Want to get started in running? No wonder - running is a great for your fitness and general wellbeing. However, though running may look easy, it does require some effort and planning.

Here's your beginner's guide that will show you how to get started in running, including the importance of gradually building up your distance.

Ease yourself in

So you've decided to start running — good for you! Running is one of the quickest and most effective ways of getting into shape and improving your health and well-being. It’s also supremely accessible, requiring very little in the way of technical ability (left, right, left, right … got it?) and equipment — so you can start right away.

Before you begin to start running, you need to ensure that you don’t put yourself off before you’ve barely begun, it’s important to ease yourself into running slowly and increase your distance and pace gradually. This softly-softly approach gives your body time to adapt to the new challenge once you're just beginning to run, and makes the whole running experience more enjoyable and less risky.

Noticeable improvements

Within a few weeks of starting running, you’ll begin to notice the benefits. You’ll find that you get less breathless during exertion, your muscles feel firmer, and your energy levels are higher. When you begin to run you will notice changes that you can’t see, but that your body will thank you for, which include a drop in blood pressure, better regulation of blood sugar levels and a rise in levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. You’ll almost certainly find that your belt is a little looser, too. A 10st (140lbs) woman running at a comfortable 10 minute mile pace burns 635 calories per hour, compared to just 220 in a ‘bums 'n’ tums’ body conditioning class. Which means that you can torch 1000 calories in just three half-hour runs per week! Running will also help you sleep better, feel more alert during the day and have you glowing with pride and enthusiasm.

A 10st (140lbs) woman running at a comfortable 10 minute mile pace burns 635 calories per hour, compared to just 220 in a ‘bums 'n’ tums’ body conditioning class.

Planning and motivation

But you do have to be prepared to put in some effort when you begin to run — not just with the running itself but also in the planning. If you don’t figure out where and when you are going to run, the chances are you won’t get round to it. You’ll also need a good dose of motivation — otherwise, even if you have planned to run on Monday morning, if it’s gloomy and wet outside, you may find yourself switching off the alarm clock instead of leaping out of bed to put your trainers on.

And, you have to be consistent when starting out running. It’s no use running religiously for a week, then having a fortnight off and expecting to pick up where you left off afterwards. Fitness cannot be stored! But the benefits are lifelong: for example, as we age, running helps preserve bone health, keeps joints mobile and prevents a decline in mental function. The Shanghai Breast Cancer Study found that long-term, consistent high-intensity exercise (such as running) lowered breast cancer risk, while a study from Harvard University showed that men who burned 2000-plus calories a week through exercise (roughly 20 miles a week) lived two and a half years longer than couch potatoes.  

Consistent high-intensity exercise (such as running) lowered breast cancer risk.
-Shanghai Breast Cancer Study

Who can start running?

Can anyone run? Within reason, yes anyone can get started in running. Thousands of men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes take to the parks and streets on a regular basis and many compete in races. However, if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, are over 45 if male, over 55 if female, are very overweight or if you have existing back, knee or hip problems, you should consult your doctor first.

How much time should be spent running?

When starting out running it can be difficult to know how much time you should spend training. The amount of time you spend on steady running is primarily up to you and how many sessions you can fit around your other commitments. The more steady runs you can do a week when starting out, the more beneficial it will be to you. Similarly, the further you run in these sessions, the more beneficial it will be for you.

If you have difficulty in fitting in daily sessions it may mean that you run more miles or kilometers on the sessions that you can manage. For example, if you run for six days a week over four miles a day or six kilometers a day, this will add up to a weekly total of 24 miles or 36km. But if you can only manage three sessions a week you may increase the distances you run to compensate for only doing half as many sessions.

This would mean doing eight miles or around 12km each run three times a week, to give you a weekly total of 24 miles or 36km. Obviously, the more regularly you can get out, the more benefits it will give you and the easier you will find the running.

However, even if you are going out steady running regularly almost every day, it would help if the distances were not the same each day. Therefore, a longer run of 10 miles or 16 km would be followed by a shorter or medium run of four to six miles or eight to 10km.

In any form of running, the more often you can do it, the more proficient and efficient you will become and the more benefits you will acquire. However, if your steady running is not consistent and is very sporadic, the benefits will be far less. If you have a break from steady running, every time you have to start again, it will be from a lower fitness level.