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17 Commonly-Asked Questions About Learning to Run

Answers to Beginner Runners' Questions

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Updated June 11, 2014

You may have wanted to start running for a while now, but had several fears or concerns that were holding you back. What should I wear?  How do I breathe?  What if I have to go to the bathroom?

This list of 17 frequently-asked questions will address your concerns and help you feel more confident and ready to get started with running.

1. What Should I Wear When Running?

Woman running
Jordan Siemens/Digital Vision/Getty Images

All you really need to get started with running is a good pair of running shoes. It's not a good idea to dig out those old tennis shoes from the back of your closet and assume you can run in them. You need shoes that are designed for running, fit well and match your foot type and running style.

Women also need to make sure that they wear a good, supportive sports bra. The sports bra should fit you properly and not be too stretched out.

Whether you're running in cold or warm weather, you need to make sure you're wearing the proper clothing for comfort and safety. Get tips on how to dress for any climate:

Also see:

7 Key Essentials for Runners

2. Can I Walk During My Runs?

Man and Woman walking

Of course, you can walk during your runs!  Some people who are just getting started with running assume that walking is "giving up" or cheating.  But taking walk breaks is actually a smart strategy for building your endurance and improving your running.  Even after they’ve been running for a while, some runners still use a run/walk strategy, especially for long runs or races.  There's no shame in walking!

Also see:

3. How Should I Breathe When Running?

Runners Warming Up Before Race
Chris Leschinsky

This is an excellent question, as many people have misconceptions about how to breathe when running. You should breathe through both your mouth and nose when you're running. Your muscles need oxygen to keep moving and your nose simply can't deliver enough.

Make sure you're breathing more from your diaphragm, or belly, not from your chest -- that's too shallow. Deep belly breathing allows you to take in more air, which can also help prevent side stitches.

You should exhale through your mouth and try to focus on exhaling fully, which will remove more carbon dioxide and also help you inhale more deeply.

Also see:

Why Do I Feel Like I'm Out of Breath When Running?

4. How Can I Not Feel Self-Conscious When Running?

Two women running
Photo by Chase Jarvis

It’s common to be nervous about what other runners or people driving by think when they pass you running. But try not to be concerned about what others think! As a runner, you deserve respect from other runners. Remember that all runners were new to the sport at some point, so they can all relate to the struggles that beginners face.

If you're worried about what non-runners think, try not to get too hung up on that. Just remind yourself of all the great benefits that you're getting from running and they're missing out on. Be proud that you're doing something good for your physical and mental health.

You may also feel less self-conscious if you get a friend or family member to come along with you. An added bonus is that you can keep each other motivated to run.

Like anything else, the first time is usually the hardest. Once you've run in public a few times, you'll feel a lot more comfortable and be less concerned about other watching you.

Also see:

5. How Do I Get Rid of a Side Stitch?

Runner in race
Loungepark

A side stitch, or a sharp pain on the lower edge of the ribcage, can be a huge annoyance for runners. To get rid of one, try gently pushing your fingers into the area where you're feeling the stitch -- that should help relieve some of the pain. Then, to get rid of the side stitch, try altering your breathing pattern. Take a deep breath in as quickly as you can, to force your diaphragm down. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds and then forcibly exhale through pursed lips.

If you get a cramp in the middle of a run, you might want to try changing your breathing/striding pattern. If you always exhale when your right foot strikes the ground, try exhaling with the left foot strike.

If all else fails, you may have to stop and walk briskly for a few seconds while concentrating on deep breathing. Continue running after the stitch goes away.

Get tips on how to prevent side stitches in the first place.

Also see:

Does Drinking Water During Runs Cause Cramps?

6. How Fast Should I Run?

Runner touching treadmill controls
Darryl Leniuk

Many runners, especially beginners, are curious about what pace they should be running. Most daily runs should be done at an "easy" pace. But what pace qualifies as "easy"? Well, the actual pace is different for everyone. The best and simplest way to determine this is to run slow enough so that you can carry on a conversation. If you're running with someone, that means you should be able to speak in complete sentences, not just give "yes" or "no" answers. If you're running alone, you should be able to sing "Happy Birthday" without gasping for air. For some new runners, a conversational pace may mean doing a run/walk combination .

So, don't worry about your pace per mile -- if you can pass the "talk test", you're running at the right speed.

Also see:

7 Key Running Tips for Beginners

7. Should I Eat Before a Run?

Peanut Butter on Toast
Stockbyte

It’s not a good idea to run immediately after eating because it may lead to cramping or side stitches. But running on an empty stomach may cause you to run out of energy. Your best bet is to eat a snack or light meal about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before you start running.

Pick something high in carbohydrates and lower in fat, fiber, and protein. Some examples of good pre-workout fuel include: a bagel with peanut butter; turkey and cheese on whole wheat bread; a banana and an energy bar; or a bowl of cold cereal with a cup of milk. Stay away from rich, very fatty, or high-fiber foods, as they may cause gastrointestinal distress.

If you've had digestive issues and find yourself stopping to use the bathroom during your runs, here are some suggestions for the best pre-run foods and tips on which ones to avoid.

Also see:

8. Should I Try to Improve My Distance or Speed?

Woman running
Jordan Siemens/Digital Vision/Getty Images

As a new runner, it's better for you to start with trying to increase the distance (or time, if you prefer to measure by time) of your runs. As you build up your endurance, your speed will also improve.

Don’t rush into formal speed training, such as interval workouts, just yet. Doing too much running at too high an intensity is an easy way to get injured. After you've been running for about two months and have a nice base, you can start by adding strides into one of your weekly runs. You can also try picking up the pace towards the end of one of your runs. Wait until you've been running for 3-4 months before you start to add tempo runs, fartlek runs, or interval workouts.

Also see:

9. When Does Running Get Easier?

Man and Woman Running
Photo by John Howard

This is a very common question among new runners and there isn't one answer that fits everyone, since beginner runners sometimes struggle for different reasons. Many new runners might that the turning point is when they can run continuously for 30 minutes. At that point, they start to feel more comfortable and confident. So, it takes a little bit of patience to build up your fitness and get to a point where running feels easier. Just keep working on increasing your distance little by little – it does get easier.

Also see:

10. Should I Run Every Day?

Runner lying on the couch
Photo by Steve Cole

Most runners need at least one, even two, days off a week from running. Research has shown that taking at least one day off a week reduces the frequency of overuse injuries. If you take at least one day off, your body will have a chance to recover and repair itself. You'll find that you'll actually feel better during your runs.

The best days for rest will depend on what type of runner you are and if you're training for a specific event. If you tend to run a lot of miles on the weekends, then Monday might be a good rest day for you. If you're training for a marathon and you do your long runs on Saturday, you may want to rest on Friday, so you have fresh legs for your long run.

Beginner runners may want to start out running every other day, to give themselves sufficient recovery time while still building a running habit.

Also see:

7 Key Injury Prevention Steps

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