How to start running

Man running down path for the 'How to start running' article on Lonely Goat

Here is the Lonely Goat guide on how to start running. Maybe you’re looking to replace your gym sessions with running during the coronavirus lockdown, fancy taking on Couch to 5K (C25K), or just want to get outdoors and run, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting into running.

Where do I begin?

Running is, fundamentally, a simple task: Put one foot in front of the other, over and over again. It’s something that humans are well suited to.

What makes it difficult, is that it’s something that many of us don’t do very often so our bodies aren’t used to it. Then, when we start running it can feel uncomfortable and difficult. It might feel like it’s never going to get easier, but trust us – with patience and perseverance, you can do it.

The key is to start off within your comfort zone, even if that’s just walking to begin with, and add a little more running as you get used to it.

What is Couch to 5K?

Couch to 5K, often abbreviated to C25K, is a fantastic way to start running, that has been used successfully by countless new runners.

There are a few different versions, but they all follow much the same format. Start off with half an hour of activity, consisting of mostly walking with a little bit of running. Over two or three months (longer if necessary), the amount of walking is reduced and the running is increased. Eventually, you will be able to run for half an hour non-stop.

It’s a proven, effective way to start running while minimising the risk of getting injured or losing your motivation by going too hard too fast – yet will still push you to improve by making it that little bit harder each week.

In the UK, the NHS and BBC versions are popular, but an internet search will bring up other options.

Can I just go out and run?

Yes, of course, but, you may find it easier to follow a training plan. This will give you structure, and help you balance your desire to progress with the need to listen to your body. Keep these in balance and you should avoid getting injured or losing motivation.

If you want to write your own training plan, then our series of training articles might be useful. These two are a good place to start: Training – introduction, and Training – 5K.

Lonely Goat, Jack Price-Harbach
What should I wear?

Comfortable trainers and some kind of sports kit is fine for running – even football shirts, beach shorts, or yoga pants. Sports bras and snug boxers can stop your sensitive bits from bouncing around too much.

The more you get into it, the more you might find that you want to wear clothing specifically designed for running, as this can be more comfortable.

When it’s cold and wet outside, warm and dry layers can make the difference between an enjoyable run and a miserable slog. We’ve got an article on running in the winter that has loads of advice: Winter running – wrap up or warm up?

Do I need a fancy GPS running watch?

No, you don’t need a GPS watch to start running. After all, it is only recently that they’ve been available, and people had been running for millennia without them.

If you want to use GPS to track your runs, then you could use an app on a smart phone instead of a GPS watch. Both phones and watches can give you the option of uploading your runs to a social platform, such as Strava, which you might find helpful for motivation.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the statistics it is possible to track – time, distance, speed, heart rate, elevation, cadence – but none of these are essential. It’s perfectly possible to just go out of your front door and run without any gadgets. You might even find that you enjoy it more without the stress of trying to beat your previous times!

Read more about the benefits of watches or phones for running in this article: Watch or phone?

Lonely Goats, Rose Fazakarley, Sarah Fletcher and Sharon Robinson
Do I need to carry a drink when running?

Lots of new runners like to carry water with them. This is because you can get a funny taste in your mouth when you first start running.

It’s worth noting however, that unless you live somewhere really hot, you’re unlikely to get dehydrated on a half hour run – so water is not essential. In fact, carrying water could make things harder for you. A 500ml bottle of water weighs half a kilo, which is an awkward weight to have to carry when you might already be struggling.

When it comes to eating, try and allow an hour or two between eating and running, to avoid feeling sick.

Do I need to stretch?

Stretching is something that seems to divide opinions within the running world. On the one hand are the runners who have never stretched. On the other, are those who swear by it. It’s a complicated issue, but here are some pointers:

  • If you don’t stretch and your running is going well, then there’s probably no need to start stretching. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • Stretching cold muscles is a bad idea, as it puts them under strain before they’ve warmed up. You’re better off starting your run by walking, then jogging slowly for a minutes to get your legs going.
  • Stretching an injured muscle could cause further damage to that muscle. If in doubt, seek professional advice from a physiotherapist or suitable medical expert.

If you would like to learn more about the possible pros and cons of stretching for runners, check out our article: To stretch, or not to stretch.

How fast should I run?

It might surprise you to learn that top, élite runners tend to do most of their running at relatively slow paces. When they need to run fast, they’ll do so, but most of the time they’re taking it easy.

The science seems to back this up, with what is known as the 80/20 training theory. This outlines that the best approach for endurance athletes (which includes beginner runners), is to do eighty per cent of your running at an easy effort level, where you could maintain a conversation. Save the hard running for when you really want to go fast, and you’ll be fresher and faster as a result. So, if you’re struggling with your running, try slowing down. It might seem counterintuitive, but it could help you improve quicker.

You can read more about 80/20 Training here.

Lonely Goat, Tee Sodje
Where should I run?

The answer to this question will very much depend on where you live, but to start with, it might be best to pick a route that stays close to home. That way, if you find you need to walk home, you won’t have too far to go.

When you get to the stage of wanting to go further, “out-and-back” routes can be good. Start off heading in one direction, until you reach half your planned distance. Then, turn round and retrace your steps until you get back to the start. This way, you know the distance will be what you planned, and it will be hard to get lost.

If you want to explore more, then you may like our article on Finding new routes, which includes information on some of the apps and websites that can be helpful.

Is running safe?

Common sense goes a long way. If you’re running along country lanes in the dark, then help people in cars can see you by wearing bright, reflective clothing. If you wouldn’t walk through a park after dark, then it’s probably not a good idea to run through there either.

Other sensible ways to keep safe include:

  • Telling someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • Carrying ID and details of an emergency contact plus any medical conditions.
  • Use a torch if you’re somewhere without street lights, so that you can see where you’re putting your feet.

The other thing to consider is whether you have a health condition that might cause you problems when running. If you’re in any doubt, have a chat with your doctor.

Do I need to race?

Lots of runners like to take part in running races and other events, such as parkruns, 10Ks or marathons. Even if you’re not likely to be in with a chance of winning, the challenge of testing yourself and trying to beat your best time (known as a personal best, or PB) is something that many runners find motivating.

However, you don’t have to do a race if you don’t want to. That choice is entirely up to you. Just do whatever kind of running you enjoy.

Lonely Goat, Louise Charlotte
What is a virtual challenge?

A virtual challenge, or virtual race, is an event you do in your own time, in a place of your choosing – rather than have to travel to run with other runners on the same course.

If you’re interested in trying a virtual challenge, check out the Lonely Goat Virtual Challenges. They’re available for 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon and ultra marathon. They’re free to enter, with the option of purchasing an exclusive Support Inspire Achieve medal to mark your achievement.

How do I run on a treadmill?

In lots of places, gyms are currently closed, but if you have access to a treadmill you may want to start running indoors. There isn’t much difference between running outdoors and indoors – it’s still just putting one leg in front of the other, over and over again.

That said, here are a few tips:

  • Don’t try and match the same speed that you are used to running outdoors. Some runners find it easier to run on a treadmill, whereas others find it harder. Everyone is different. Find the effort level that feels right for you.
  • Running indoors can be hot work. Don’t wear too much, keep a towel handy for your sweat, and set up a fan if available.
  • To make things more interesting, give Zwift Run a go. Zwift Run is an online running platform that makes it possible to run with others, virtually, on a treadmill.

You can read more about Zwift Run in our article, Zwift Run: Game-changing tech.

When can I call myself a runner?

As far as we’re concerned, if you’ve run just one single step, then you’re a runner. In fact, even if you’re just thinking about running, that’s good enough for us.

It’s not about how far you can go, or how fast, what you’re wearing, or whether you do races. If you decide you’re a runner, then you’re a runner – and you’re very welcome to be part of Lonely Goat Running Club.

Lonely Goat, Stephen Perry-Byrne
What is Lonely Goat Running Club and how do I join?

Lonely Goat Running Club is an inclusive online community for all runners, even those who might not feel a conventional running club is for them. Run on your own terms, when it suits you.

Joining the Lonely Goat movement is easy. Start by completing the Registration form and then engage with the club features that suit you best.

If you have a question, feel free to get in contact with the team by emailing

We will be more than happy to help.

Get out there!

Now you’ve read the Lonely Goat guide on how to start running, what are you waiting for? Get out your front door, put one foot in front of the other, and go for it.

We’ll be right there with you!

Support the club so we can do bigger and better things and get access to additional benefits.
£25 per year