How to get running (safely)

by Hannah de Gruchy April 04, 2020

How to Get Running (Safely)

I’m a runner, who doesn’t like running very much. What I mean is, I love running - after I’ve finished. I love the feeling of accomplishment and achievement, and I honestly get a post-run buzz better than from any gin and tonic I’ve ever had. (And I’ve had a few…)

I just don’t like running much when I’m actually doing it. I long for the comforting tones of the voice on Strava (a tracking app for running and cycling) to tell me I’m another kilometre nearer the end.

But that said, I run regularly.

Run, Hannah, run!

RunningI run two or three times a week, which I fit in around high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and yoga, both of which I love. I’ve been running for a number of years, so I’m pretty well-rehearsed in the basic mechanics of running safely.

Running requires legs, lungs and a lot of awareness of your surroundings. It’s free, aside from a pair of decent trainers and some form of gym kit (an old T-shirt and a pair of leggings really do suffice). And it can be done any time, free from the constraints of gym opening times. 

It doesn’t have to be long-distance. With some training, running 5km in 30-40 minutes every Saturday morning at your local park run is great for fitness, camaraderie and making friends.

So, let’s forget about the fancy running kit and ditch the marathon aspirations. For now, let’s go back to basics and talk about starting running, running safely and why running could be your ideal way to exercise.

How to begin running

How to Begin RunningThere are many, many, free apps that are great for helping you with your first runs and beyond. Search for a couch to 5km apps that aim to get complete beginners running 5km in 12 weeks. Some are voiced by famous people (your favourite celebrity might get you going better than someone you don’t recognise.)

All are encouraging, will tell you your distance and pace at set intervals and will congratulate you at the end. Most allow you to play your own music or will recommend a soundtrack perfect for running.

But my biggest advice is to just get out there and see what happens. Lace-up those trainers, plug in your best tunes and step outside the front door. Put one foot in front of the other. What’s the worst that can happen? You turn back after three minutes? So what? You might manage four tomorrow!

When I first started running, I was convinced that everyone was looking at me and my beetroot face.

Now, I’m fitter and stronger, I still have a beetroot face. And I don’t care as I know that I’m going to feel great in about half an hour. It’s doubtful anyone is looking at me - they’re probably too busy on their phones or worrying about what they look like to give two hoots about me.

Safe running tips

Running Tips• As a beginner, avoid running too fast, too far, too soon.
• Start slow and listen to your body to avoid injury.
• Always warm up by walking briskly for a few minutes first.
• Intersperse running with walking, as many times as you need.
• Have the correct posture and body position throughout (NHS).
• Celebrate every minute you run.
• You’ll ache, but severe or shooting pains are bad – stop running and rest.
• It’s worth investing in decent trainers that support your feet and ankles.
• If you’re female, also get a decent sports bra.
• Always cool down and stretch afterwards (NHS).

Safe Running TipsSetting goals and running with a like-minded friend will also help with motivation. Remove yourself from the toxic comparisons between peers, friends and colleagues though. Some people weave comparisons into conversations about running. However well-meaning, that can create doubt in your mind, so politely disassociate yourself from anyone who makes you feel less than amazing about your progress.

(By the way, jogging, running, sprinting; it’s all the same to me. Anything faster than my normal walking speed is running. Don’t ever feel yourself apologising for ‘only’ jogging, or not running very fast.)

Considering the weather

Countryside path woman runnerRunning outside is obviously very weather dependent. You can still run in the wind and rain, but make sure you wear a lightweight, water- and windproof zip-up jacket. This will protect you against the elements and can be easily zipped off and tied around your waist if you get too hot. Don’t forget to allow your trainers to dry out.

The heat can be just as big an enemy for runners. Dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn can all take their toll. So, dress in loose-fitting, cool fabrics and always carry water with you. Avoid running during the hottest part of the day (midday to 3pm) if you can, apply a good sunscreen and shield your head and face with a baseball cap.

Running at night

Running at NightFitting running in around a busy life can be a tricky thing to balance. Work, family commitments, social life and doing things that relax us all take our time and energy.

If you’re always busy, then squeezing in a few kilometres may mean running early in the morning or late in the evening. In the winter months, this will often mean that you’re running in the dark and being self-aware, and seen, is even more important.

If you have to run to music (I do), keep it low and wear something reflective that will alert vehicles to your presence, especially if you’re running on country lanes.

Make sure someone knows your route and what time you’re due back. Most of us run with our phones, so make sure yours is within easy reach in case you need it.

Unleashing your inner runner

Unleashing Inner Runner BeachRunning has benefits for our physical health, mental health, happiness, confidence and productivity.

I used to be a non-runner. Now I’m a runner with a bit of a dislike for it. Who knows, one day I might graduate to being a runner who actually enjoys every second of it. But the point is, I never thought I could call myself a runner. And maybe you think that too.

But you’ll never know your potential if you don’t try, one baby step at a time.

When you do start, do yourself the biggest favour and feel proud that you’re out there, running. With each pavement stone pounded, you’re running.

Now all that’s left is for me to wish you all the best. See you out there! (I’m the one with the beetroot face.)

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy


Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.

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