4 Tips Every New Runner Needs to Know

Expert advice about everything from gait and posture to warming-up and breathing

Get good shoes, don’t run too much, make sure you run enough, use a foam roller; there are so many things for new runners to learn about the sport.

But aside from training techniques, gear, and recovery strategies, perhaps the most important thing beginner runners should pay attention to is form—how your body moves and feels while you’re out on the road.

Before you lace up your sneakers and start pounding the pavement, consider the following advice about warming up, posture, gait, and breathing from Zap Fitness co-founder and running coach Zika Rea.

1. Breathe Naturally
In her experience, Rea says that many new runners ask her about how they should breath while running. If you ask her this, she’ll tell you to just breathe naturally. Breathing is an involuntary action, so there’s no need to make it any more complicated. While you’re running your muscles will begin to require more oxygen, which will cause your breathing to naturally become heavier, but other than that, just relax and let your body take care of the rest.

2. Relax Your Upper Body Muscles
It’s common for new runners to assume a “hunched-shoulder” position (like many of us do when we’re sitting at a desk in front of a computer). This position creates unwanted tension at a time when you want your entire body to feel fluid and free. Rea says that added strain and tightness, like from hunched shoulders and clenched fists will slow you down.

To avoid clenching your fists too tightly, Rea suggests following the “cracker rule.” Simply imagine you’re holding a cracker. You can close your hand around it lightly, but you don’t want to crush it.

Additionally, be sure to focus on drawing your shoulders back and down and maintaining a tall, upright posture. Your arms should hang near your side naturally with your forearms parallel to the ground. Make sure to avoid swinging your arms and torso. Rea says that swinging and twisting motions will only waste energy. Instead, focus on running in a straight, forward line and let the rest of your body follow naturally.

3. Don’t think too much about your feet.
Rea suggests letting your gait come naturally. She says that there’s no single “right way” to run because everyone’s gait is different based on things like height and body type. However, she does recommend paying attention to the way that your foot lands on the ground (your footstrike). Aim for a mid-foot landing and try to avoid striking the ground with your heel; heel-striking will slow down your momentum.

4. Warm-up with dynamic stretches.
Never do traditional, static stretches (like the kind you would hold for a few seconds) before a run. Rea said that warming-up this way before a run isn’t beneficial because cold muscles lack blood flow and elasticity, meaning stretching statically could actually increase your chance of injury.

Instead, first warm-up for a few minutes with a light jog, then stop to perform a series of dynamic stretches before your start the main part of your workout.