Maybe you've been inspired to start running because of a marathon, or maybe you're just looking for a free way to get fit. And while we may technically all know how to run, it's not necessarily as easy as just opening the door and going.
We asked celebrity personal trainer Olivia Cooney the most common mistakes that newbie runners make and how you can avoid them.
It's all too easy to get carried away and want to keep up with your gym buddies, but learning to run is a marathon, not a sprint, and finding a comfortable pace is key.
"Plan a distance that you want to cover and run at a pace you think will be maintainable for longer than a sprint," Olivia advises. "If you need to stop en route several times on this first round, that's okay—you have just overestimated the pace. Take it easy on the first try."
"Time yourself each kilometer so you now have a 'base time'—ultimately, you're working toward an uninterrupted run where you manage to keep this going all the way round. From there, challenge your pace a little with each kilometer and watch your trainers soon develop wings!"
"Calories burned depend on many things, most obviously the intensity of your run, but also on what terrain on which you are running, your size, and age," explains Olivia. "But if you are what is considered to be an 'average' body weight for your age and gender, then the general rule is 100 calories per mile."
There are two main dangers when it comes to planning your diet around your new lifestyle—not eating enough and not eating the right things. Olivia recommends including "good carbs and a good amount of protein for your pre and post workout meals," as well as a rainbow of fruit and veggies, even if they're not the ones you'd usually reach for. She suggests beetroot, for instance, as it has anti-inflammatory properties to ease soreness and contains betalain, which helps your muscles use oxygen more efficiently.
It's also worth bearing in mind that some new runners will overestimate their calorie burn and use it as a license to overeat, so aim to make sensible choices and fuel your body with balanced meals and snacks rather than (always) rewarding yourself with pizza.
Investing in the right gear is a commitment to your new hobby, and if you're not sure how much of a dedicated runner you're going to become, it's understandable that you might not want to splash out. However, decent footwear is non-negotiable if you want to minimize your chance of injury.
"Exercising in comfortable footwear can 'make or break' your training, literally, because problems caused by ill-fitting or inappropriate shoes can tear down your fitness schedule," Olivia says. "The very last thing you need stopping you when you're on a roll is a poor quality shoe that's not helping to prevent potential damage to your ankles or feet."
Ideally, you'll get your foot analyzed by an expert to find the right shoe for your running style—but failing all else, you should at least pick a shoe that is specifically designed for running, fits snugly but is not too tight, and has enough flexibility to allow your feet to make those repetitive movements while still providing support.
There are loads of great apps out there that can tell you how far you should be running, and how long it should be taking you, and these are fine, as a guide— but it's equally important to listen to your body and find goals that feel achievable.
Olivia suggests that you should stop listening to what you 'should' be doing and focus on what you are doing already: "As long as you are doing your personal best and setting realistic goals that you personally can reach, ditch the apps and the Google research and hit the ground running—literally."
"A tip I always give my clients is to 'set a date' with yourself several times throughout your week for fitness classes or with recipe experimenting that you will look forward to—I want them to enjoy the journey, not finding them dragging their feet along the way. This way the lifestyle changes you are about to make will be maintainable!"
"It is totally natural for you to feel post-exercise soreness, especially if you are just starting out, returning from injury, or raising the intensity of your workouts," Olivia advises—but don't be tempted to go out seven days a week.
Rest days are crucial, not just now but throughout your career. As a new runner, you're using your muscles in a completely different way than usual, and they need time to recover and rebuild before you put them back into action. If you're always tired, struggling to get through your usual routes, or have persistent pain, this tends to be your body's way of telling you you're overtraining, and it's important for you to listen.
Still want to exercise in the interim? You can cross train, using gentler workouts that will still benefit your running regimen, like stretches, strength exercises such as squats and planks, or targeted yoga poses to boost your performance. This way you're still working on your fitness, but not pushing your body too hard.
Even if you can only just about manage to jog round the block, if you're running, you are a runner, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!
"If you are moving, if you are being proactive in making changes to poor lifestyle habits, then you can be proud!" Olivia exclaims. "Even if one day you feel like giving up, take a rest, take some time, and appreciate how you are now making changes in the direction of a happier healthier life."
Every run is a success, even if it's not a personal best, so take some time to celebrate and reflect on what you're accomplishing—after all, as the old adage goes, no matter how slow you're going, you're still lapping everyone on the couch.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.