Beginner - how to improve

Hi, I am looking for some advice on how to improve my running. I started about 3 months ago as a total beginner, took about 6 weeks to get to a mile and now I can run about 2.5 miles without stopping which takes about 25minutes. However, I have got stuck and haven't improved for about a month (I did take a couple of weeks off for a bad back). Anyway, my aim is to be able to run 5/6 miles without stopping. I thought if I set myself a 10k target this may give me something to aim for. WOuld January be to optimistic ? Should I just keep trying to go a bit further each week to build up to that distance or is there a more effective way ? Is it normal to just get stuck and struggle on a distance that I have been covering with relative ease for several weeks ?


  • Find someone to run with and enter an event or events. One of my running friends found it difficult to run past 5 miles on a regular basis. So we started to introduce longer varied routes at the weekend (whenever possible)to benifit us all. She ran for 2.5 hours on Sunday alone because she now has the confidence. She has also covered 2 full marathons this year. She only started serious training in January. First 26.2 miles was April 7 in Paris. 2nd was the New Forest in Sept and she will finish with New York in November.
    Running with friends is also a great social event. And you will motivate each other.
    And of course have a target. the training schedules in the magazine are excellent. January sounds fine to me but please bear in mind I am no expert.

  • Sara
    A 10k in January is totally achieveable for someone who can do 2.5 non-stop in 25 mins.

    Have you tried a couple of shorter, faster sessions to mix your training up a bit? I've tended to concentrate on going further & further in the past and then stalled because it got harder to motivate myself for long slow sessions.

    If you're comfortable with your 2.5 miles route another idea is to drop in a couple of fartlek sessions (Danish/Swedish word for short bursts of speed mixed into an normal paced run. It's dead easy - you run along at your normal pace then pick a point a few metres ahead and sprint for it then when you get there you slow back to your normal pace without stopping or walking if at all possible, works for me).


    PS I guess the obvious warning notes on this are - listen to your back (don't do anything that risks damaging it) and don't start of sprinting straight from the front dorr (give yourself about half a mile at your usual comfortable pace before trying to spped up).

    Good luck
  • Hi Sara. I am a new runner too. I started running more seriously (although I still consider myself a recreational runner)2 1/2 months ago.
    My regular run is about 6.5 km (4 miles) and I do this in 35 minutes. I also do one longer run per week of about 8km (5 miles).

    I am also hopping to do a 10k in January and know that this goal is acheivable.
    I want to improve and be able to run the 10k comfotably, so I plan to introduce a fartlek session into my weekly training in order to help me get faster and stronger.

  • Hi Nick, Derek and Beth. Thank you everyone for your responses. I do usually run with a friend and would absoloutely agree this helps - I don't know that I would still be doing it if it wasn't for my friend ! We are both at exactly the same 'level' which is handy but we are both also stuck ! From this week we are going to do one hill session because hills are a particular problem for us. So we are just going to go up and down a hill for 1/2 hour ! I will also suggest we try this fartlek thing and put some speed into our normal run. I think we will just continue with 3 or 4 seesions of 1/2 hr each time but vary the runs with fartlek and hills until we can go further distance wise. I will suggest we continue with our 10k by January target then if this is practical. Thanks again - all advice appreciated and I will let you know how I get on !
  • I got stuck and bought some more running shoes - lighter and more cushioned. i felt like I could fly and running wasn't the effort it had been!
  • Hi Sara

    Perhaps doing hill repetitions so early in your running might be overdoing it a bit. Maybee you shoud consider some run/walks ie run for 9 minutes walk for 1 minute and so on. you will find it much easier to extend your overall effort and hence distance in this way. carry on what you are doing but make the run/walk activity your weekly "long steady distance" run, this really works, long before january your continous running distance will be way beyond 2.5 miles.

    Good luck and keep to it

  • Hi Cha,

    Just read your message - I agree, we tried the hills last week and it was really hard. I also felt like I couldn't do a fartlek as it is really hard work just getting round the 2.5mls and there is simply no energy to add in sprints yet. We really are at our limit at the moment. Also, come Saturday we couldn't go as far as normal on our long run so it clearly didn't help !

    We normally aim to do 4 runs a week with a long run on Saturday and a slightly shorter 20min run on Sunday ( the idea being that this is a recovery run). Do you think we should do the same distance 4 times as week but run/walk them and try to increase the distance once a week by say 5 minutes ?

    We are getting despondent, we haven't moved forward in over a month, we are working hard and desperate to get up to a 10k by January (we have been running since July). I suppose it is a matter of finding a method to improve and just pushing ! Does it ever get easier !! Thanks very much for your tips.

    Carmel - I have good trainers, I bought some after second run - the Nike Pegasus after trying loads on - I am really pleased with them !
  • Sara

    When I've plateaued out I try to forget what I'm aiming for for a couple of runs (go out without a watch and relax by running for the fun of it), then when I check next time I've often moved on a bit which gives me the boost to go further.

    When I hit a problem with a particular hill that I couldn't get up I just picked a point a few yards ahead of where I kept stalling and only aimed for that - then found when I got there I could do a few more paces, then a few more and found I'd got to the top - now I can't believe I couldn't get up it because it's part of my normal run.

    I also had a problem once when I had a nice convenient lap that I did that went past the house, each time I approached the end of the lap all those little aches/gasps etc reared up and persuaded me I'd done enough, even though I wanted to go further. Can you alter your route so you have to do, say, 2.7m before you get back (not forgetting it's perfectly acceptable to walk if you need to)

    If none of these rambles ring true for you - have you wondered whether you might be over training? 4 runs a week is fairly hefty training load - what if you try dropping one but saying you'll go further on your long run.
  • Hi Nick
    I have just read your message and as another beginner had to re-read your sentence "running for the fun of it" Please tell me when will running stop being painful and start being fun? BTW am totally new to this whole forum malarky and I love it! Sooooo encouraging and motivating!
  • Sara

    When I started earlier this year I got stuck on a plateau like you standard run same time.

    Why don't you look at working out a slightly longer route say 3m, and deliberately run a little slower at the start, so sy your 2.5miles takes 28mins and your full 3 mile 34 mins.

    it's always a difficult thing to say do I go further or faster. I find it easier to a bit further first (& sl slower) and then whne I go back to the shorter runs i find I can go abit faster.

    good luck and watch the rain.....:-(
  • Hi Sara

    4 runs a week is good, but I'd suggest having a rest day after your "long" run on the Saturday. If you are run/walking you might be able to extend your long saturday run by about 10 minutes per week, but remember only on that one day, make the other runs shorter and easy paced.

    I'd also recommend getting a good running book, they are full of good training schedules which you can modify to your own circumstances and can really help with motivation. I use "Running is easy" by Bruce Tulloh but there are other equally good ones around.

    Think about joining a running club especially a road runners type club, most welcome beginners and you will not believe the difference running with a group will make to your progress.

    Keep up the good work and let us know how you are getting on, especially when you complete that 10k.

  • Loads of really good tips ! Thanks everyone. It's not that long ago that tips from this site got me to the 1 mile mark !

    The route I do is 3.25 miles but I run the first 2.5 and walk the last bit (because i can't get any further I think because it is gradually uphill). I could extend this route out to about 4.5 miles which is before the hilly bit and see if that gets me further. I'll also do the run/walk thing. I will try that on Saturday !

    I did start with a running club and it was good for the first month as they ran around with us beginners but after that, they went off on massive runs and left us beginners behind - in fact my friend and I ended up waiting at corners for one poor lady who kept getting left behind on her own so we decided to go it alone !

    Anyway, watch this space, hopefully next week I may be able to let you all know that I have hit 3 miles !

  • Hi again Sara

    Do Different routes. Nothing is more soul destroying than the same run over and over again. Its good to check time/distance on a familiar route occasionally, but variety is what keeps you fresh.

  • Hi Pansie. My regular cry is also, "When will this stop hurting?" I started on June 20, unable to run across the road (truly!) and can now run 5.4 miles in 65 minutes. But whether I go that far, or just a couple of miles, every step is tedious, hard work. I have to psyche myself into continuing every second of the way. So, I can't answer your question. But maybe someone else can help both of us? Please?
  • Sassie, get a small radio! You'd be surprised at the difference it can make. :)
  • Hello all you beginners - it is really inspirational to know that other people are in the same boat. I have only just started running outside - have been doing it in the gym on the treadmill until three weeks ago, but had a goal of running for an hour, and couldn't face that on the treadmill! I've found that all the tips about not worrying if you are going really slowly is what's made the difference for me. I do about 10-11 minute miles (about 6min km) - perhaps a bit slower when I run for an hour (which I've now done five times). I too am aiming for a 10K in January and hope that I'll be ok. I am trying to do two one hour runs outside (one at the weekend and one on Tuesdays when I don't work) and then three gym sessions when I do 30mins on the cross trainer, some weights, and last week I tried this 400m fast/ 400m jog thing. It nearly killed me!! I might wait a bit before trying again - has anyone else got any ideas about this?
    I'd really like to do a half marathon next year, and eventually a full one, but at the moment I can't imagine ever getting beyond the one hour mark....
    I don't know why sometimes it seems fun running and other times it is just out and out slog. It does always feel good afterwards though.
  • Sara - so you fibbed, you do 3 1/4m
    not 2 1/2 - walking counts so don't underestimate yourself. I guess that makes you a 'real' runner so now you can enter races, beat PBs etc

    Sassie/Pansie - today I don't think it ever stops hurting (I did an undertrained 10k on Sunday) but when I'm out I think a whole range of thoughts I don't get to think otherwise & clear a whole load of rubbish out of my mind that might otherwise get in my way.

    I know I can go further because I've told myself I can - you can too (sorry if that sounds a bit 'new age' 'wishy washy' but it stopped hurting at the time when I started ignoring it and thinking about all the things I find important in life), please enjoy yourself

  • Diana

    My target is to do the 2004 London Marathon - why not join me running for Hope for Children ( fromn your regime so far I don't have any doubts you will be well up for a marathon by then.
  • Hi everyone,

    Thanks for all the comments about running hurting!! I've been running for about 3 months and whilst somedays I feel like I could run forever, other days it just feels like a really painful grind and I despair of ever getting faster. Really encouraging (in a warped sort of way) to know that others are suffering too! I also want to do a half marathon next year ... but as I haven't run more than 5 miles (very slowly) thus far, I despair of getting there!!
  • I thought I'd never improve, but then I started playing football and the sprinting involved had such an impact on my running, so I guess speedwork really does work. Also, it seemed that it never got easier, and therefore I couldn't muster courage to increase my distance. Then I realised that it was my mind and not my body that was stopping me. On the days where I was up for a run and looking forward to it, I increased my distance, generally on a new route. I found that a combination of the enthusiasm and 'novelty value' of new scenery took my mind of the fact that I was running further and the satisfaction I felt at having completed the run spurred me on. When I then return to my old, shorter runs, they seem far easier, even though at the time, I could never have imagined increasing my distance. Does that make sense?
    Nick is right. You can do it, but if you tell yourself you can't, you won't.
  • Hi All, Georgia, I agree with you entirely about the benefits of a new route - even if its only a different pavement not to fall over! It takes my mind off the 'how much longer' and 'why do I still find this so hard' thoughts that normally go round.
    My problem is that I end up going too fast, too far, then can't manage the rest of the week. My best week so far since July has been four runs a week, totalling 21K, but I don't have any consistency. Am I trying to get there too quickly? Should I be happy with where I am at this point? Or should I be saying, I am going to run regardless, and just get on with it?

    My worry is that in a fit of enthusiasm I signed up for the Brighton 10K but haven't managed 10K more than once since I applied! I only have a few weeks left, and I don't know how best to use them!
  • Nick,

    A sort of fib ! I guess I thought walking doesn't count ! I definatley don't want to walk any of the 10k ! I do a 3 1/4 circuit and run the first 2 1/2 completely and walk the last 3/4 which is uphill. I can do a similiary route but increase it to about 4 1/2 - the increased bit is mostly before the uphill bit so I am wondering if I will further that way - I am going to try on Saturday. It is definatley and bit all in the mind as soon as I can see the hill my windpipe starts to burn ! My legs feel as though they could go on further though. Thanks for the help - I expect you will hear from me at the weekend !
  • Sara M,

    Here are a few ideas:

    1/ If you run a circuit with the big killer hill at the end, could you not run it in the other direction - i.e. run down the hill to start with and then have a more gradual climb home?

    2/ If you can run the first part of the route but then have to walk the last 10min or so because you are knackered, it might be an idea to spread the walking out - e.g. run a mile, walk 3 min, run a mile, walk 3 min etc...

    3/ You might want to try "out and backs" - e.g. if you want to run for 40 min, run along as flat a route as you can find for 20 min and then turn round and run back home again. That way you won't be able to take any shortcuts etc when you are getting tired towards the end of the run.

  • Hi Neil,

    It's interesting that you bought that up because I tried it the other way round a few weeks ago and didn't get anywhere near as far. I reckon I only did about 1.5mls and I was knackered ! Needless to say I haven't done that since ! I like the idea of number 2 and 3. I think I am going to try 2 things this weekend - extending my existing route before the hill (and maybe try your idea of run/walk as well) and also finding a completely different, perhaps flatter route to try of the same distance. Thanks for your tips. I am sure I will post my results at the weekend !
  • Stumpy,
    I signed up for my first 10k (Dec). Since I sent in my application, I've been unable to run for 7 wks due to a damaged ligament and now a cold. Sods Law! And I was doing so well. I ran on Tuesday and struggle to do 1.5 miles. I'm not worrying. Honest. I think you should remember the fact that you have actually run 10k. Remember that on the day the atmosphere and adrenaline will be a real help. Also, if you look at a lot of the programmes, you don't consistently run long distances - only once per week. I think thats where a lot of us make mistakes by becoming disheartened if we can't run 5 miles 4 times per week. By building in speed and tempo work, not only does it become more interesting, but it benefits both your time and distance.
    Good Luck.
  • I need help- and as much as possible!! I have just agreed to run in the LM netx year as part of my company's charity team..i am a complete beginner and having read some posts on here am now in complete panic mode!! I have a begineers schedule to work to till January which will get me up to running 40 mins without stopping and then my plan was to step up to marathon training scedule. What im concerned about is the common theme that seems to run through the threads here about not doing a marathon unless you;ve been running for a year- i havent run since the dreaded days of cross country some 23 years ago, im now 36 !! Help, guidance, motivatio..whatever you can provide, just tell me its possible!!!
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