• Nicola Dale

My Top 5 Running Tips

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

I am by no means a running expert. But having gone from struggling to run for a minute to running 10km, and hopefully a marathon in the not too distant future. I thought I’d share my tips on starting running and sticking to it.

All resources mentioned in this post are listed at the end. Photos are from a few favourite places where I've been running.

1. Couch to 5k

If you look in the app store there are an abundance of free beginner running programmes that you can use to structure your first few weeks of running. I used the Public Health England Digital Couch to 5k app. It’s a 9-week programme, which starts you off with intervals of running and walking and slowly builds you up to a solid 5km run. Even if you don’t complete the entire 9 weeks (like me) it will help you get into the habit of regular runs and structures them in a way that feels challenging but doable. I’d highly recommend for anyone who would like to try running but is unsure where to start. And did I mention it was free!

Pelicans on the Beach in Monkey Mia Australia during sunrise

2. Ignore your pace and distance

Whilst I love fitness trackers and think they’re great for motivation, hitting goals and tracking progress, they can be really disheartening when you first start out. You see that ‘x’ went on their first run and ran a sub 30minute 5km, yet on your run you had to stop and walk every few minutes. Or, you felt like you had a good run but when you check your tracker you were slower than last week. You can feel demotivated and stop going on runs.

This type of comparison isn’t helpful because everybody is different and every run is different. As a beginner just getting out and going on your run is something to be proud of. Ditch the tracker and

instead set yourself a time you want to run for (start small) and run/walk it, look at the scenery around you and enjoy it. Work up to achieving this time and then start increasing it each week. Only increase runs by a little bit each week to allow your body time to adapt to the stresses of running and avoid injury. It’s frequently suggested to increase long runs by 10% each week. When I started out, and wasn’t tracking my runs, I’d increase by up to 5 minutes each week. Consistency is key, so stick to a pace and distance you enjoy, whilst still pushing yourself and before you know it you’ll feel yourself improving week on week.

3. Vary your runs

Once you’ve got into the habit of running you’ll probably want to track your runs to see how your improving and challenge yourself. To improve your running, you need to do it consistently but still give your body time to recover. A good way of doing this is varying the types of runs you go on. For example, if you run 3 times a week you might go on 1 long run, 1 ‘easy’ run and 1 ‘hard’ run. A long run is what it says in the name, the longest run of your week. This doesn’t mean it needs to be anything spectacular just a distance that’s challenging and doable for you, which you can work on increasing overtime. Think of an easy run as running at a comfortable pace where you could still hold a conversation. It’s not about hitting a new personal best but simply just moving your body whilst still allowing it to recover. At the end, you should feel like you could go a bit further. A hard run is where you push a bit harder. You don’t want to be completely out of breath so think of it as a pace where you could still say the odd sentence but by the end of the run you’re happy it’s over.

Other useful run types to try are fartlek and interval. Fartlek is a Swedish term for speed play and put simply you choose something up ahead of you (i.e. a lamppost) and run as fast as you can to that point. Then you walk or slow jog until you feel recovered and choose another landmark to repeat. It’s basically a much less structured version of an interval and is great for beginners.

A river surrounded my trees in Taupo New Zealand

If you’d prefer a more structured approach, for interval running set up a timer for say 1min run, 2min walk and repeat for a period of time. Once you’re comfortable with that you might reduce the walk to 90secs and then 1minute. These can be fun ways to change up your running plan when you don’t feel like going for a continuous run and can also be great for improving your pace.

There are lots of great free resources for running structures online that you can use to get started. I built up to 10km using a plan off the Instagram page Together Apart We Run, which was set up during lockdown to get people moving. Why don’t you check it out?

4. Find what you enjoy listening to

I used to play fast, upbeat music for every run thinking it would motivate me to keep going. If it does, great keep playing it. But I found I’d run in time with the music, which for me was too fast, and get out of breath very quickly. Instead I started listening to podcasts, audiobooks and slower songs and focused on keeping my pace slower and consistent. This works well with the varied runs discussed above.

For easy runs I listen to a podcast, on long runs I listen to a mix of audiobooks and my favourite songs and on days I want to push myself to run faster I listen fast, upbeat music. Spotify has a great range of playlists categorised by pace as well as an abundance of free podcasts to listen to. Try out different things and find what works for you.

5. Get yourself a pair of trainers specifically designed for running.

Lodge Lake Milton Keynes in the Sunshine

Yes, unfortunately they can be expensive, but they are well worth the investment and you can often find great options in the sales. Getting my first pair of running trainers, really changed the game for me. It enabled me to run longer and recover quicker, keeping me motivated to stay consistent.

Running trainers should fit comfortably throughout you entire running stride, providing stability whilst still allowing your foot to move naturally. Runners world have a really handy article on what to look for when buy a running shoes and Emma Kirkyo posts lots of tips on her Instagram page too (Find both in the resources list below).

Try on different trainers and move about in them and don’t just assume your size based on other shoes you own, as size differs between shoe types and brands. The fit of a trainer is specific to you, so what’s comfortable for one person won’t be for another. If you’re unsure what the best option is, go into a running/sports shop and ask for advice. Remember, don’t buy just for the looks. This trainer is going to help improve your running and avoid injury. It’s not for a fashion statement.

These are just 5 tips that really helped me and are continuing to help me improve my running. Remember, if you have any concerns surrounding your health or a previous injury it’s best to consult a health professional first. And if you try out any of these, or have any tips of your own let me know in the comment box below.

Wellington New Zealand Harbour


Apps I use:

· Couch to 5k – Public Health England Digital

· Strava (I use this to track my runs)

Spotify Playlists I Use:

· Cardio by Spotify

· Fun Run 150-165 BPM by Spotify


· The James Smith Podcast

Canal path and graffiti walls in Milton Keynes

· The 3 DumbBells

· Rise & Conquer by Georgie Stevenson

· The Food Medic by Dr Hazel Wallace

Further Information:

· @TogetherApartWeRun – free 5km, 10km & Half Marathon Running Programmes.

· Runners World article on buying the correct shoes:

· Emma Kirkyo Instagram Page - @emmakirkyo

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