How to run: the 5 minute guide for couch potatoes

Want to get in shape in the new year? Running is an easy and affordable option – here are our top tips for getting started

couple running
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Will 2020 be the year you learn how to run (and enjoy it)? Getting fit is amongst the most popular new years resolutions, with many of us vowing to take up a new activity – or simply increase our daily step count – in a bid to improve our physical and mental wellbeing. 

And while it can be tempting to be drawn in by the promises of expensive gym memberships, diet supplements and influencer-endorsed fitness equipment, the truth is that getting fit doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, if you choose your activity carefully it may not cost you anything at all.

Several members of the Real Homes team have been getting into running over recent months. And while we're not quite outrunning Mo Farah yet, we do have a few tips and tricks to help you get started, whether you're planning on running outside or think you'll invest in one of the best treadmills instead.

1. Download an app to help you get started 

If you're new to running or are returning to the roads after a few absent years, you may be unsure how to get started. Unfortunately it isn't as easy as just going out and stretching one leg infront of the other.

Our advice would be to make use of an app – our top recommendation being the BBC's free Couch to 5k app – which aims to guide you through your runs, increasing the difficulty incrementally in a bid to help everyone (no matter their initial fitness level) to reach their first running milestones. 

You could also invest in fitness tracker to measure your progress. These come with an app too that may have tips, hints or fitness guidance tailored to you. See the best deals below.

2. Or join a local running club

If – like us – you often lack the motivation to keep going when running alone, you may benefit from running as part of a local running club. Take to Google in order to seek out a club that suits your location and running ability, then commit to running with them frequently. The sooner it becomes a habit, the more likely you are to commit long term.

Can't find a club that suits you? Think about setting up your own with friends, neighbours or colleagues. It could be a great opportunity to meet new people.

3. Make sure you warm up properly

In order to prevent injury, it's essential that you make sure you're stretching properly. It may seem unnecessary – and it's a step that many of us can be tempted to skip – but it's more than worth it in the long term. We'd recommend giving the following a go.

  • Run in place – hold your hands out at waist level and try to lift your knees up to them for a count of 20;
  • Use a skipping rope and do 40 jumps;
  • Do 10 push ups; if you find them hard on the floor, do them against a raised surface, such as a steady coffee table;
  • Do 40 star jumps.

4. And stretch when you're done

It's equally important that you stretch at the end of a run in order to prevent injury. When stretching you should never feel any pain, just a slight stretch in your muscle.

  • Go for a walk: this isn't a stretch (which you will need to do to avoid muscle tightness), but it is a really vital part of a cool down. Got a dog? Time the walk for just after your work out.
  • Hips circles: Remaining on all fours, this stretch calls for you to circle your hips, however feels comfortable, to prevent the build up of tension in this area.
  • Hip flexor stretch: up on to your knees, keeping your hips level, take your right foot forwards so that your left leg is in a lunge position behind you. You should feel the stretch in your hip flexor. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Quad stretch: stand up, feet and knees together, take your right foot up towards your bottom; hold on to your right foot with your right hand to increase the stretch, keeping your hips level. Hold on to the wall with your left hand if you need to.

5. Enter an event to help keep you motivated

Serious about sticking to a running plan? We'd recommend signing up to an event to keep yourself motivated. Whether it's your local Park Run, a charity race or something more serious, you'll be surprised how much more likely you are to keep running if you have something to aim towards.

Looking for more fitness guides?