can now share our tips based on what we did as beginners interested in running.

Tip 1: Properly Fitted Footwear

Visit a running shoe store and get your feet properly fitted by someone who knows what they’re talking about! The shoes we ran with back in 2013 were just regular sneakers that weren’t designed for running, nor were they a good fit for our feet … they were just a cheap pair of shoes that we thought looked good at the time.

When we did visit a running shoe store and had our feet properly fitted by a professional, the difference was amazing! We learned that some of the pain runners can experience in their legs and knees may be due to their shoes not fitting and supporting the specific shape and position of their feet. We have noticed significantly less leg/knee pain since wearing the brand and style of shoes that was recommended to each of us. We know that some people say this is unnecessary and it’s just the sports shoe industry trying to make money off people, but our personal experience says it did make a difference.

And it does make sense if you think about it … we all have different feet and so one style of shoe is not going to fit us all … for example, Natasha’s feet are short and wide, while Luca’s feet are long and narrow, so we wear different brands. At the moment, Natasha is running in Brooks Ravenna 8 and Luca is running in Asics Kayano Gel 23.

So if you’re experiencing any pain when running, perhaps consider getting your feet properly fitted.

Tip 2: Start Slow and Short

DO NOT do what we did and attempt a run that is well beyond your capabilities as a new runner! Start slow and short. In fact we’d say that the most important thing is just to get used to the feeling of running, so don’t worry about your time in the beginning, just focus on slowly building up your distance and gradually getting those kms/miles under your feet.

Of course this will vary for everybody depending on your experience, but for beginners, start off doing a really short and slow jog. Try doing 1 km (0.6 miles) to begin with. See how that feels. Take the next day off, or even two days.

Once your legs feel “normal” again, do another 1 km (0.6 miles) and if by the end of that run you feel ok, then keep going for another 500 meters (0.3 miles) or so. See how that feels. Take the next day off, or even two days. And repeat.

Basically, slowly and gradually increase the distance of your run based on how you feel after each run. This is the smart and safe way of building up to running a longer distance.

Tip 3: Less Often is Better

Resting your legs and not running consecutive days has been an important lesson for us. Running is a high impact activity and your body will likely let you know about it! Think about it… all your body weight is coming down on a hard surface (the ground) with very little to no give. So the impact is strong and we can often feel it moving through our bodies as we run. When our runs are too close together, or we try to squeeze in more runs than usual in a week, we tend to pull up sore, often risk injury, and just don’t perform our best.

For us, less is better … we actually get better results not pushing ourselves. This has varied over the years, but these days we typically run twice a week. And our distance is anywhere from 5 – 15 kms. If you’re finding the impact of running too strong, you could try running on a treadmill instead … we find there is less resistance and more give on a treadmill compared to the road, and so the impact isn’t as harsh.

Tip 4: Proper Posture/Form

Like any sport, your technique is important. But as a beginner runner, we certainly didn’t worry too much about this. But what we did find helpful was maintaining a good posture/form whilst running. This is important for getting enough oxygen into your lungs and muscles, and also for preventing stitches.

We recommend keeping your:

  • back/chest/torso upright and tall
  • shoulders relaxed (not high and tight), level, and perhaps even back slightly if your chest has a tendency to tilt forward 
  • gaze straight ahead. If you find your head starts to naturally tilt downward, this can cause your chest to as well, which will likely reduce your lung capacity and potentially even bring on a stitch. So if you’re particularly prone to getting stitches like Natasha, gazing out into the distance and focusing on the treetops can help keep your head from tilting downward
  • hands relaxed, not clenched. You may find it comfortable to have your thumb and forefinger lightly touching.
  • mouth open and breathe through your mouth.

Tip 5: Music

Music is key … well it is for us anyway. It can be hard to motivate yourself to run, especially if the conditions are hard or you’re just not feeling it on the day. So we find listening to music really helps. Now this might seem silly, but the kind of music we listen to can really make a difference too … for example, we once tried to run to the playlist we use for the gym and it was terrible! So we now have a running music playlist that works well for us. The trick is to select music that has a faster beat to it, something that makes you feel like dancing. 

It’s amazing how much our mind and body are connected … when we run to music that has a heavier, slower beat, we feel heavy and our run slows down. But listening to music with a lighter, faster beat, makes us move lighter and faster too.

We have also heard that some people like to listen to a podcast while running, so you can try that out too. It’s like you’re running with a friend who’s chatting to you and taking your mind off the run. Our favorite podcast to listen to is by That Vegan Couple… have you checked their podcast out, it’s fantastic.

Tip 6: Warm Up, Cool Down, and Stretch

Your pre and post run routine is important.

We like to run first thing in the morning, but getting out of bed and immediately starting to run isn’t the best feeling! So we like to do a pre-run walk of about 800 meters to wake up the legs and warm up. Once we’ve finished our run, we do a cool down walk of another 800 meters or so. This post-run walk also helps to dissolve any lactic acid in the muscles that may have built up.

After our post-run cool down walk, we then do some light stretching. We stretch the hamstrings, calves, quads, and adductors/ groin. We say light stretching because it’s very easy to overstretch and injure yourself/ pull something. We’ve made this mistake in the past (many times!) so now we err on the side of caution and always pull back a little in a stretch.

Tip 7: Eating and Drinking

People often ask us if they should eat and drink before or after a run. Personally, we absolutely hate running with anything in our stomachs! It just doesn’t feel good to have food or liquid swishing around. As we mentioned above, we prefer to run first thing in the morning because not only is the temperature cooler, but our stomachs are empty and this makes it so much more comfortable to run. Of course this is going to vary from person to person … if your schedule doesn’t allow you to run in the morning, but you are free in the afternoon or evening, then run in the afternoon or evening!

If you are running later in the day, we would suggest that you don’t eat or drink too close to your run – again, it just doesn’t feel very good and you’re likely to get a stitch.

No matter what time of the day you choose to run, post-run hydration is very important. Natasha drinks around 1.5 liters/quarts of water post-run, and Luca drinks around 3.2 liters/quarts. However, we live in a very hot and humid climate where we sweat a lot, so we likely wouldn’t need this much water in a colder climate. We’ve loved hydrating with these Blender Bottles every day since 2013 because they’re BPA-free and have measurements so you can keep track of how much water you’ve had.

Post-run, after hydrating, we like to eat a meal of fruit and oatmeal. This carbohydrate-rich meal replenishes the body’s glycogen stores and thus prepares your body for the next round of physical activity (more on this below).

Tip 8: Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Eating a healthy diet can help your body perform its best and recover faster. We eat a 100% plant-based diet which means no animal products at all. Plant foods are typically anti-inflammatory and thus potentially aid recovery, whilst animal products are typically pro-inflammatory, and therefore potentially hinder recovery.

We also focus our diet around whole plant foods, with an emphasis on foods high in carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, with the addition of some foods higher in fat like nuts and seeds. This diet keeps us feeling our best and supports our active lifestyle. 

Outside of starvation mode, the body’s preferred energy source is glucose, which is most efficiently obtained from carbohydrates. This is why marathon runners “carbo-load” before a race – their energy is coming from their bodies’ store of glycogen, which is essentially their muscles’ and livers’ store of glucose from eating carbohydrates. So enjoy a meal such as baked sweet potatoes loaded with black beans, guacamole and a side of salad with fresh veg … your body will thank you for it!

Tip 9: Run with Someone

If our above tip of listening to music or a podcast doesn’t interest you, then perhaps look for a friend to run with. Natasha used to sometimes struggle running on her own, even with music. But since we’ve been running together, it’s a lot easier. A different energy is created when you train with a running partner, it’s like you both spur each other on without actually needing to say anything.

If you’re at the same fitness level then that helps, but if one of you is faster than the other, then we have found it’s important for the less fit person to set the pace. Initially Luca, who is fitter, was setting the pace but it was too fast for Natasha and she couldn’t maintain the distance because she’d tire out too quickly. But when Natasha set a slower pace, we stayed in what’s called “zone 2”, could maintain a conversation, and run a much longer distance more comfortably. So by slowing down, we have actually improved our running and been able to go further.

So ask around for a running buddy, or perhaps even look up a running group in your area.

If all else fails, run with your dog!

Tip 10: Cross Train

Our final tip is to cross train. This means we don’t focus on just one sport, we do a variety of activities throughout the week. To watch our exercise routine video click the thumbnail or here. We personally rotate through running, cycling, and gym/lifting weights and bodyweight training. This means we are working different parts of the body every day. The advantage of cross training is that not only are you using all parts of your body and getting a balanced workout, but it also allows you to rest certain parts of the body whilst still training. 

For example, if our legs are sore after a run and we need to rest them, we simply go to the gym and work on our upper body instead – so we don’t have to skip a day of exercise altogether, we just change what exercise we’re doing. This is great because it allows you to keep developing your fitness while resting certain parts of the body at the same time. We find this is particularly important with running – as we mentioned earlier, it’s so high impact that we only run twice a week, which means we need to do something else for the rest of the week!

We hope our running tips for beginners have helped you. The last thing we will mention is that because running is so high impact, it can be very strenuous on the joints and overall difficult to maintain. So if you are overweight, we don’t recommend running. Instead, we recommend cycling because your body weight is supported by the bicycle and it is so much easier to maintain as a regular form of exercise. Once you’ve lost weight and feel more physically comfortable with a high impact sport, then you start running.

The same thing applies to someone who is extremely unfit – start cycling first to gain a base level of fitness (which is much easier to do on the bike) and then you can attempt running with more ease and confidence.

Thanks for reading, and please share this blog post with anyone you think will benefit from these tips.

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