How to start or get better at running

woman stretching before running

One of our Physiotherapists Alex Parford is also a Running Coach – in this blog we’ve asked Alex to share his running tips with you.

Is running right for you?
What’s the best way to start running?
How do you avoid injuries?
How do you become a better runner?
How do you enjoy it more?


Yes, I believe running is right for almost everyone – as humans we were born to run. Having said that, if you have a serious injury or genetic disability, running might not be right for you – but for everyone else I’d say go for it.

Slow and steady! Take a look online at heart rate zones – from 1 to 5, very light to maximum. Zone 2 is preferable for easy runs, at 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate.

The 80/20 training principle created by the runner/author Matt Fitzgerald is a great book you could read, discussing the importance of training at lower levels of intensity to improve your performance and health.

In terms of kit, there’s no need to spend loads of money on expensive trainers to begin with. Just find a shoe that’s comfortable – you can always progress to fancier shoes as you progress.

Make sure you’re active in other ways as well to help you avoid injuries.

Don’t do too much too soon – almost all running injuries are down to load management. Varying the ways you train is also important. Pilates, Yoga, strength training and plyometrics are all good options.

If you’re completely new to running, the NHS couch-5km programme is a great one to follow.

Pay attention to your cadence (how many steps per minute). 170 is a good rate to aim for, though it’s different for everyone.

If you do pick up an injury, make sure you seek advice immediately. As a runner and a Running Coach myself, I know runners tend to try and carry on through an injury, which is a really bad idea. Don’t do it!

Consistency is key – you need time to recover well and you need to vary your training. Try to incorporate other forms of exercise and different types of running. Plyometrics are the big one for improving performance, so make sure you look into that kind of training.

Low intensity running helps too. Try only breathing through your nose or talking to a friend while you run.

And remember to work on your technique – running is a skill you can keep on developing and improving.

Noticing yourself getting better at running will definitely add to your enjoyment. Start slowly and build up your skill level gradually, and don’t try to exhaust yourself with every run.

Try to see it as some quality free time away from work or family, and maybe listen to music or a podcast while you’re at it. Try also to enjoy the other benefits that come with moving and being healthy and fit.

Running can be great for:

  • your mental health
  • improving your mood
  • improving sleep
  • improving mental engagement
  • reducing the risk of injury – osteoarthritis and tendon strengthening

There are so many great benefits! Not to mention, in the current climate running is one of the only things you can do with a friend or family outside of your household.