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Feb23

10 Distance Running Tips For Beginners

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It’s around this time of year (late winter with spring on the brain), that I notice more runners in our neighborhood. The sun is staying out a little longer, the weather is getting just a tiny bit warmer, and being outside just feels so GOOD. While I haven’t been running much myself over the last year (I was pregnant and just had my baby), I still get asked about running all the time since I used to share so much running content here on my blog (and on Instagram). One of the common questions I hear is from new runners about how to get into distance running.

So today, I thought it would be fun to re-share my best distance running tips for beginners. While running seems simple in theory, there are a few things that will make it feel easier and more enjoyable. Let’s dive in!

10 Distance running tips for beginners

1. Find a shoe that works for you

Shopping for running shoes can be so overwhelming. There are so many brands, so many shoe models, and they all cost a LOT of money. While it seems complicated, it doesn’t have to be. I recommend going to a running store in person and having them fit you. They will run through a few tests: watch you walk, jog, measure your foot, sometimes they’ll scan it too, etc. And from there, they’ll show you options that should work best for your foot.

Don’t order a shoe online just because it looks cool. The right shoe makes ALL the difference in a comfortable distance run. Good running shoes prevent knee pain, blisters, support your ankles, and will make your legs feel STRONG. Your socks matter too!

2. Rise and shine at a consistent time

Consistency is the key to developing a healthy running habit and working up to more miles. Pick a time that works best for you and then stick with it. If you hate waking up early, try running at lunch or after work. The best time is whatever you’ll do consistently. While I’m a big proponent of morning runs for a few reason (it’s linked to deeper sleep, reducing daily stress, and a speedy metabolism), I know waking up early can be challenging, so here are a few tips for waking up early to run.

3. Run with friends

Aside from the health benefits, one of the best parts of distance running is the community. It’s hard not to bond with the people who are running lots of miles with you. Some of my best friends have been made through running. There’s nothing that makes miles go by faster than great company. Not only that, but group running helps you keep your pace so you don’t run too hard for too long.

If you aren’t sure how to make running friends, reach out to your local running store. There’s a good chance they will have running groups you can join, or they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

4. Build some base mileage

One of the biggest mistakes I see new runners make is running too fast (or too far) too soon. You want to build some base milage before you attempt longer runs. The easiest way to do this to follow a training plan. Don’t go from zero to 45 miles per week. Instead, start with whatever seems manageable to you. Adding distance is MUCH easier when you have a consistence base!

Never run before? That’s ok too. Start by alternating running with walking, and build some miles using a run-walk method. This gives your body time to adapt to the new stress of running without getting injured by jumping in to running too much too quickly. And over time, you’ll find that you can increase the ratio of running minutes to walking, and your mileage will climb. You can become a running from any fitness level, I promise.

5. Take it easy

Repeat after me: easy days are for easy running.

One of the most impactful things I learned when I hired a running coach to help me train for the Boston Marathon was that I was running too fast on my recovery days. I had no energy left for my harder workouts, and I was burning myself out. Easy runs are for EASY running. So how to you gauge easy running? Talk to somebody. Your “conversation pace” is the speed at which you can comfortably chat without wheezing. Easy running and recovery runs should comprise the bulk of your weekly mileage, especially as you start to acclimate to distance running, since over-doing it can lead to a host of running injuries.

6. Lean into the long run

As you get into more distance running, keep in mind that usually around 30% off your weekly running should come from ONE distance run. So for a 40 mile week, one 12-miler is a good idea. If milage feels overwhelming, think of it in terms of minutes. If your regular runs are 45 minutes, aim for one 65 minute run a week. It’s normal for a long run to seem really daunting, but keep in mind that you are going for distance, NOT speed. Focus on a pace that feels sustainable! And if you need to stop and walk after a few miles, do it. Then start your run back up!

7. Add strides to the end of your runs

Strides may look silly to someone who doesn’t understand the benefits. After a long run, you may think, “Why would I sprint back and forth 5 times after I just ran 10 miles?”

Strides are super beneficial for recovery because they increase blood circulation to your muscles and break up the lactic acid build-up in your legs. They also help you add some speed work into your training (remember, you aren’t focusing much on speed during a long run) since they engage fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Strides are short sprints (like 20 seconds-ish) where you’re focused primarily on perfect form. It’s recommended to do a few strides with recovery in between. Start by doing 4 sets of strides after a long run, then gradually work your way up to 6 or 8.

8. Hydrate on the go

Hydration is crucial. We all know that, but it’s especially important as a runner since running means sweating. The easiest way to ensure you’re drinking enough water is to carry water on your runs. I like this hand-held water bottle since it’s made for running and sits comfortably in your hand with a strap, and it has a little pocket for your key, a GU gel, or whatever else you may want to carry with you.

I also drink electrolytes before, during, and after my runs. LMNT is my favorite brand of electrolytes and I have a full LMNT review here with details on which flavors I like best, how often I drink them, and a link for a free sample pack.

I carry a large water bottle around with me everywhere throughout my day I go so I am constantly hydrating. Make sure you’re also eating before and after your runs. A combo of protein + carbohydrates are great post-run nutrition guidelines

9. Rest and Recover

Believe it or not, most of the improvement you make in running doesn’t set in during the actual running – it comes from recovery. Sleep is one of the most important parts of any training plan, especially as you run longer distances.

While you sleep, your body actually starts to repair the micro tears in your muscle fibers and strengthens them in the process. Not only does this help reduce your risk of injury, but it also allows you to feel strong when you run again. A common mistake is to not take full days off of running. It may sound counterintuitive, but running less (in terms of days) can actually make you a better runner.

10. Enjoy it!

At the end of the day, running should be fun. That doesn’t mean there won’t be workouts that suck or runs where your legs feel like concrete. But ultimately, the goal is to fall in love with running, because nobody should spend that much effort being miserable. If you need motivation tips, this post should help.

So my final piece of advice is this: find whatever aspect of running brings you joy, whether it’s the community, faster times, longer distance, or simply staying fit, focus on that.

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    7 responses to “10 Distance Running Tips For Beginners”

      • I am 87, and proud of it! I go for runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. I have been running since I was 14. Not as fast as I was when I was in my 30-40’s, but the adrenaline is still there. The highs are still as high as ever. Now, 5 K’s are my limit. Loved the article! Thanks!

    1. I’d also recommend wearing compression socks or calf sleeves. My Azengear calf sleeves help me a lot. There’s no leg fatigue at all.

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