Common Questions from Beginner Runners

Prefer to listen? Then I’ve got you covered.

A fish out of water, that’s the easiest way to describe what I looked like when I began running. I had no idea how to manage my effort, how to properly train to improve, or what shoes to buy. Hell, I didn’t even know the distance of a marathon!

However, I’ve learned a few things over time and through many errors. I’m still learning until now, and I don’t believe you ever stop. However, I hear specific questions from my non-running friends who are eager to get into it. I figured now would be a good time to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from my screw-ups and mishaps, so I can help others.

So, let’s dive into some common questions I hear from beginning runners.

Why do I feel great one run, then exhausted the next?

A common question from beginner runners involves avoiding fatigue while running
Credit: Canva

Here is one of the most confusing parts of running. When beginning to run, it’s hard to understand why the efforts fluctuate.

You head out for your run, and you feel fantastic. Your legs flow, your heart rate stays low, and your breathing is under control. I wish I felt like this every run, you think to yourself.

Then, a day later, you head out for the same run. The route may be the same, but your effort couldn’t feel different. Everything feels labored. Your legs might as well be cement blocks, and you don’t even want to get started about how heavy you’re breathing.

What happened?

It’s actually simple. You don’t run in a vacuum. Every area of your life is going to impact your energy levels when running.

Lack of sleep, stress, diet or just changes in mood influence your energy levels more than you realize.

It’s easy to focus on your running and think that outside influences aren’t going to play any factor. Still, you only spend a small part of your day running when you boil it down. The rest is spent on an entire range of activities. These activities are going to pull from your body’s battery—whether it’s subtle or not.

The critical thing to consider is that you still got out and got your run done, which is better than sitting on the couch. Just keep moving forward and keep your spirits up for the next run. It’ll pay off.

Is it better to run long fewer times per week, or run short more times per week?

If you’re someone who struggles for time, this is one of the most pertinent questions. We don’t always have the time to get out for a run. So, is it better to lower the frequency in favor of distance?

Short answer: maybe, but the frequency is usually better.

There are multiple reasons for this. Running more frequently means you have to give your body the proper time to recover. If you’re someone who isn’t used to running every day, then going out and pushing it day-after-day will get you a first-class ticket to Injury Town.

However, don’t run enough and you’re not giving your body enough workouts to improve. See why this is tricky?

In addition, your runs will naturally increase in duration. During those longer runs, our bodies fatigue, and our form is one of the first things that suffer.

We don’t lift our legs as high, our core collapses slightly, we start slouching, and we start to lose focus. All of these combine to increase the chance that we injure ourselves.

Lastly, repetition is critical for habit formation. If you’re headed out for a run 2-3 times per week, it’s not conducive to building a new habit. However, if you change that to 4-5 times per week, the opportunity for habit formation is much higher.

Running is no different and is nothing more than a habit. Consistency and frequency are two of the top determiners of success in running.

So, if you’re deciding between higher frequency or longer distances, go with higher frequency to start.

Is it better to do a double or add more distance to each run?

Man running on muddy trail
Credit: Canva

A large part of this will be preference, as well as your injury history. If you’re prone to injury, doubles obviously won’t be the best option. But if you’re feeling strong and looking to improve, then doubles are worth consideration.

First, add a bit of distance to each run before switching to doubles. If you currently run five times a week, consider making one of your runs slightly longer. Do this progressively with your runs until each run has increased in distance. Then repeat.

The key here is to do it carefully and safely. It doesn’t matter how much you’re running if you injure yourself. All the fitness gains you managed will be hindered while you’re recovering.

Personally, I enjoy working in doubles occasionally. They’re great when I’m tight on time, and I’m unable to get my average distance in.

Mix up the type of run you do if you add in a double. It wouldn’t be wise to schedule two speed workouts where your exertion is high on both runs.

Instead, schedule one as a speed run and the other to be an easy run. Keep your efforts under control and survive to see another injury-free day.

I’m seeing many people talk about *insert shoe names here*. Should I get that shoe?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Don’t follow trends.

I will always advise against going with the crowd simply for doing what’s popular at the time. That’s a quick way to sour yourself on running, or even worse.

Hoka running shoes are one of the biggest names in running currently—trail and road. For me, though? Hard pass. I’ve owned a pair in the past, and I wasn’t a fan of the max cushioning. I prefer lower-profile shoes where I can feel the ground more easily.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t make good shoes. And it’s quite clear they do by how many runners choose them. They’re just not my preference.

It’s best to head to a shoe store—preferably one with knowledgeable associates—and speak to people who have a passion for running. You have the opportunity to try the shoes on and talk to someone who has experience with running and can recommend something based on what your preferences are.

Ultimately, however, it’s a case of trial-and-error. Over time, you will begin to understand what shoes you like and what works for you. And, once you do, stick with it! No one knows what you want more than you do.

It seems like everyone is training for marathon distances. Do I have to work my way up to a marathon? Is that the only option?

Actually, you have to work your way up to an ultramarathon. Only then is it legit.

Only kidding.

There’s no distance you have to run to prove yourself. If you enjoy the fast-paced nature of 5k’s, then train for that and enjoy it! If you prefer the long, grueling nature of marathon distances, then get those shoes on and log those miles—that’s great, too!

It’s easy to get caught up in the personal bests, the competition, and the need to feel like you have to run super long to prove yourself. Trust me, I’m a person that fights it constantly.

But, your running journey is exactly that—yours! Do what you enjoy and what will keep you putting your shoes on. Suppose that’s a short distance four times a week. In that case, you enjoy the shit out of that run and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

It’s the same with adding hills or avoiding hills. If you like them, great. If not, then don’t do them often! Your running is your running.

What do I have to do to become a real runner?

Girl running on a road
Credit: Canva

Run. That’s it. If you run consistently, you’re already a real runner. End of story. It doesn’t matter your pace. It doesn’t matter your distance. If you run, you’re a runner.