How to Start Running: The Absolute Beginners' Guide

People who run competitively have one shared goal: to run faster. While there are no special potions and lotions to magically enhance your running speed, there are a number of simple habits you can add to your routine instead. However, there are different types of running styles, ranging from sprinting to long-distance running. So take this advice as general only and invest in finding out what works for your body, run type, and lifestyle. From tried and true exercise routines to lesser-known methods, there are many ways to start improving your personal race pace. So keep reading to learn more about some easy, effective ways to improve your running speed. 

1. Build up your strength

Unlike cartoon characters, you don’t start running faster just by moving your legs more quickly. Instead, your body can travel further in a shorter amount of time by generating more force. Strength-building exercises like push presses, box jumps, squats, deadlifts, and even jumping rope are just a few techniques to help build up your strength. Complement your strength training by eating a healthy amount of protein to help build and repair your muscles.

2. Fuel your body 

Proper nutrition is as important as being well hydrated when it comes to running. Or any physical activity, for that matter. Your body needs a good balance of the main food groups and a diet rich in key vitamins and minerals. While you might choose to adopt specific diets, it is important to get food from a variety of nutritious sources and not restrict your nutritional intake. Timing your food intake in an intentional way can also help boost your energy levels, strength, and speed before, after, and during a run. Bananas and peanut butter on toast are great pre-run energy boosters, while berries and yoghurt help your body recover more quickly if you eat them after a run. And if you need a mid-run energy kick, running gels are a convenient way to keep your body going for longer. Just make sure to drink lots of water throughout your day to stay hydrated.

3. Improve your aerobic capacity with HIIT

Aside from increasing your overall strength, working to improve your aerobic capacity can also help your body work harder for longer. Your aerobic capacity indicates your maximum oxygen consumption when you are moving. It reflects not only your overall health but also your body’s ability to perform under strenuous activity. Practising high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help to increase your aerobic capacity. Change up your routine to challenge your body by incorporating interval running, sprinting, and hill workouts.

4. Hill workouts

Running uphill provides your body with a host of benefits. For athletes who want to increase their speed, uphill runs can improve your knee and arm action while strengthening your core and glutes. If you don’t already do uphill runs as part of your workout routine, start slow by doing one small hill at a time and jog back down at the end. After some time doing this, you can tackle up to 10 small hills. Just make sure to maintain a good running posture so you don’t negatively affect your ability to run on flat surfaces. 

5. Do running drills

Ever challenged your friends to a game of backwards running in primary school? Well, it’s more than just a fun children’s activity. Exercises like backwards running, sprinting, and high knees are just a few drills that you can use to improve the communication between your legs and your brain. In doing so, you improve your coordination, range of motion, and strength. These all contribute to better, faster running.

6. Wear high-quality running gear

High quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. An online Australian running store like Pure Running offers a great variety of running apparel and accessories at everyday prices. If you find that you work up quite a sweat while running, then opt for lightweight running headbands and clothes to wick away moisture while being comfortable to wear on a run. 

Running headwear brands like Fractal design versatile, multi-use headbands that can be worn in over 10 ways, so you really get a bang for your buck. Running caps are also great for shielding your eyes from the sun, keeping your hair out of your face, and even aiding your running velocity.

You may also be surprised at the difference a well-designed pair of running sunglasses can make to improving your running speed. The popular Goodr sunnies are super affordable while being of high quality, so you can run comfortably in almost every type of weather and even in low or harsh lighting conditions.

7. Sleep well

While adequate nutrition and stretching exercises can help your body recover, nothing helps speed up recovery times quite like a good night’s sleep. A good night’s rest does a great deal in helping your body stay in peak condition. Runners should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night in order to perform their best during exercise. Your body exerts a lot of energy and your muscles tear to get stronger, so you need to set time aside for deep, restorative sleep. In fact, working out while being sleep deprived can cause more harm than good. 

If you find it hard to drift off at night, you could try waking up earlier to run and focusing on a calming nighttime routine to help you decompress. In fact, the American Stanford University published a 2011 study showing how extended, restful sleep improved basketball players’ speed, reaction times, and physical and mental well-being during exercise and games. All the more reason to catch some z’s.

With this said, each runner has different needs and should consult a licensed health professional before making any big changes to their lifestyle and workout routines. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to instantly improve a runner’s speed, so take the time to find what works for you.