How to take the first steps of your amazing running journey 

How to start running – and love every second

June 7 2023, marks Global Running Day. It’s a great opportunity to get involved and start your running journey now. 

Everyday, millions of people just like you don their running shoes, hit play on their guilty pleasure playlists and head out the door. They’re there, come rain or shine, getting healthier with every step. 

Running has multiple benefits, including improving heart health, lung health, increasing joint strength and stability, and it could also reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

It’s easy to make running a part of your fitness routine, and with a few simple steps (both literally and figuratively), you could change your life as soon as you finish this article.   

Man running with headphonesCredit: Shutterstock/ Jacob Lund

Seek your doctors advice before starting any new exercise regime.

That said, there are a few fundamentals to think about before you get going – but once you’ve got a grasp of these simple things, you’ll be able to pound the streets or take to the trails with confidence and start enjoying a new chapter of health, happiness (and a modicum of smugness too). 

Running clothes

What should I wear?

It’s an important question to think about before you set off, as wearing appropriate clothing will make your run much more enjoyable.  

Saga Exceptional’s Becky Fuller, a fully-qualified personal trainer, advises: “You want to be comfortable when working out; there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a sweaty t-shirt or trainers that rub.  

“If you’re exercising outdoors, make sure you’re dressed for the weather. In cold weather, lots of light layers allow you to remove clothes as you warm up, and remember gloves and warm socks are important to protect the hands and feet.  

“When it’s warm, aim for loose clothing that will let the air circulate around the body. You’ll feel better exercising if your clothing allows freedom of movement. Women often find a good, supportive sports bra makes them feel more confident when they run.” 

Warm up

Warming up is critical

Running can change your life, but so will a broken ankle – so make sure you warm up before you start. Spend around 5 minutes doing simple moves like jumping jacks, squats and lunges. This will help you raise your blood temperature and warm your muscles to reduce the risk of injury.   

There are lots of online warm up videos for runners, such as this one by Bupa Health, which explain easy ways to get everything moving. 

Start running

Taking your first steps

Getting outside is all you need to do to start running. The first step across the threshold, trainers proudly tied, is probably the largest you’ll take in your new running career.  

But don’t start running straight away – the good news is that your first move is to start power walking for 5 minutes. This is a good time to prepare your mind for your run and tell yourself: I can do this, I will accomplish my first run today.

Remember to feel proud of yourself for starting your running journey – this last part is key.  

Studies have shown that recognising your achievements can boost confidence and make you more productive. While they relate to happiness in work, the same principles apply to running –after all, you’re very much working the body.  

After five minutes of walking, try moving your legs a bit more quickly and run/jog at a pace you feel comfortable with for a minute, then slow it back down to a power walk for a minute – repeating this up to five times. This is only the first session, so don’t go too hard, too soon. 

You can use a watch to time your walk/run sections, or try a beginner running app such as Couch to 5K, which will talk you through what you need to do.  

Slowly building up your stamina and fitness is the best way to start running as it allows your body to adapt over time and helps your muscles work more efficiently according to sports scientists. 

Help your joints

Power up your joints & stay healthy

You’ve probably heard someone in your life claim they don’t run as they’ve got ‘bad knees’ – but it’s far from certain that running can be detrimental to your joints. A recent study found knee cartilage can positively adapt to the high load running puts on knees.   

More reports on how running could benefit our bodies include research which revealed runners have a lower risk of osteoarthritis and hip replacements due to them having a lower BMI. 

Running has been also linked with having a positive impact on mental health including relieving tension, improved self-image and overall better mood.  

Anita Watkins started running at 51 and hasn’t looked back. She told us: “If I can become a runner, then so can you.  

“I’ve made so many friends and have had some fantastic experiences. I feel so much healthier and happier since I started running.” 

Anita Watkins runningCredit: Anita Watkins
Anita running at a ‘Hard as Snails’ race

Keep on running

Building running structure

The next step for beginners is to find a training plan which steadily increases the time you’re running. As we mentioned, Couch to 5k is great place to start as the running sections build up gradually and if you stick to it, you could be running 5k in as little as 9 weeks.  

However, you can follow any training plan you like – the key thing is making sure that the sessions are regular and don’t allow too much time to let your body ‘de-train’. Look to get out every 3-4 days as a minimum and you’ll be in fine form in no time. 

It can be tempting to push yourself harder than advised when you find your running legs, but if you follow a plan you’ll quickly see results in a relatively short amount of time, so stick with the pace and frequency it sets out.  

Be S.M.A.R.T

Set yourself some goals

Get yourself a notebook to write down the milestones you want to accomplish. Make them easy to start with; first run, or first mile without stopping -and make them S.M.A.R.T., which stands for: 

  • Specific – Well-defined and clear  
  • Measurable – i.e. to run X miles in X weeks 
  • Achievable – Don’t make your goal too extreme  
  • Relevant – Make sure it fits with your lifestyle 
  • Timely – Have a deadline  

Using this method will give you clear targets to aim for, so you can really focus on achieving them.  

There are lots of races to sign up for if you want to challenge yourself, from 5K’s to 50K’s and beyond. Have a look on Find A Race to see what events are coming up near you.  

The running world is full of possibility and never-ending adventure, with huge benefits for your body and mind, so grab your trainers and start your running journey now – and we’d love to hear how you’re getting on!.  

Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her


Becky Frew is a fitness writer at Saga Exceptional. Becky has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness and is studying for her Leadership in Running qualification.

When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

Outside of work Becky is practicing her Finnish (Hei!) for her dream holiday to Finland next year, and writing her 3rd book while cuddling her cats Giggles and Rebel- the latter of which really lives up to her name!

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