Running Essentials for Beginners
On the surface running is a simple sport, but as you can imagine there’s more to it than meets the eye. First of all let’s just hit you with the basics, the bare minimum that you need to know and then we’ll throw a few more advanced topics in for good measure. Let’s get acquainted with running essentials – the most important things for a runner after a warm up and cool down.
We’ll break it down into three categories to read at your own leisure.
- Running shoes.
- Sports watch.
- Technical T-shirt and shorts.
- Heart rate monitor.
- Lightweight jacket.
- Complex energy drink.
- Drinks carrier.
- Training log.
- Frozen peas/ice pack.
- Sports bra.
- Base run.
- Middle distance.
- Long distance.
- Hill run.
- Mountain running.
- Trail running.
- Fell running.
- Cross country running.
- Progressive run.
- Tempo run.
- Recovery run.
- Skipping rope – for warming up.
- Sun glasses.
- Skin care.
- Sports insoles.
- Hi-vis jacket or gilet.
- Running spikes.
- Fell running shoes.
- Personal ID.
Just like the correct equipment is vital to enjoy your hobby and perform at your best, knowing the different types of run and what benefits they have to offer is equally as relevant. Read on and we’ll explain all you need to know.
It goes without saying that you wont be running very far if you run in hob-nail boots. Fear not, though, because while fashionistas like to wear the most expensive pair of Nike or Adidas, most runners prefer brands like Asics or New Balance, which happen to be a lot cheaper simply because of the aforementioned fashion connoisseurs. You can of course still pay good money for running shoes, but unless you’re a pro then that is truly unnecessary.
The best advice we can give you is go to your local sports superstore and try before you buy. If you must order online then make sure you are aware of the options at your disposal. Some brands are naturally narrower or wider than others even for the same size. Once you find a brand that you trust then stick with them.
Speaking personally here, I’ve spent a lot on fashion trainers, but relatively cheaply on runners and haven’t had a problem. Part of the reason is, it’s demoralizing paying top dollar for sneakers that you’re going to immediately run up the woods in and bounce through muddy puddles. Alternatively
Even a newbie runner just stating out on their first jog will benefit hugely from a decent sports watch. Yes, we know that smartphones have a timer on them, but they’re best left for cooking or listening to music on. You don’t have to go crazy, digital watches are relatively cheap even for well-known brand names such as Casio or Timex.
Being able to swiftly, safely and easily start and stop the clock will give you accurate times that don’t put you in danger. Believe us when we say that every second will definitely matter.
Don’t forget to make sure that whatever you buy is waterproof, because it will rain when you run, unless you live in Nevada or Libya.
A technical T-shirt will stop you from getting jogger’s nipple, which is not very nice on a long run. It might not protect you 100%, but it will be streets ahead of a regular heavy cotton T. You can get the matching shorts or tight leggings, whichever you prefer. They have moisture repelling properties and will help keep you cooler/warmer depending on the climate.
Most dedicated running T-shirts have technically advanced quick-drying fabrics, such as Adidas Climacool. They’re a worthwhile investment and won’t break the bank.
Heart Rate Monitor
This isn’t absolutely essential, but is highly recommended because it will take your running to the next level. Let’s be honest. Running isn’t a super expensive hobby like tuning cars or holidaying in exotic locations, so this is one treat that you have to splash out on. You won’t regret it.
Sometimes a stop watch isn’t informative enough to narrow your training down. A heart rate will enable you to pinpoint where you can run harder and when you need to slacken off the pace.
Getting caught out in the rain isn’t a nice experience, especially if you’re cold and weak. The wind will make such a run even more unbearable. A lightweight running jacket is what the sports’ coach ordered. Problem solved.
It’s important to take into consideration the environment you are most likely to use it in, because you will soon warm up and start sweating even in the cold.
You need to weigh the pros and cons of lightness and breathability. A reputable running store will be able to advise you appropriately. You can go to the extreme and buy a showerproof running cape that won’t have any heat resistance, but is ultra light.
Complex Energy Drink
Before, during and after a run it’s vital to keep on top of your fluid and energy levels. With a complex carb drink you can do both relatively easy and cheaply.
If you want to get really specific, complex carbs are best served leading up to a run and afterwards, simple sugars are best during a run and immediately afterwards, as they enter the bloodstream quicker. If you are to buy just one though go for the complex carbs because they offer better quality energy and don’t give you a sugar high like simple carbs such as sucrose and fructose.
When you take into account it’s possible to lose up to a litre of water per hour through sweating, it brings home the importance of staying well-hydrated. You can literally die of thirst, as I’m sure you already know. Road races, especially in summer can be lethal. Heat stroke isn’t a badge of honor – stay safe and drink plenty.
You’ve got three options really: a bum bag, a mountain-bike style camel back or a water bottle. A small hand-held water bottle is ideal for shorter runs, but for something longer you may prefer the camel back or the bum bag. At least with a body pack you can add a few other items such as your car keys. Most camel-style packs will have a small pocket on them also. The choice is yours.
You don’t need to pay anything for a training log these days, such is the comprehensive app store for iPhone or Android, heck even Windows phone has stuff like training diaries. There are a wide array of apps from the likes of Nike or Adidas, if you want to get all techy and match them to the microchips in your trainers. Alternatively you may wish to partner your app to your smartwatch.
Technology gets more advanced and cheaper by the day – we won’t say anymore than that. Oh, did we say that the apps are really specific – right down to the exact race you are training for. Such is progress, eh?
Frozen Peas or Ice Pack
We know your sort, you’re the rich guy who has a freezer in the back of the Lexus! Awe, well if not just wait till you get home and wrap your bag of peas, they fit more snug than fish fingers, around your leg. Make sure you put the bag in a tea towel first so you don’t get frost bite. Quite unlikely if your skin is intact, but better safe than sorry and will be easier on a graze.
It’s a tried-and-true formula that’s saved many a runner over the years. If you don’t get injured you can always have them for tea!
Hi-Impact Sports Bra
One for the ladies here and the only reason that you don’t need one is if you’re a man. On average, a decent regular bra will reduce breast movement by about 35% and a decent sports bra from a reputable company will be nearer 60%.
It might seem like a waste of money, but really it’s money well spent. You only get one chance at saving your skin. Once the skin stretches there’s no turning back and the bigger they come the harder they fall, as the saying goes. The old Einstein equation comes to the fore: E = MC². The more energy that is bouncing up and down the quicker your skin will stretch. Go forth and buy a new bra, preferably in pink. No, blue is more sporty.
When it comes to running essentials, this one is your go-to guy. He’s the milk man, newspaper boy and Superman all rolled into one. While base runs might sound ordinary, they’re still a key weapon in your battle to get fit and beat the bulk. Short to moderate is the base run’s range. The strength of this basic run lies in its use, which is often. By running this way more than any other, it will be the run where you feel most comfortable. A three to five mile course is perfect to knock one out.
We don’t mean the type of sprinting that Usain Bolt is famous for. Sprinting for beginners is best achieved over shorter distances of 60 metres and working up towards 100 metres as appropriate.
Before each sprint session, make sure you are thoroughly loosened up by doing a warm up and five to ten minutes skipping or light running. Sprinting is a highly strenuous exercise on the body and injuries are easy to come by, even when one is fully acclimatised to such intense training methods.
Slowly work up through the gears, pushing a touch more until you are comfortable, but know that you are working your body hard. When sprinting your body is using short-term systems that rely on ATP – adenosine triphosphate – which is an essential part of microbiology and cellular energy systems.
While we’ve all heard of the Jamaican sprinters of recent memory, it wasn’t so long ago that Michael Johnson was flying the flag for America at the Atlanta games and his long-held world records have only just recently been broken at 200 and 400 metres. He’s widely regarded as one of the most consistent track and field athletes ever to wear a set of running spikes.
Middle Distance Running
With distances ranging from 800 metres to 3000 metres, roughly half a mile to two miles, middle distance as it is commonly known is highly achievable for runners of all ages and physicality.
Some of the most famous Olympians ever stem from this are of running. How about names like Roger Bannister and Seb Coe for company in the record books. Don’t go out trying to beat them, however, just run like Forrest Gump and you’ll sure come home with a smile on your face.
All professional running takes a high level of dedication, but we can all tap into this great sport and grace the great outdoors on our travels. We were born to run – it’s in our DNA right back from the plains of Africa to the muddy hills of today.
The bar for long-distance or endurance running is set at 8 kilometres, which is spot on 5 miles. Each type of run helps in other areas, just like lifting light weights helps a person who also lift heavy weights. Sprinting is done almost without oxygen, relying solely on your bodies stored glycogen and other rapid-reflex systems. Long-distance runinng, is typically double your baseline running distance and relies heavily on your cardiovascular system.
The slower you run the easier it is for your body to burn oxygen. Another general rule of thumb is that your body won’t burn any significant quantity of fat unless you exercise for at least 20 minutes.
Training for a marathon would see distances increase leading up to the event with one or two extra-long runs the fortnight before the event. Picking up the pace towards the very end of the race will do wonders for your endurance levels.
Long-Slow-Distance Run (LSD)
Long -slow-distance runs are very similar to a long-distance run, only you extend the distance and decrease the pace. This encourages your body to burn stubborn fat stores; ideal if you are trying hard to cut weight for a race or other athletic competition, such as boxing.
Make sure that you don’t overdo it on this one and pay special attention to your recovery. Go easy on the stretching because sore and tired muscles are prone to micro tears in the fibres. This stimulates hypertrophy, otherwise known as muscle growth, although a distance runner wouldn’t expect to see the same gains as a competitive weightlifter for example.
Hill Run or Hill Repeats
The Red Bull 400 is a gruelling uphill race that combines the horrors of competitive sprinting made even worse by gravity working against you and showing no pity in the process.
What us normal folks might call hill running would involve going up your local woodland, any hilly park or quiet county road or beach will do. All you need to do is sprint up a hillside and walk or job back down then repeat. Same rules go for sprinting, as this is a hard exercise on your body, but the extra strain will see you reap the rewards when you blitz past people like they are standing still. The force of your own body weight is similar to lifting weights and helps increase strength, muscle mass and bone density.
Running on sand has the added benefit of being less stressful on the joints and body in general, as well as increasing ones stability and reflexes. The hillsides in LA are known for their stranglers, but for runners the only strangling going on is of the natural variety. Like anything else in the running game, you might suffer, but at least you are rewarded with an increase in physical fitness and self satisfaction.
Although they share many similarities, mountain and fell running aren’t exactly the same thing. You might well argue, correctly, that trail running is the other member of the holy trinity. Running up mountains is an extreme sport and can even extend into that rarefied field of ultra-endurance racing. On the other hand, you could do a mountain run that climate wise might be quite mild yet still taxing on your bodily functions.
As you might be already aware by now, running and its many formats are all like the monkeys in the trees or the fish in the sea… still monkeys and fish, but slightly different monkeys and fish. Each one with their own unique attributes and potential benefits for the seasoned runner.
From a technical standpoint, trail running can be along a seashore, through a forest glade and back down across the moors or any combination of those type of paths. Some have loose shale underfoot, others are firm and hard going. Monkeys and fish, again!
Trails can be resplendently beautiful and make for delightful running during the summer months or winter if you are a person who prefers the chilly side of life.
This hard-to-categorise little blighter, can also be called hill running, but not to be confused with mountain running. Stubborn by name and equally stubborn by nature, as hardy as the Yorkshire and Cumbria Fells that yield this eponymous run.
Essentially, fell running is up and over dale and field with a brutal gale or sleet, mid-winter mud awaits your slippery foothold. Apologies for almost breaking into a sonnet there. Felt like Lord Byron for a yard or two, not some crusty hack penning a running guide.
You get the drift, it’s muddy and it usually starts with a bantering gaggle of tea drinkers out of the back of a Land Rover in Yorkshire. Oh, you will know fell runner because he’s the nearest person to a farmer who can legitimately wear a sheepdog out.
Cross Country Running
During competitive cross country races, the competitors are referred to as harriers, especially the teams that they hail from. The terrain is usually over dirt or grass, often down farmers’ fields and country lanes. It is typically an autumn and winter event when the ground is at its softest and muddiest.
Distances are similar to middle distance.
One race you might remember fondly from your school years?
This unusual word, outside of running circles, is actually Swedish for speed play. Fartlek blends continuous training with interval training. The run usually consists of slow and fast periods of varying intensity. If you’re a beginner for instance, you may mix periods of walking with jogging in-between telegraph poles.
Fartlek runners often use visual ques to run or sprint between. A more advanced runner would concentrate less on the resting portion and more on the anaerobic stage of the run. Anaerobic means without oxygen. Aerobic means with oxygen.
The variety in these runs taxes your body to varying degrees also. It is a well-known and highly regarded system that has been part and parcel of running coaches’ tool kits for many years now. Many gold medals are testament to its credibility.
Another mid-level experience tool for you to use once you get into your running and have developed a base level of fitness. A typical interval session might involve a 1 mile easy jog to warm up, followed by 6 x 400 metre sprints with a walking lap in-between to cool down.
The main point of the session is to stress the body both aerobically and anaerobically using rigid timing and circuit lengths. Once you are fluent with this type of training and your body can cope, the distance can be increased or the timing can be reduced.
Intervals are just another feather in your cap when it comes to chopping up your running routine, which will help prevent staleness, boredom and disinterest from setting in. All of these can hinder your running program.
Quite a straight-forward run for once, this is similar to a middle distance run, but for a five-mile run you would perform four miles at your standard pace and complete the last mile at marathon pace.
The idea being to get your body used to pushing past other runners towards the end of a race, as well as beating your own personal best times.
When it comes to that time of the month where you want to push yourself and check the batteries, it’s time to do a tempo run. Effectively you’ll be running at a fast race pace or race tempo, hence the term tempo run. Tip of the day is don’t set off to fast or you will hamper your overall run and come in slow towards the end.
Timing, or more precisely, pacing yourself is much easier with a decent sports watch and or heart-rate monitor.
Distance wise a tempo run is usually around 5 kilometres and 20 to 30 minutes, depending on fitness levels. A lot of park runs could be classed as tempo runs because people turn up to beat their PR – personal record time.
Similar in pace to a long-slow-distance run, but much shorter in distance. This is the essential run that you pull out of the bad whenever you are feeling sore or the day after a hard interval or sprint session.
Typical length is around 3 miles and go as easy as you like. Ideal run to have a chin wag with friends and go as a group to encourage any beginners you may know.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re being lazy, because recovery runs are hugely important if you want to stay injury free both mentally and physically. Putting in lots of miles can be stressful as much as enjoyable. Like any self-development program you will have good day and bad days, but use your experience to work through the tough parts and you can rightly be proud of what you’ve achieved.
They’re easy to carry in your car or in a bag, but they can provide endless entertainment and are pound-for-pound exercise stars. Yes, it’s the trusty old skipping rope. You can do a warm up in the car park while waiting for friends or even a full jump-rope routine. Alternatively you can mix and match jumping intervals with running intervals.
Your imagination is the limiting factor when it comes to planning what to do. If you’ve never jumped rope before you will soon get used to it, but like anything else start off slowly and build up to a trickier routine.
Seen as though jumping rope is a medium to hard workout that really pumps your body to the max, it’s probably best that you only use skipping ropes for warming up and exercising rather than cooling down.
It probably sounds like a man-made problem, but squinting does use muscles and can affect how you run. Sensible solution is to wear a pair of running sun glasses. Not only will they help you look cooler, but they will enhance safety through increased visibility and protecting your eyes from sharp objects and the sun’s radiation.
The Vision Council reports that sand and asphalt can rebound 25% of the suns rays. They also state that UV rays are at peak levels during 8 am to 10 am and 2 pm and 4 pm. (Mid morning and mid afternoon, exactly the same time as when the sun is hottest and you need to keep an eye on your water levels. No pun intended.
Believe it or not, rain reflects 100% of UV rays off the ground. Hard to imagine, but true apparently.
Running at high altitude, in the mountains for instance, will also expose you to increased UV levels due to the thin air. I think we’ve said enough now to convince you to grab a decent pair of sports shades.
It’s common knowledge that running is great for warding off cardiovascular disease, but it’s less well-known that running dries the skin out in both summer and winter. In summer its obviously the high UV rays that do the damage and in the winter it’s the cold climate with harsh winds and rain that prevent your natural facial oils from flowing.
Also keep an eye on your inner thighs or other areas where tight fitting clothing might chafe the skin. There’s also your toes to consider and the more mileage you do the more you will need to check your cheese puffs.
These problems are easily solved will some skin-care treatment that is specially formulated for running, for an ideal solution. People on a budget are better of using any cream than non at all.
Any top-rated Ironman worth his salt will never be seen out running without a decent pair of sports insoles to enhance his cushioning. Reason? Because if he’s out injured he won’t be getting fit.
There are many brands on the market. You can get gel or cushioned varieties in various thicknesses. Some are designed for runners who heel strike, others for fore-striking runners.
They’re also suitable for regular fit, supination or pronation. These are just the techy terms for people who stand level on their feet or they lean/roll inwards or outwards. It’s normal for most people to lean out slightly; you might have noticed that your shoes wear out one way or the other.
High-Viz Jacket or Gilet
If you like to run at night time or during the dusky evenings after work a high-viz jacket is ideal for you. They come in many formats, from a construction-style basic vest to full-sleeved running jackets or light rain jackets. The whole point of getting one is to stay safe and be seen so take a look at the quality of the reflective stripes and if they have any beacon attachments.
Some pricier options even come with arrows on the back that act like indicators, though in all honesty these might be better for cyclists or mountain bikers.
If you’re really enthusiastic when it comes to track running, then a pair of running spikes is right up your street. They’re surprisingly affordable for specialised equipment.
Please bear in mind that they are a solid fit, a bit like football boots or cycling shoes, to enhance the drive and retain energy when pushing off from the blocks or start of the race.
All the running brands like Ascics, Saucony, Brooks and the mainstream sports brands like Nike and Adidas stock spikes if you fancy turning up looking all professional at your next track event.
Fell Running Shoes
With their gnarly, rugged sole, fell running shoes are another specialised piece of kit. What they do have going for them is that they are also surprisingly multi-purpose so shouldn’t go to waste if you splash out for a pair. Heck, people even wear them in the pub they’re that trendy. Not that you should be buying them for that reason, of course. Make sure you get up the fells, mountainsides and trails where they belong.
Personal ID and Information
If you are someone with previously poor health, even if it’s temporary due to an illness, perhaps it is best to keep all the essentials like blood type and any allergies on a waterproof card or equivalent piece of kit, as long as it’s up to the job.
You can even get specific applications on your phone that will call a friend or designated number should you take ill suddenly.
Most modern smartphones these days have in-built safety features, such as a programmable button that you can press if you go down quickly. If in the worst case scenario you got heart pains or were hit by a car and the driver was unconscious, you might be able to save your life and the life of a stranger by being well-prepared.
These types of events are not something that we wish to happen, but there are people out there in the world that are glad they did go prepared when they left the house that day. Usually it’s a freak event, but unfortunately there has to be a person and a time tied to that freak event. Should it be your destiny, then at least make sure you have the bare minimum pieces of information that will make a doctors task so much easier.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Treadmill Running Basics
- Running Warm Up for Beginners
- Nutrition for Beginners
- Jogging Tips for Beginners
- Buying Running Shoes
We hope you enjoyed reading this article?
If you feel like you can add any wisdom to our words then please share your tips below.