Running for beginners: Form, breathing, pace

Tips from our Couch to Race program coordinator

Beginning a new running routine can be challenging, but knowing how to run can improve your experience and get you excited about your new exercise endeavor. All you need are a good pair of running shoes and three basic techniques: running form, breathing and pace. Once you’ve mastered these, your running can take you anywhere.

Form tips

  • Try to land mid-foot, directly under the knee. Heel striking and landing with your knee in front of the foot could lead to injuries.
  • Push up and off, focusing on the ground behind you.
  • Keep your hips in line with your knees. Avoid tilting your pelvis by keeping the spine in neutral alignment.
  • Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees and close to your sides.
  • Keep your hands loose and in front of you. Think “T-Rex” arms and hands.
  • Stay upright, looking ahead, with shoulders back. This will allow for better breathing.

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Breathing tips

  • Breathe from your belly, not your chest. Work the diaphragm.
  • Establish a breathing pattern. Many runners follow the 2:2 pattern — inhale for two steps, and exhale for two steps. More experienced runners may do a 3:2 pattern — inhale for three steps, exhale for two. Find what comes naturally for your pace, and focus on it during your run.

Pace tips

  • Slow down! You don’t need to run as hard as you can when you are going out for a few miles. Start slow; see how you feel, then settle in with your breathing.
  • If your breathing is labored, slow down! You should be able to hold a conversation when jogging.
  • Try running with a watch or activity tracker that shows your pace. Take a look at it a few times as you run to see if you can maintain your pace. If your breathing is labored, you probably have unintentionally sped up.
  • Try a run/walk combo, such as a 3/1-minute run/walk, to increase the period of time your body can handle moving. As it gets easier, increase the minutes you run/walk.
  • Let go of your expectations and don’t compare yourself to others. Just enjoy yourself and your time outdoors.

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