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Beginner’s Guide To Running – FAQ


Whether you just want to get fit or target running a marathon, beginning to run for the first time is something to plan for and get right. The better prepared you are, the more successful you will be. I have prepared this basic Beginner Runner FAQ for new runners who have questions.

The following are a series of answers to common questions people have when they start running, hopefully giving you a beginner’s guide to running (FAQ) that you can use to jump-start your running.

How do new runners carry water?

Rehydration is important when running, particularly as a new runner who will take time to judge exactly what is the right amount of liquid to take on board. So it is key to carry water on your runs. You have several ways to do this.

The most popular is to simply carry a bottle around in your hand. However, some people find this difficult to carry and prefer to have a bottle attached to them instead. Some will fit inside a pocket or attach to a running belt.

An alternative is to use a rehydration pack, a rucksack that is dedicated to carrying water and has a tube coming out, allowing you can take on fluids whilst you are moving. This is particularly good for longer distances when you’ll need more water.

Runner’s can carry water in several ways, for a list of products I recommend to carry water check out this post:

How To Carry Water While Running

Should I Carry Water For A Half Marathon Race

How do new runners train?

So you’ve committed to taking up running, but how do you start training? Step one is to get a plan. You could just leave the house and run, but for your running to be sustainable, you need to think about how often you will run, what your goals are and the distances you want to achieve.

Then follow this plan and build up gradually. If you have not run before, do not try and run a half marathon in week two! It is important to run regularly, this will build up your muscles and prepare your body for the longer distances ahead.

Find a good location that you know, this way you can focus on running rather than getting lost and worrying about where you are running. Build up confidence and go further afield as your experience increases.

Here are 5 great articles I’ve spent a lot of time writing. These take you through the basics of running:

How Often Should New Runner’s Run?

How Far Should I Run As A Beginner Runner?

How To Run 1 Mile When You’re Out Of Shape?

Why Is Running So Hard and 5 ways you can make it easier? (A deep dive) 

Does Running 2 Miles A Day Get Me In Shape?

How do new runners breathe?

One thing new runners discover is that they will breathe through their mouth a lot more than they do when going for a walk. You can do some inhaling through your nose and exhaling through the mouth, but once you start to push yourself and breathing is a little difficult, but you will need to breathe in and out through your mouth.

How do new runners tie their shoes?

A lot of new runners don’t realize a key trick to tie their laces, the loop lacing method. This is used by runners to ensure that their feet don’t move around and helps avoid blisters.

You will spot extra lace holes at the top of your trainer that you don’t normally use. You will lace up as normal, then run the laces back into the next hole from the outside going inwards. This creates a loop and you now lace through the opposing hole and then pull tight. After this, complete as you normally would.

Another option is Lock Laces. Lock laces will assure you that your shoelaces never become untied again during an important race.

How do new runners get abs?

If one goal with your running is to get good abs and build up your core, then speed sessions will be important. These are much better than slower distance running for building up the abdominal muscles.

As an example, try 15 reps of 100 meters each, with 30-second walks in between each session. This will work on your core and build up your abs.

The other key to getting abs as a new runner is the right diet. You need to eat enough calories to repair your muscles but no excess calories which will feed excess body fat.

The true definition of abdominal muscles becomes visible when the body is between 8 and 14 percent body fat. Remember that a prolonged body fat percentage below 8% is not good for your health. Your body typically needs a bare minimum percentage of body fat between 8 and 10 percent (Health Line – Body Fat Percentage For Individuals).

How do new runners carry their phones?

Many runners like to carry a phone with them for many reasons. To track their run, listen to music or as an emergency in case they get into difficulty.

You can carry your phone in a pocket, but be sure it’s a tight fit and won’t move around when you are running. Some will simply carry the phone in their hand as they run, but the most popular option is to use a phone holder, that typically straps to your arm.

How Do New Runners Carry Their Phones?

How do new runners lose weight?

For a lot of new runners, the motivation is to get fit or lose weight. But it is important not to go on an aggressive weight loss diet alongside taking up running because refueling properly is key to making running successful.

Therefore, it is vital to plan out a calorie-controlled diet plan, that allows you to refuel and repair muscles after training, but cut back on carbs and calories on your down days. The key thing to remember is not eating less, but eating healthy foods.

The final thing to consider if you are looking to lose weight from running is don’t overestimate the calories you burn on a run and overcompensate. Most people assume running burns more calories than it actually does. Assume around 100 calories per one mile and use that to judge what you are burning off and need to replace.

For information on losing weight check out this post: How To Lose Weight While Training For A Half Marathon

How do new runners eat?

All new runners should experiment with their food, for pre-and post- meals, as well as during the race itself. Refueling and preparing for a run is an important part of the run itself, as they will give you that extra strength needed.

Generally, for shorter runs (under one hour) you don’t need to eat beforehand, but for the longer runs, pick something high in carbs, low in fat and fiber, preferably picking foods you already eat and like. Most people will eat 45-90 minutes before they run, again this is something that you need to judge for yourself and will be based on the meal you choose.

After a race, go immediately for simple carbs to replenish glycogen stores, then have a protein-rich meal within 2 hours of your race for muscle repair.

In running what does sub mean?

This refers to running under a certain time for a specific distance, for example, running a ‘sub’ four-hour marathon is often the target for first-time marathon runners.

In running what are strides?

A stride, sometimes referred to as a pick-up, is a running drill that is ideal for working on your mechanics and improving your form. They are basically short accelerations where you exaggerate your form, essentially doing longer strides for a short period to help you pick up speed.

To do stride training, start by running fast but with a short stride length for about 10 seconds, then increase the length of your stride whilst keeping the same speed for 15 seconds, then slow back to your previous stride length for 5 seconds.

In running what muscles are involved?

Regardless of the running, you are doing (for example hill running will exercise some different muscles), some core muscle groups will always be worked during your training or races.

Your core muscles will always be in action, so it can help towards strong abdominals over time. Hip flexor muscles, based at the front of your hips, will be utilized for flexing your knee and driving your legs forward.

Your gluteal muscles (glutes), can be found in your buttocks and play an important role in your running, as they push you forward and can be pivotal to increasing speed. The quadriceps are at the front of your thigh and when you run they extend your knee and propel you forward.

The final key muscle is your hamstring, based between the hip and the knee. With every step you take running, your hamstrings are working as they help hip extension and flexing your knee.

In running what are splits?

Runners use splits to manage their times over longer distances, to maintain consistent running, and sometimes to identify points where they want to increase speed for a period of time.

For example, if someone is running 10 kilometers, they may use 2 kilometer splits to keep a consistent pace and track their progress in a race. Some runners will have a couple of splits in mind during longer races. In a marathon, whilst you might track each mile ‘split’, you will also check your 5-mile split and potentially the half marathon split time.

In running what is a negative split?

A negative split is when a runner completes later splits faster than someone of their earlier splits. Many people use a tactic of going out fast and ‘hanging on’ but with a negative split strategy, you go slower at the start and build up your pace.

It was famously used in 1998 by Ronaldo da Costa when he broke the world marathon record, finishing the second half of the race faster than the first one.

The reason the tactic works is because people often take several miles to fully warm up and for muscles to be working at their best. Therefore, by starting out a little slower to allow this to happen naturally, you have the opportunity to go faster for later splits.

In running what is a pr?

In running, ‘pr’ refers to your personal record, the fastest time you have completed a specific distance. This might be used in training runs as you try to gradually improve speed leading to a race, although many people find that a personal record will come in the race itself when your body is at its best and the adrenaline of the other runners carries you to a faster time.

Many runners target a ‘pr’ in their training for part of the overall run, for example, they might look to run a personal record for the 5k at the start of a 10k training run, as part of speed training.

In running what is cadence?

Cadence is measured as the total number of steps taken over a 60 second period, which measured over a distance, gives you the average cadence that you run at. Marathon runners will average over 180 steps per minute, whilst the average new runner is likely to be around 160 steps per minute.

If you are running at less than 160 steps per minute, then you can build this into your training, by increasing it at just a couple each time. Measuring your cadence is simple, just count the number of times your left (or right) foot hits the ground over 60 seconds, then double it.

In running what is a fartlek?

The Swedish word for ‘speed play’, fartlek is a training style that gets the runner to alternate between speeds and difficulty of their running. It is very similar to interval training but the key is to increase speed or difficulty as you feel fit, rather than a structured plan as you would with interval training.

This type of training is good for building endurance and doing it without pressure. So you might be running along and then put in a sprint to the next lamppost or when you feel good, decide to pick up the pace for one minute, then return to the easier pacing.

In running what does pace mean?

In running, your pace is the speed you are running, normally referred to against splits. For example, your pace might be 8 minutes per mile. Pacing yourself is critical to distance running and runners will measure their pace carefully in training, so they know what pace they should be at in races.

If you go off too fast, you’ll see this by tracking your pace and then use this information to slow down slightly and ensure you have the strength and endurance to make it through the whole race.

In running what is the wall?

The term ‘hitting the wall’ is very famous to marathon runners, typically occurring around the 20-mile point, when the runners stored up energy (glycogen) in their muscles has dissipated. This forces the runner to slow, walk or sometimes need to stop completely.

Having no energy will make you feel fatigued and often makes you suddenly feel very negative, particularly about the run. The best way to avoid this is to experiment with different carb sources in your training and find what works for you and then replenish during a race.

In running what is a tune-up race?

A tune-up race is often used by distance runners as part of their training and will be used 3-6 weeks before a longer race. It gives the runner the experience of running with others and testing out their general fitness and speed.

As an example, someone might run a 10-kilometer race four weeks before running a half marathon. They will run this 10-kilometer race as hard and fast as they can (going ‘all-out), showing exactly where they are in their training before the bigger race.

In running what is a taper?

Tapering is a term that refers to reducing your training in the lead up to a race. This can involve slowing down in training runs, but generally refers to doing fewer miles in the weeks before a big race. This tapering allows your body to recover before the race and ensure you are at peak physical shape for the important race.

Marathon runners will normally begin to taper from three weeks before a race, meaning that they will complete one final ‘big run’ then progressively run fewer miles on the big run and also do fewer interval runs in between, potentially having extra rest days as well.


Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

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