Running For Beginners: From Couch To 5K Step-by-Step [2018 Edition]

The hardest part about starting something new, is just-getting-started.

Looking to start running but, the last thing you ran for was a bus?

No problem.

In the next 5 minutes, we’ll cover everything you need to know not just to start running, but to maintain motivation to keep on going.

In part 1, we’ll look at the essential kit you’ll need to start running, or you can choose a section using the links below.

Let’s go…

What Kit Do You Need To Stat Running?

I know your first question. What kit do I need to start running? Here’s your list of essentials:

#1 – A Quality Pair Of Running Shoes

Cost expectation: $70-125

Sure, you can use a pair of normal sneakers, but that’s not going to offer you the stability and comfort you really need.

This is probably the biggest and most important purchase you’ll be making. Not only are you after comfort and support, but durability.

A few of the best running shoes include:

  • Adidas Supernova
  • Asics GT-2000 4
  • Asics Dynaflyte

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. We’ve created a guide on The Best Running Shoes here.

#2 – Technical T-Shirts

Cost Expectation: $25-50

So-called “technical t-shirts” are used in a range of sports and outdoor activities such as hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking and climbing.

Technical t-shirts incorporate what’s known as a wicking material.

Naturally, you’ll expect to sweat when you’re running. Instead of getting completely drenched, a technical t-shirt will shift moisture to the exterior of the fabric, allowing it to dry.

When looking for a technical t-shirt for running, look for trademark logos for wicking materials such as:

  • Dri-Fit
  • Climalite
  • Coolmax

See our picks for the best technical t-shirts for running.

#3 – Sports Bra

Cost Expectation: $25-50

Ladies, this needs no explanation.

If you are not comfortable when you run, there’s a good chance your motivation is going to dwindle over time.

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#4 – Running Apps

Cost Expectation: $0-15 per month

There’s no doubt that tracking apps have boosted the profile of outdoor activities such as running and cycling.

When you are putting time and energy into something, it’s nice to know how you are getting on.

Running apps like Runkeeper, Strava and Under Armour MapMyRun will all help to determine suitable routes, and the ability to look at stats once you’ve completed those runs; excellent motivation!

#5 – Hydration Unit

Cost Expectation: $30-150

If you’re planning to run long distances, a suitable hydration unit is going to be important.

And, I’ll tell you right now, running with a water bottle in your hand isn’t comfortable at all. So, what are your options?

  • Hydration backpacks
  • Hydration waist packs
  • Hydration vests

Leading brands such as Patagonia, Salomon, Nathan, Camel Bak and Ultimate Direction all produce a vast range of hydration units for runners.

Check out our guide to the best hydration packs for runners.

#6 – Light Water-Resistant Jacket

Cost Expectation: $30-150

Let’s face it, the weather isn’t always going to be perfect when you run.

If you want to protect yourself when the weather turns bad, you’ll need a lightweight and water-resistant jacket.

Why water-resistant and not water-proof?

Unfortunately, water-proof jackets are just too thick for running; you’ll overheat in no time!

We run through the best jackets for running here.

#7 – Running Socks

Cost Expectation: $6-25

Unless you want blisters and sweaty running shoes, you’ll want to invest in some decent running socks.

Like technical t-shirts, brands that create running socks aim to integrate wicking properties which means sweat can dry as you run.

A typical example is the SmartWool sock from PHD.

Of all the running gear you need, this is by far the item that offers the most comfort per $ spent.

#8 – Shorts

If you combine a technical t-shirt with running socks and shorts that all have breathable and moisture wicking properties, you’re on your way to having an extremely comfortable run.

An example of shorts that incorporate these properties are the Climacool range from Adidas.

See our guide to the best shorts for running.

The Non-Essential Running Kit List

#1 – Compression Clothing

Cost Expectation: $15-75

Compression clothing is known to help distribute blood around the body much better than regular clothing.

This leads to:

  • Reduction in cramp
  • Reduction in pain, especially around the knee
  • Increased stamina
  • Better regulated body temperature

Many runners use compression base layers, shorts, socks and even knee supports.

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#2 – Expandable Waist & Wrist Packs

Cost Expectation: $25-65

We all want to run light. So, what do we do with our phones, keys, wallets/purses and any other wonders we want to take with us on our travels?

Simple.

Invest in a small pack, designed specifically for runners.

If you carry just one or two small items, then a small wrist pack with work.

On the flip side, if you’re carrying a handful of items or more, you are going to need an expandable waist pack which will offer slightly more capacity.

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How To Create a Running Plan Using Goals

Starting running is the easy part.

Keeping motivated to run regularly is something different altogether.

That’s not to say it’s not fun. But, after a gruelling day at work, sometimes it’s all-to-easy to slump in front of the TV, and settle in for the night.

And, that’s why setting goals for your running is important.

These goals don’t have to hit the moon, sometimes completely the opposite.

It’s important to have realistic milestones that you can reach. That might be:

  • Aiming to run 1-2 times weekly
  • Increasing distance by 5% every month
  • A mileage target per day/week/month
  • Increasing average speed monthly, using the same route

By setting realistic “running goals”, you’ll be able to reach your overall goal too.

This might be:

  • To lose weight
  • To improve fitness
  • To meet new people

Ultimately, only you know the reason you run.

For the majority it’s combining fun, the outdoors, fitness and weight-loss.

And, this is the reason why running is so popular.

For a small upfront cost to purchase gear, you can grab all the above almost any time you want.

Time doesn’t stand still, and neither should your goals.

As you develop as a runner, you’ll find you can achieve more. So, it’s important to change the goal posts to constantly reach for that target.

That’s not to say target and goal-setting should be a chore. Running can be fun, so don’t be too harsh on yourself to begin with.

How To Breathe While Running

Now you’ve got your running gear, and you’ve set some goals, you’re almost ready to start.

Breathing is one of the most important aspects of running.

Use the incorrect breathing technique for running and you’ll:

  • Give yourself a horrible stich
  • Reduce your capacity to run further and faster

The common question I hear is: Should I breathe through my mouth, or through my nose?

Answer? Breathe through your mouth.

The simple reason for this is that running puts huge stresses on your body; it needs as much oxygen as it can get.

Typically, breathing through your mouth will allow much deeper breaths than through the nose. If you breathe through your nose when running, you’ll soon find yourself getting into an un-synced state of short, sharp breathing. This is known as chest breathing.

And, it’s not effective.

What you are aiming for is diaphragmatic breathing.

Instead of trying to breathe from your chest, aim for much deeper breaths, almost as if they are coming from your stomach.

Short breaths, even when they are fast, will not maximise the potential of your lungs, or oxygen intake.

And, that’s why runners aim for large, slow and deep breaths.

How Do You Consistently Breathe Deeply When Running?

If you’re just starting to run, breathing consistently is going to be a lot harder than it seems.

Experienced runners find a way to get their breathing into rhythm. A great timing technique is to use steps as timing reference for inhaling and exhaling.

Obviously, choosing which step acts as a timing reference is going to depend on the speed that you run, and how long it takes to inhale and exhale. Practice by running and breathing in deeply, and exhaling deeply.

For most runners, the timing reference is going to be between 2-4 steps.

So, inhale every 2 steps, then exhale during the following 2.

A slow run might sit on a 3 or 4-step rhythm. Moderate runs tend to sit on the 3-step rhythm, and finally a fast-paced run is going to be a 2-step rhythm.

It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to inhale and exhale deeply enough using a 1-step rhythm, so I’d avoid this until you’re more experienced.

How Does Regulated Breathing Help With Side Stich?

Prevention is always better than cure.

Once a stich shows its ugly face, it’s incredibly hard to get rid of.

Hopefully, you’re newly found regulated breathing is going to reduce the chance of you getting stich considerably. Fact is, it’s still going to happen.

If it does, try and slow the pace and switch onto a slower and deeper breathing rhythm (for instance, switch from a 2 step, to a 3 step).

This introduces more oxygen to the body, while the need for it decreases and over time, the stitch will start to become less powerful.

Diet & Nutrition For Runners

Comfortable is a word that comes up regularly here.

If you’re not comfortable when you start running, it’s going to put you off for good.

Diet and nutrition are a major contributor to exactly how comfortable you are when you’re running.

Diet Planning

We’re not talking about losing weight here.

We’re talking about eating in a way that your Mum always used to tell you to:

  • Fit in 3 solid meals per day
  • Try to reduce consumption of fatty foods (bye-bye Dominos)
  • Consume fruit and vegetables, every day
  • Drink plenty of water, every day

Running as a form of sport and exercise has very particular nutritional requirements.

To get the best in performance, endurance and recovery out of your body, you will need to be concentrating on not only what you eat, but also when you eat.

Follow these nutrition tips for new runners to improve both your speed and stamina.

And, if you’re looking for your body to make the best recovery possible, try and eat a protein-based meal within 2 hours of finishing your run.

The Who’s-Who Of Running Nutrition

You’re going to be dropping around 100 calories every 1km that you run.

And, you need to make sure your replacing these calories with a good balance of foods.

Complex Carbs

The most well-known complex carbs include potatoes, pasta, vegetables and wholemeal bread.

Complex carbs are important for all runners, but especially for long distance runners. Why? The energy that they provide to the body is slow releasing.

Protein

Many of our favourite foods are protein based.

This includes chicken, fish, eggs and nuts.

There’s a good chance that you’re going to tear muscles as you progress as a runner; this is where protein comes in.

Protein based foods are essential to the recovery. Without protein, muscles would recover slowly, or not at all.

As a guideline, the average person should be consuming approximately 0.5g of protein per lb of body weight.

Those doing excess physical activity should be consuming much more than this.

Fat

It’s important to differentiate good fats from bad fats.

For instance, olive oil and avocados contain monounsaturated fats; good. Butter and cheese contain saturated fats; bad!

Although in moderation, saturated fats don’t pose a serious threat, always try and eat foods that include monounsaturated fats.

Vitamins and Minerals

All runners need a range of vitamins and minerals to keep their bodies operating at its optimum.

Iron will help with fatigue and can be found in lean cuts of beef, whereas calcium can be obtained via low-fat yogurt and milk.

Other important vitamins and minerals are vitamin E (obtained via sunflower seeds and safflower oil) and vitamin C (found in orange juice).

Super-Foods For Runners

For quick reference, here’s a list of super-foods for runners:

  • Bananas – A high carb food that’s perfect for that instant energy boost
  • Yogurt – Carbs, protein and a proficient level of amino acids
  • Peanut butter – A reliable source of vitamin E and a provider of monounsaturated fats (the good kind of fat), not to mention an appropriate level of protein
  • Broccoli – You either love it or you hate it. Either way, it’s a great provider of vitamin C
  • Oats – Breakfast’s super-food. High in fibre and slow releasing, so it will keep you going right up until the end of your run
  • Whole-grain – Bread and pasta. These are slow releasing complex carbs. Consume hours or even the night before your next run and you’ll still feel their affects right to the end

How Should This Diet Be Balanced?

New runners will have heard to term “balanced diet”, but what does that even mean?

It means nothing in excess, and everything in moderation. Typically, your diet will look something like this:

  • 60% complex carbs
  • 20% protein
  • 20% fat
  • 3-4 litres per day of water (more when training)

The Runner’s Guide To Snacking

A lot of people start running to lose weight.

There’s just one problem; as a runner starts to unlock the potential of their body, it’s likely that their metabolism will speed up.

This means foods are broken down quicker and the body starts to burn more calories.

Great, right?

Well, this also means that you might find yourself needing to snack in between meals.

This isn’t a problem, if you choose the right snacks.

You’ll want to be stocking up on the small and good stuff. You know, eat little and often.

This might include food sources such as:

  • Salad
  • Fruit
  • Smoothies
  • Nuts

The fact is, few people start running to put on weight. To combat the increase in snacking:

  • Eat the right balance of foods
  • Reduce meal time portions to allow for snacking
  • Remember that you are burning more calories than before – there’s a good chance your body needs these extra calories to survive!

When And What To Eat Before A Run?

You rush in from work, knock together a sandwich, throw on your gear and you’re gone.

Precisely 46 steps later you feel that dreaded prod in your side; stitch.

You’ve got to eat, and you know if you spend 30-45 minutes making a meal, then hang around for 2-3 hours for it to digest, there’s no chance you’re running.

What’s the answer? Eat little and often throughout the day, and have something substantial 2-3 hours before you’re run.

When you get in from work, make sure the first thing you do is consume:

  • A glass of water
  • 25g-50g of carbs – a banana, small bagel or an energy bar

This won’t just get you through the run, it will tide you over enough so that you go running!

Running To Lose Weight

We all have our reasons for starting to run; losing weight is certainly one of the main ones.

Running is a cheap form of cardio. You don’t need to join a gym.

But, if you’re looking to lose weight and not just increase fitness, you’ll need to be a little more focused than the average runner.

Here are a few techniques that new runners can use to lose weight quickly and consistently.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

When I started snowboarding, I lacked strength in my quads. And, throughout my years of racing motocross, my arms have always been my weak point.

There’s one form of training that’s always helped; HIIT. High intensity interval training in its most basic form is:

  • Setting a steady pace
  • Mixing a run up with short sharp bursts of increased pace.

As an example, let’s assume you run for 20 minutes.

You’ll set a steady pace and try and stick to it.

Instead, drop the pace a little and for every 2 minutes of steady pace, throw in 30 seconds of high intensity running.

Losing weight by running isn’t about distance, or speed, it’s about intensity. And, you’ll find every week, the intensity your body can endure will increase.

As we’ve already mentioned, part and parcel of this increased intensity will be an increased metabolism, so eventually you’ll be losing weight even when you sleep!

Hill Running

When runners aim for distance, they cheat themselves.

Generally, they pick a route that’s particularly flat which allows them to hit their mileage goal.

But, mixing in hilly terrain will automatically increase the impact of the workout.

An incline of around 2% can increase calories burnt by over 10%.

Sprinting

Mix up your running schedule with some sprints.

It doesn’t have to be a day at the track.

Just throwing in a handful of 20-30 second sprints in your running schedule can have a massive impact on not just weight loss, but improving muscle tone too.

Trail Running

For some, there’s nothing better than hitting the roads for a run.

For others, running is just a passage to lose weight.

It’s a forced chore rather than a pleasure, and this usually means that plans are not stuck to and goals are not reached. Bad news.

If you’re the outdoor type and like to get dirty, consider trail running.

Not only will the mixed terrain help improve the power and muscle tone throughout the body, it can be extremely fun.

Improve Your Strength

There’s no doubt cardio is the best way to lose weight, but coupled with other forms of training, it can be much more effective.

There’s a good chance there’s one aspect of your body that lets you down when it comes to running further, faster and harder.

Use core strength exercises to try and improve these areas of your body and this will have a significant impact on your running potential.

Do Nothing

That’s right, do nothing.

How good does that sound?

The biggest mistake most new runners make is they try too hard, for too long.

They don’t allow their body time to repair.

Every time you go running, you’ll create small tears in muscles.

This is nothing to worry about. In fact, this is exactly what you want to happen.

When a muscle tears, coupled with a good protein dinner, it will repair and be even stronger. But, these muscles need time to heal.

Constraints of life mean some schedules can’t be adhered to week in week out.

As a rule of thumb, aim to run 1 day, and take 2 days off.

If you do plan to run in the 2 days off, only go for moderate-easy runs.

And, if you’ve taken note of the strength training tip above, you can work on muscles that are not put under huge strain during running, on your “days off”.

How To Train For a 5K

It’s nice to have a focus in life.

You know, outside of what your boss thinks you should focus on. And, I completely get it. A beginner runner training for a 5K might have been unheard of years ago, but there’s been an influx of local races (including mud runs) that have increased 5K popularity.

Training for a 5K, and actually finishing, is something anyone can achieve.

That said, you will need a few things:

  • An element of speed
  • Endurance
  • Grit and determination

Improve Your Speed

Strides are no doubt the best way to improve your overall pace. So, what are strides?

Here, we’re looking for two things:

  • A pace that equates to roughly 80% of your total speed
  • 20-30 seconds of this pace
  • 5-10 reps in a workout

Once you get your body used to strides, start working on hill strides.

It’s the same principle, but aim for just 10-15 seconds, and repeat the process 5-10 times in a workout; they’re much harder!

Note: Standard and hill strides are notoriously hard on the body.

Only incorporate these into a weekly workout once or twice.

Your body needs sufficient time to recover, otherwise all your efforts will hinder progress and not help it.

Increase Endurance

There’s one thing most people forget when they train for their first 5k; they have to run 5k.

Most new runners will run somewhere in the 3-6km range, but not at a consistent and high pace.

They’ll drop off and maybe even walk.

That’s not going to cut it when you get into a race.

Always go above and beyond what you are training for. So, in the instance of training for a 5k, aim to be running 6-10km per workout.

Slowly increase the intensity and distance to improve endurance.

Every race demands a certain level of endurance – the 5k is no different. After all, if you can’t run 5K comfortably during training then how can you race the same distance fast?

Build Race Fitness

You’ll hear it in Formula 1 qualifying, at the Olympics and at your first 5k; “race pace”.

In most sports, pace outside of a race, doesn’t necessarily determine race pace.

Other factors combine to determine what race pace might be.

For instance, if you’re comfortable running 5k in your local area, but on race day it’s 10 degrees hotter, how will you fair?

Naturally, some racers will be more accustomed to the hot or cold than others. The same goes for things like:

  • Pre-race diet
  • Pressure/anxiousness before the race
  • Level of hydration
  • Type of terrain

If you are running 3 times a week, try and build one “race simulation” into your weekly schedule.

This means running the same distance, eating your pre-race diet, hydrating as you would on race day and running on the same terrain.

After a few simulations, you’ll start to notice a few things.

You might feel you need to drink more, or eat less. Better still, as your body gets used to the simulation, your pace should increase; ready for your first 5k race win!

So far, we’ve helped drop in a bit of inspiration to get you started running.

But hey, we’re not done yet.

We spent hours researching running to come up with everything you found in our guide. And, on our travels, we came across some useful resources.

Win Your First 5K With FindaRace.com

If you’ve read our “How To Train For A 5K” section and put it all into action, you’ll be missing one thing; a race to enter (and win).

Find A Race is the international search engine for runners looking to race. Find your perfect race within a few clicks. Check it out here.

Meetups For Runners

Starting a new sport, and committing to it is hard, especially if don’t have a partner to help motivate you.

If you are not aware of Meetup.com, it’s a site designed to connect people with similar interests, and there’s even a section for running.

There’s currently over 2,500,000 members in the running category and over 2,500 Meetups.

Running Reddit

Interested in getting some motivation from like-minded runners from across the globe? Check out the /running Reddit here.

Runners Connect

Runners Connect is a well-established blog and podcast with some interesting articles written specifically for runners.

The site focuses on running injury free and training for marathons.

Some of their posts won’t be found anywhere else, like explaining if pickle juice can reduce muscle cramps.

Running Wild 2 Believe – YouTube

Every day is a learning day. Running Wild 2 Believe is a YouTube channel designed for runners.

They include regular tips to help runners better themselves here.

Body Leadership – YouTube

Another YouTube channel for runners.

Instead of general running advice, Body Leadership focuses on offering tips for runners specifically designed to help you run injury free.

Ready To Run? Let’s Go!

Thanks for reading our beginners guide to running.

We’ve covered a lot here: essential kit lists, creating a running plan, breathing, diet and nutrition, losing weight and a few useful resources to keep you motivated.

Feel free to bookmark this page and refer to it later.

Eat right, stick to a plan and have fun.

Enjoy!

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