For non-runners, going out in public to run could feel quite embarrassing. It’s a totally new situation, but honestly, people won’t be looking at you. It’s such a common site to see people out running now. And don’t worry about what you look like, or how unfit you feel. You might feel tired after 10 minutes, but remember other people won’t know how long you’ve been running for.

Much of the appeal of running is due to the fact you can do it anywhere, and anytime. Whether you live in a busy city, or out in the sticks, you’ll be able to find somewhere to run. Although if you’re new to running, try to run on grass and dirt paths as much as possible, as opposed to the pavement, or you may get painful shin splints which will put an end to your running before it’s started. Running around your local park is the perfect place to start. You can do a big lap, or two, and some parks even have a running track so you can imagine you’re giving Mo Farah a run for his money. Here are some of the pros and cons of running on different surfaces:

  • Grass: is usually soft, so it will be much kinder on your muscles, bones and joints compared to some other surfaces. There will be much less impact, which makes it perfect for anyone new to running, or those recovering from injury. Although it can be more tricky to run on during winter when it can become muddy and slippery.
  • Road: running can be done all year round, and its firm surface is great for faster running. Although unless you’re training for a road race, too much running on a surface this firm could cause painful shin splints as it’s not as forgiving as running on grass.
  • Track: if you happen to have a track near you (usually in a park or sports field) then it’s a good way to measure your progress over time. It’s a nice smooth surface, and can be a fun part of your training. Although tracks aren’t everywhere.
  • Sand: if you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, sand could be a great surface to run on. As soft sand is a rather unstable surface, the additional resistance is an excellent way to strengthen your muscles. Just watch you don’t roll your ankle on a beach’s natural camber and dips.
  • Trail: running on hilly, mountainous paths is a fantastic way to explore the surrounding countryside. Though it’s best not to attempt running on uneven rocky surfaces as it can be a little too challenging for a beginner runner and you could become injured quite easily.
  • Treadmill: running can be done all year round, in the comfort of your own home or at the gym. It provides good cushioning so there’s little chance of injury, and you control how fast or slow you go at the touch of a button. Although you should combine running on a treadmill with running outside as you’ll find your form may be slightly different. 

Let’s also look at the different types of running, and how you can build them into your weekly plan. And why not sign yourself up for a 5k park run to give you something to aim for and to help you stay motivated?

What are the different types of running?

There are lots of different types of runs, and this can be confusing for new runners. There are eight basic types, and understanding the differences between them will help you to build your perfect training plan, so you can become a strong, well-rounded runner.

  1. Recovery Run (easy run): is usually done a couple of days following a tough workout. It's a relatively short run at a slow and easy pace to get your blood circulating and your muscles working again. Recovery is where your body truly becomes stronger, so recover well and go as easy as your body needs on those days.
  2. Base Run: is a moderate-length run done at your natural pace. It should feel natural, and you should be able to hold a conversation throughout the run. They are not necessarily meant to push you that hard on their own, but you should aim to do them frequently, which will build your aerobic capacity and endurance. A base run is also a good opportunity to focus on your form; keeping your shoulders relaxed and back, neck relaxed, arms swinging easy, and drive from your core. 
  3. Tempo Run: also known as an anaerobic threshold run, they’re considered one of the most vital elements in increasing your endurance. They should be run at the fastest pace you can sustain for 20 minutes for beginner runners (and for one hour for regular runners). A good test to see if you’re doing it right is the talk test: if you can say more than two words at a time, you’re going too slow. If you can’t say more than one word, or you can’t talk at all, you’re going too fast. You should aim for a consistent pace. These runs should include warm up mileage, increased effort in the middle of the run, and then cool down miles at the end. These runs can be three miles or more.
  4. Long Run: is generally a base run that lasts long enough for you to feel tired, and like you’ve had a workout. The purpose is to increase endurance. To make it more interesting, try running at a faster pace for a few minutes, then drop back down to your normal long run pace.
  5. Progression Run: usually done in conjunction with your long run, is where the pace at which you end your run is much faster than your starting pace. Each mile (or ¼ of a mile if you’re a beginner), should be slightly faster than the previous. It’s a great way to increase your stamina and will help you prepare for racing.
  6. Fartlek: training involves varying the intensity or speed of your run to improve fitness and endurance. Sessions are usually around 45 minutes or more, and intensity can vary from walking, right up to sprinting. It’s a good way to mix up your routine and keep things interesting.
  7. Hill Repeats: are basically where you run up a challenging hill, then jog or walk back down, and then repeat. They’re an excellent way for runners of any level to build muscle power, mental strength and to improve speed. 
  8. Intervals: consist of short periods of fast running, followed by slow jogging. This enables a runner to pack more fast running into a single workout. A treadmill is the perfect way for a beginner to try out interval workouts as you can set the speed which suits you.

Beginner runners shouldn’t run too much too soon if you’re just starting out. You should build up gradually, so start with a one or two mile run at the most. Run at a slow and steady pace so you don’t get too tired. Aim for three runs per week for around 30 minutes, and increase the duration (or mileage) every other week so your body can adapt gradually. Here’s what a simple training plan could look like for a beginner runner:

  • Train three days per week
  • Two days per week: Base Run for 30 minutes
  • One day per week: Long Run for around 60 minutes
  • Rest or introduce some other gentle exercise on your days off

Mix up your runs to include the eight basic types of running as you progress, and you’ll become a fit and strong runner in no time!