A beginner’s guide to running

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Looking out your window right now how many runners can you see? At least a handful probably.[\lead]

With only essential trips outside allowed, running has quickly become a popular way to use this time outside, getting exercise in the fresh air. But if you’re new to running, it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ve worked with the Sport and Exercise team to pull together five top tips to get you going (and stick with it!).

A close up of someone tying their trainers.

Your first steps

Let’s be totally honest, it’s always easier to think of a reason not to get started. Bad weather, juggling work and childcare, plus just feeling generally exhausted (all the time) can stop us from taking the first step. It’s important to remind yourself why you wanted to try running in the first place. Do you want to get fit, run a marathon, or just get some fresh air? Try and keep it in mind right up until the moment you’re ready to head out. If the excuses start creeping in, be honest with yourself. Are you really too busy? Or could you squeeze in half an hour on your lunch break?

The NHS website has a list of solutions to common scenarios to help you get in the right headspace.

Do the prep

A good way to stop yourself from crying off is to be as organised as possible. Schedule your runs and your rest days into your weekly plan. Then you don’t need to be planning a last-minute run on a day where you might not have the time. Try and plan your route too so that all the hard work is done beforehand – you can just concentrate on your body. Removing these obstacles in advance should make it easier to get going.

Make sure you read the Sport and Exercise team’s in-depth guide to running too.

Get others involved

If you’re really struggling to stick to your schedule, make yourself accountable. Get a pal or two involved over text or facetime so that you’ve got support if you need it. Knowing you’re all in it together can help with the bad days too, and help you feel less isolated. Plus, saying something aloud or writing it down, makes it more concrete and much harder to ignore. Have a look at jogscotland, an initiative that brings together joggers and runners across the country. Although the group sessions are currently not running, there’s still plenty of information and help for those just starting out.

Find out more about jogscotland.

Listen to your body

So you’ve made it out the front door – what now? A great place to start is to use the NHS Couch to 5K programme so you can slowly build up your fitness. If you’re totally new to running it’s good to start with frequent walking rests first. The app or podcast tells you when to run and when to rest, slowly increasing the running time until you can do a whole 5K without stopping. Another common error new runners make is setting a speed that’s too fast to maintain. Listen to your body and start really slow – you’ll soon be picking up the pace.

Find out more about NHS Couch to 5K.

Keep going

You managed your first run – success! But the hard part is just starting. Finding the motivation to keep going is always tough but consistency is key. Try and get a routine that works for you, even if it takes a few weeks to figure it out. This includes rest days too – making sure your body can cope and has time to recover will help you build up your fitness quicker. The best way to keep going is to parcel the process into smaller chunks. Just get changed into your gear first, then get your trainers on, then get outside. Once you’ve done all that, it’s much easier to get going.

We asked the Sport and Exercise team to share how they stay motivated

Steve Guthrie, Head of Communication, Marketing and Membership

“I had never done any running until I signed up for the 2013 Glasgow Half Marathon to raise money for MND Scotland (A much younger me pictured before finishing in 1.55.17). I continued running for a few years after that but had not dusted off my trainers for any sort of distance for a couple of years until the current COVID-19 crisis. I have found it’s been a great way to keep active and switch off during lockdown (whilst ensuring to stick to social distancing guidance of course!).”



Michael Webster, Sports Co-ordinator

“At first, and due to my competitive nature, it was having a race to look forward to and focusing everything on getting a personal best. Now, it’s the feeling that I get after every run – the satisfaction, the positive endorphins, and the reduction in anxiety. It really has become a bit of an addiction. For me, the most challenging part of any run is starting, but once it’s done I have never regretted getting out there and getting a few miles in – not once!”




Lucy Smith, Gym Support at Easter Bush gym

“Right now, running isn’t about improving my pace or distance. I lace up my trainers and go for it, whether it’s a lap around the block or a few miles around Braid hills. I don’t put pressure on myself, I enjoy the fresh air and immerse myself in the beautiful views of Edinburgh. So, dig out the old sneakers and enjoy!”



Stephen Rawlinson, Maintenance Officer at Firbush

“I’ve always dabbled in running but it wasn’t until my former boss gave me her old hill running shoes and I did well in the Killin Highland Games Hill race that I got the running bug.

My running is a bit seasonal with other priorities in life. However, it is always there when I need to get out and do some quick exercise. My inspiration is not to focus on goals but to use running as a way of exploring new places be it cities or the countryside.”



Linda Linton, Physiotherapist at FASIC

“Although I ran right up until I had kids. Afterwards, due to lack of time, juggling family and work and trying sporadically to get back into it, but going too fast, too far and getting niggly injuries, I decided to give up. However, when my eldest daughter was ten, she really wanted me to run with her so I went back to scratch (took some physio advice!) started a Couch to 5K programme and two months later we ran our first 5K together which was a great moment, and felt even better than when I’d run the London Marathon many years before.

Several years later my daughter is now miles ahead of me, but we organize to go to family fun 5K runs together (even my youngest daughter who hasn’t yet got the running bug!) Parkruns on Saturdays are a great motivator as they are such as friendly environment. These goals and being in the great outdoors and the buzz you get after a run keeps me going but mostly it’s remembering when I couldn’t run that keeps me motivated, and its why I’m committed to help others to run too.”

Tom Crooks, Senior Instructor at Firbush

“I’ve been regularly shuffling with enthusiasm since I was about 16. Easy hassle-free way of keeping fit and enjoying the outdoors. I keep things fresh by mixing up routes and locations, and have even been known to try my hand at some very amateur fell running to keep things different.”






And if after you’ve tried all this, running really isn’t your thing – the Sport and Exercise team have lots of alternative ways to keep fit at home on their website.

Remember that current government guidelines for going outside should inform how and when you exercise.

How have you been able to exercise, if at all during the lockdown? Let us know at bulletin@ed.ac.uk