How to Start Running

How to Start Running [9 Tips for Beginners]

Written By: author image Kyle Cash
author image Kyle Cash
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.

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Learn how to start running with tips on staying motivated and consistent. These tips will help you get started and get moving today!

You’re not alone. Running seems intimidating or confusing, especially when you first start. 

Thoughts of gasping for air, battling shin splints, and feeling out of shape make anyone want to crawl back into bed.

But here’s the thing: everyone starts somewhere, and those first few runs are the hardest. The good news is those awkward early miles lead to feeling stronger, more energized, and yes — even joy on the run.

And that’s why this post is here. I’ll cover how to start, building motivation, and staying consistent so you can start today!

Let’s get started!

Tips on how to start running

Tip 1: Consistency over intensity

It’s tempting as a new runner to think that longer, harder runs are the key to getting in shape.

But those long runs often backfire when you start running. Trust me, I’ve done it! Instead of feeling strong and accomplished, you end up so sore that you can’t run again for several days. 

And that sabotages your progress and can make running a miserable chore.

A graph showing consistency is how to start running vs inconsistency

A much smarter approach is to focus on short, frequent runs. Aim for 2-3 weekly runs lasting about 20-30 minutes each. This lets your body adapt to the demands of running without overwhelming it.

You build endurance faster, recover quicker, and likely keep your running routine.

Remember, the goal is to make running a habit. Consistency is the key to making that happen, whether running on a treadmill or outside.

Tip 2: Use the run-walk method

Many new runners find the run-walk method a game-changer.

It involves alternating short running intervals with walking breaks. This helps you cover more distance and build your aerobic fitness.

Think of those walking breaks as an essential part of your training, not a sign of weakness. They help your heart rate recover. And your muscles get a break, making it possible to run longer distances.

The best part about the run-walk method is that it’s adaptable. As you get fitter, you can increase the length of your running and shorten the walking breaks. Many experienced runners still use walk breaks as part of their training.

Personally, I walk whenever I need a break. Each run is different, and the body responds differently. So, giving it a break when it calls for it is something I’ve learned.

Tip 3: Pavement or trails?

The great thing about running is that you can enjoy it almost anywhere. But when starting, terrain type greatly affects your safety and enjoyment.

A man in a red shirt and black shorts runs on a trail through the forest

Let’s break down the two main options:

  • Pavement & roads: Smooth surfaces like roads or sidewalks are great. These cut the risk of falls or injuries, so you can focus on building your running form and endurance.
  • Trails: Trail running has fantastic scenery and a sense of adventure. However, uneven surfaces and obstacles like roots and rocks need coordination and strength. And most beginner runners haven’t built it yet. So there’s trail running safety to consider.

Once confident, try paved surfaces and trails to see what you enjoy most.

Some runners love the simplicity and speed of road running. While others thrive on trails’ challenges and natural beauty. There’s no right or wrong answer — it’s about finding what works for you.

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of each? Check out my guide to trail running vs. road running.

Tip 4: Work rest days into your running routine

When the running bug first bites you, lacing up your shoes multiple times a week is tempting. 

This enthusiasm is awesome, but it can backfire!

Think of it this way: your body doesn’t get stronger during your runs; it gets stronger during recovery. That’s when your muscles rebuild and adapt, allowing you to run a little farther or faster next time.

A man sits on a bench smiling in pain next to his running shoes

Rushing this process by skipping rest days is a recipe for burnout and injuries. It might seem counterintuitive, but those breaks help make consistent progress over time. 

The good news is, “rest day” doesn’t mean sitting on the couch all day. Walking, yoga, or swimming help you recover without straining your body.

Tip 5: Find your reason for running to stay motivated

We all have those days where getting out the door for a run feels like the last thing we want to do.

That’s normal and happens to even the most experienced runners. This is why having a strong “why” behind your running journey is crucial.

A man stands holding a Runners for Public Lands support pin

Your “why” is about more than wanting to “get in shape” or “lose a few pounds.” Those goals are great but might not be enough to keep you lacing up when motivation wanes.

Instead, dig deeper. Ask yourself:

  • What will feeling strong and energized from running allow me to do?
  • How do I want running to make me feel beyond the physical changes?
  • What excites me most about the challenge of becoming a runner?

Maybe your “why” is having the stamina to keep up with your kids. Or the mental resilience from pushing past your perceived limits. Or, like me, it could be about the thrill of competing against yourself.

There are no wrong answers!

A man jumps into a small natural pool of water next to a waterfall in the middle of a race

Once you find your “why”, make it visible. Write it on a sticky note and put it on your mirror. Create a vision board with images representing your goals. Or save an inspiring running quote as your phone background.

On those tough days, let this reminder reignite your motivation to run.

Remember, your “why” can evolve. As you discover new joys in running, let your reason for doing it shift and grow, too.

The most important thing is finding the spark that keeps you moving forward.

Tip 6: Celebrate small endurance wins

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking your pace and mileage are the only ways to measure if you’re a runner. 

This leads to frustration, feeling like you’re not a “real” runner, and comparing yourself. And these all derail your progress. Those first few months of running are about building a foundation, not breaking speed records. True progress is about how your runs FEEL.

A woman runs down a trail with a desert background in front of her

Pay attention to things like:

  • Less winded: Can you converse more at the same pace you struggled with a few weeks ago?
  • Recovery time: Do your legs feel less sore the day after a run, and that soreness fades faster?
  • The desire to go again: Are you starting to look forward to your runs instead of dreading them?

These are all signs that you’re becoming a stronger, fitter runner. Even if your pace hasn’t changed much or your distances are short, it’s about how far you’ve come.

So, when IS it time to add mileage or try running a bit faster?

Listen to your body! If your runs feel easy and you recover fast, add 5-10 minutes to one run weekly. Or pick up the pace for short intervals. But, if you’re experiencing sharp pains or feel exhausted, those are signs you need to dial things back.

Tip 7: Choose comfortable running shoes

The wrong pair of shoes can lead to blisters, pain, and even injuries. And these make those first runs far less enjoyable.

Here’s what you need to know to find the perfect fit:

  • Get fitted if possible: Visiting a specialty running store is the best way to try new running shoes and get expert advice.
  • Extra room is key: Your running shoes should feel snug, with space around your toes for natural swelling.
  • Don’t fixate on the hype: Ignore celebrity endorsements or what your running buddy swears by. The most popular shoe might not be the one for you. Focus on finding a good running shoe that feels comfortable and supportive.
  • Price isn’t everything: You don’t need to break the bank on your first pair of running shoes. Plenty of budget-friendly options provide the support and cushioning you need.
  • Looks matter…but not too much: While it’s great to find shoes you like the look of, don’t sacrifice comfort for style!

Remember, your feet are unique. Try different brands and models until you find a pair that excites you to lace up and hit the road.

Tip 8: Add in long runs…eventually

You may see experienced runners heading out for those epic 10+ mile runs and think that’s the goal.

But when you’re starting, it’s important to focus on building your running base first. Think of this base as a foundation of your running plan. The stronger it is, the better it supports you as you run further.

A man runs down a trail into a forest

So, what does “base building” mean for a new runner?

It’s all about increasing your time on your feet. Focus on adding a few extra minutes to one run each week, regardless of pace. This consistent effort helps you adapt to the demands of running.

If you’re new to running, consider running over 45 minutes your “long run” for now. As you get stronger, you can increase the duration.

Tip 9: Get involved in the community

While running might initially feel lonely, a huge community of runners is ready to welcome you with open arms.

Joining this community is a game-changer. It provides support and accountability and makes your runs more enjoyable.

A group of men stand for a picture wearing running gear

Here’s why connecting with other runners matters:

  • Support system: The running community understands the challenges and celebrates the victories of becoming a runner. Whether you need advice on gear, motivation, or someone to swap running stories with, you’ll find your people.
  • Accountability: Knowing you have a run date with a friend or a group makes it harder to hit the snooze button. Plus, the social aspect helps those miles fly by!
  • Learn from others: Experienced runners are a wealth of knowledge, from training tips to the best local running routes.

Sure, it’s easy to want to join a group. But how do you find one to join in the first place?

It’s easier than you think! You can check out local running groups, attend a 5k, or ask at your favorite running store! If that doesn’t work, try checking online with a simple Google search, running a forum, Strava, or checking out Facebook.

You’d be surprised how many runners are ready to discuss this sport, and would love for you to join them! And don’t let the fear of being judged or not knowing anyone hold you back.

Remember, everyone started somewhere, and the running community welcomes newcomers.

Ready to start your running journey?

Feeling overwhelmed by the thought of becoming a runner?

That’s completely normal! Those awkward first runs, gasping for air, and doubts about whether you can do this are temporary. But you WILL start running by embracing walk breaks, choosing the right gear, and focusing on consistency over speed.

And if you truly want to dive into the weeds, I recommend reading/listening to everything Science of Ultra offers!

Ready to improve your running?

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Kyle Cash Owner
Kyle is the writer behind The Travel Runner. He’s a full-time traveler and adventurer who’s visited over 20 countries, including places like Thailand, Mexico, Vietnam, and Albania.