How to Run [For people who hate running…]

This afternoon’s post is by the legendary Penny from Bad Penny Says. Usually our new music guru, she also happens to be a fully qualified personal trainer and after all the talk lately about keeping healthy and happy her choice of topic is very apt. In the summer months I enjoy running, there’s nothing like it to clear the head, but I have so many friends who say ‘I just can’t run…‘ Well, let Penny show you how…

I have lost count of the number of clients who come to me and speak in wistful tones about how they’d love to be able to run, but they’ll never be able to. They gaze enviously at joggers in the park and gym-bunnies on treadmills, as if these people are a different breed to them, magically gifted with winged feet/ lungs that don’t burn just 20 seconds into a run around the block. As if, as foetuses, these people simply laced up their shoes one day and ran out of the womb.

Stop the madness! I am here to bust these myths wide open. If your body is capable of walking to the shops, you should be able to run. And once you get into it, the sky’s the limit. Running is a weapon with which you can fight obesity, depression, anxiety, it strengthens your cardiovascular system and it frees your mind. You too could be one of those people who other people gaze wistfully at. I promise. Tried it before and hated it? Don’t worry – there are tricks you can use to cheat the system. This is how you get into running, when you think you can‘t run:

1. SLOW IT DOWN. This is the biggest mistake I see people making. Running should not be fast – not at first. It should be very, very slow. The best way to start out is to walk for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace until you’re walking at such a speed that it starts to feel a little uncomfortable. Then – without increasing your speed – lift your feet between steps. Congratulations. You are running. Doesn’t it feel easier than walking really, really fast? Good.

2. BREAK IT DOWN. Rome was not built in a day. Running is a learning process for your body, which needs to get fitter in order to be able to do what your brain is asking of it. Remember that burning chest feeling you get when you run for the bus? If you get that, you’re doing too much too soon. Once you’ve mastered the slow run (see above), try interspersing 1 minute runs with 2 minute walks. Repeat 5 times, with a 5 minute walk to warm up and cool down either side, and you have a 25 minutes of excellent running activity, all done by you, the supposed non-runner. Well done!

3. KEEP IT UP. Consistency is the key to progress. Aim to get your running practice in 2-3 times a week. If you only manage to grab 15 minutes here and there, that’s just fine and dandy too, and we‘ve established above that it doesn‘t have to be especially strenuous. The main thing is that you do it – no excuses, no putting it off until tomorrow. Write it in your diary if you have to, stick it on the fridge, leave your trainers by the front door in the morning – whatever it takes. As you get more confident, increase the length of your running intervals, and reduce the walking. See how much further you can go. Feels good, doesn’t it? You couldn’t do any of this a few weeks ago, and now you can. Feel proud.

The biggest running myth of all is that you should feel completely knackered by the end of your runs. If you’re doing it properly, you should feel energised and invigorated. If you find you’re becoming exhausted to the point where you lose motivation and start skipping sessions, then you’re running too fast or for too long. Really. Take it down a notch. There’s no point running yourself into injury – you’re doing this because you want to care for your body, not punish it.

Finally, the common sense stuff. Learn some stretches to cool down with, and make sure you’ve got trainers with a reasonable support in them. Keep hydrated. If you’ve got any existing medical issues that you’re worried may be aggravated by high impact exercise, then get your doctor’s approval before starting out.

Over to you! Do you love running? Then tell us how you got your mojo…

PS Find Penny on her blog Bad Penny Says, or @TokaiPenny.

*All images taken from Rebecca’s Pinterest account and originally uploaded by users so without source credit.

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37 thoughts on “How to Run [For people who hate running…]

  1. I think I remember specifically writing ‘I can’t run’ in the comments of the last fitness post! Haha.
    I’ll save this page for a time when I might feel like giving it a go.

  2. I shocked myself last year by managing a full 10k! If I can do it believe me when I say anyone can 🙂

    Fab post P-Dawg!! x

  3. Great post. This was absolutely me – I had always said I couldn’t run and I wouldn’t run and that running wasn’t for me. Then I changed jobs and no longer had a gym membership and running was free. Two tools that really helped me:
    – Couch 2 5k – there are lots of different apps for iphone/android, but essentially they map out the walking/running programme for you and tell you when to run/walk. Brilliant if you are bad at juggling music/watches or, like me, incredibly bad at exercise of any kind without instructions. It takes 8 weeks to run 5k.
    – Run Fat Bitch Run ( – I was so taken by the title, I bought the book. Her basic premise is that running isn’t that fun, but it makes you feel good afterwards. The book made me laugh but it also gets me out of the door (and away from the biscuits).

    With the help of these two, I now run 5k happily twice a week, and 8k once. If I can do it, truly anyone can….

  4. I’m a firm advocate of Couch To 5k plans – really excellent structure and so good now you can get it on smartphones too. If you’re somebody who can stick to plans then it’s a fabulous way to get going – even followed loosely it will be helpful. Heartened to see so many FF-ers have found the running light -wheee 🙂


  5. I can run, I can do a 10k and it’s fine. But…I don’t like it, I really want to like it and every week I go on a 45 minute run with my husband and I often come back feeling really good but I never get that itching feeling to want to run like he does (I mainly go running because it’s a nice way to spend time together, I’ve never been on my own) Any tips on how to enjoy it more? Or is it just a marmite activity?

    • That depends, are you bored or are you finding it too unpleasant to be enjoyable? If you’re bored, I suggest getting a good soundtrack to motivate you to keep moving… or if that’s a bit antisocial then try some more scenic running routes? If you find running boring and need more stimulation than just the activity itself, then you need a distraction of some kind. Interval or fartlek training is good to throw in there too, to mix it up a bit.

      If you’re finding it physically miserable then you may need to slow it down. Running with somebody who wants to go at a fair clip when you’re happier taking your time will make it more punishing than it needs to be. Have you ever tried running with somebody who runs quite slowly? It’s an eye opener… either see if you can get your husband to slow down a bit, or ask friends if they want a running buddy and give a different pace a try?


      • Thanks for the reply! I think the interval idea sounds fun, thats more the type of thing I’ll do if I’m at the gym – I must have a short attention span.

  6. This comes at such a good time for me Penny! Over the past month I’ve decided to give running a go. I notoriously find it so hard, but know it works so I’m trying.

    At the moment I’m only doing it on the treadmill – 2 x min walk warm up, 10-13 mins run, 2 x min walk, 5ish min HIIT and then cool down before going on to my regular programme on other stuff.

    The problem is not matter how often I do this it’s just not getting easier and although I’d love to increase my time of none stop running, I am struggling. Any tips please?!


    • Again, I suspect you may be doing that 10-13 of continuous running at an intensity that is too high for you. What settings do you have on the treadmill?

      I’d stick with the HIIT though – that should help not hinder 🙂


        • Sounds like it might be worth breaking it into smaller chunks spread over a longer period to improve your endurance. Stick with the same speed (which is perfect), and try a plan that progresses regularly, like the couch to 5k….

          …you need small, manageable goals. It will come, don’t worry. A month really isn’t that long in the scheme of things either so don’t be disheartened – you can do it 🙂


    • Hi Katie, I know you probably want tips from Penny the professional, but I recommend you get out and about running, it is so much better than being on treadmill.

      I used to think I couldn’t run and still struggle to truely like it…but I do love how I feel after a run. Myself and a few friends set up a ‘jog club’, at first there was only 3 of us, now there are 6. It really helps my motivation to know that someone else is relying on me to run with them and it’s nice to gossip our way round! Our first run was 3km, we quickly moved to 5km and now we quite often run 6 or 7km a few times a week. I’ve had an evil virus for the past 6 weeks and not been running, my body seriously misses it and I’m at least half a stone heavier 🙁 xx

      • It’s certainly a good time of year to experiment with running outside if you haven’t done it much before. Take it steady though, if you don’t normally run on an incline it can feel more challenging than a treadmill. I would say the rewards are greater though- and it’s free 🙂


      • Thanks Roz, you could be right – I do need to get out and off the treadmill… I often think I could press stop at any time in the gym, but if I go outside I’ll have to keep going!

        Not sure if I know anyone who would be up for running but could always try and convince my husband! xx

  7. I am not yet at the stage where I love running (still not convinced anyone really does) but I do love having been for a run, and the smug feeling that accompanies me for the rest of the day! I also enjoy beating a target, having time to myself to listen to podcasts (I recommend podcasts over music as they are a better distraction, but try both as everyone is different), and finding new places to run to. I would highly recommend parkrun – free 5Ks in parks all over the country (and spreading worldwide) every Saturday morning at 9am. I started going about this time last year and it took me 32 minutes – I’ve now been 20 times and my PB is down to 27 minutes. Some people walk it; some people sprint round in 16 minutes – the support is fantastic, it’s run by runners, for runners and is incredibly friendly for beginners. I’m quite evangelical about it as you can tell – have a look at!

  8. Penny this is a great post, I remember feeling like running was impossible for me and your tips are a great way to get people started. I too second Parkrun, the fact that it is timed allows you to push yourself a wee bit for a new PB!

    • Hurray, thankyou Roz 🙂 Hopefully I can inspire some people to get up and out there- beautiful weather for running in the evenings at the moment too.


      • Hello everyone! Finally got some wifi.

        Thanks so much to Penny for this post. Having become a BMF advocate, I swear half the feel good factor of running is getting outside. And of course it’s free!

        My tips would be to include a little interval training, short sprints for a minute or so every couple of minutes, to improve your fitness, which will in turn improve your enjoyment. It’s much more fun when it’s less hard! I think that’s where most people quit, because they don’t feel progress.

        Also, give yourself a goal so you can see your progress and feel like you’re achieving something… A 5k first then 10k. It’s not as scary asit sounds and the atmosphere is always great fun. 🙂

  9. I too used to say that I can’t run but it turns out I just wouldn’t run. I had a few personal training sessions at the gym and she included in my program running. To start with I couldn’t run for anywhere near as long (or as fast) as she wanted me to but with practice I got there. I can now go for a jog with my hubby without feeling like I’m gonna die! We’re both getting into barefoot running which is a completely different style – as a result we can’t run quite so far as we are retraining the muscles, but we’re getting there…….and dare I say it, I’m almost finding it fun! 😉

  10. I used to love running, but I’ve been neglecting it of late due to coursework coming out of my ears and 12 hour days at work, this is giving me the motivation to start up again. Totally agree about the need for a banging soundtrack – i love Rockafeller Skank – FatBoy Slim, but it does make me want to start doing the formation dancing from She’s All That half way round my route!
    Any of you lovely ladies got any advice regarding *whispers* decent sports bras? x

    • I get all my sports bras from tk maxx- top brands dead cheap. Try them on first and have a pogo in the changing rooms to check everything stays where it should 🙂 I know a lot of ladies (better endowed than I) who swear wearing two is the only way to go- might be worth a shot for anyone having trouble getting adequate support otherwise.


  11. As per what Katie said about Park run, I run with the Sweatshop running Community (Sweatshops up and down the country) a 5km marshalled course just around the town. After so many runs they give you free stuff 🙂 always an incentive and its completely free. There runs are marshalled and cater for all types from people that can run 5km in about 17 minutes right through to the 40 minuters. Your runs are timed, although not recorded, that is down to you and at my local one they often get about 150 people sometimes more sometimes less.

  12. Amazing post Penny! I saw the title and thought ‘that’s me!’. My husband loves running and I have had that exact conversation saying that I’m a different species… lost my excuse now, so I’d better give it another go 😉

  13. I love running..however if I stop for over a week I find it really hard to restart. I think the trick is to ‘force’ yourself to get out of the house..after a couple of times you will get used to it..and after a couple of months you will start loving it

  14. I’m not a natural runner and have never enjoyed running – I hated doing cross-country in school. However, like Peabody, I read the Run Fat Bitch Run book and got myself the 5k runner: couch to 5k app, and I’m pleased to say I’m on my way to being a runner, albeit a slow one!

    I also enjoy HIIT on the treadmill, which I find helps with fat loss and definitely improves my cardiovascular fitness.

    Thanks for a great post Penny with some fab tips. And as Ruth, author of Run Fat Bitch Run says: “every time you run, you win!”

  15. This is very timely indeed, I have always shunned running in favour of other activities but was talking about giving it a go just the other day.
    Practical question: how do you carry your keys, water, that kind of stuff?

    • I have running shorts with a small zip pocket in the back for my keys. I just carry a water or sports drink bottle if I’m running for more than an hour. You can buy special bottles that are supposed to fit easily into your hand though? Or you can buy camel packs which you wear on your back.

      K x

    • What Katie said – you can also get running belts with a bottle holder and a zip compartment, they’re pretty good. Although having said that I think I’ve used mine about ten times ever – I’m much happier with a small rucksack, but then I tend to need to carry a reasonable amount of stuff when I go out as I’m generally doing PT. See what works for you 🙂


  16. I used to *hate* running. Really. I was awful at it, a great big sweaty mess, turning a disturbing shade of aubergine after 2 minutes. In 2008 I ran the 5k Race for Life and I honestly thought I was dying (photos from this event suggest it might have been a mercy). I was determined to persevere though, because I’m contrary and thus am compelled to persist at things I suck at, and last year I ran several 10 k races and, then, very stupidly, jumped straight to running 8 miles and gave myself shin splints.

    I have to say, I would never ever have believed I’d be genuinely gutted hearing the words “you can’t run on that for 3 months”. I definitely second Penny’s comment that going too far too fast will injure you.

    And on that note, lovely Penny, do you have any tips for not injuring yourself? I only run once a week or once a fortnight on my physio’s reccomendation; in between I cross-train, swim, cycle and do resistance and weights training. I run slowly and I up my distance gradually. I stretch with boring thoroughness and regularity. Is it genuinely possible that I’m just not built for distance running?! Because every time I start to go above 10k, something injures (this time it’s my knee, which to be fair is a recurring issue).

    K x

    • You’re not going to like this so bear in mind it is ONLY my opinion and is purely anecdotal, but I do believe that everybody has a maximum distance, and there is a chance that 10k is yours. It sounds like you’re doing absolutely everything right to try and change that – so maybe there’s something you haven’t tried yet that will give you the edge and break through your set point.

      Nearly all recurring joint injuries are down to an instability in the body somewhere which is causing the joint to do more work than in needs to. I know you do a lot of core training already, but some postural work might be beneficial. Have you ever had your posture assessed by a physio/Pilates teacher? That would be my next thing to try if you haven’t already…


  17. This is me but these are great tips so i think i might just have to give this a go! I want to find an exercise that I love not that i feel I have to do but i think its about changing my mindset really!! x

  18. These are great tips! I used to run so much but ever since I got to university, I stopped. I also took a look at the book some of you mentioned, “Run Fat Bitch Run,” and was totally consumed by just the introduction pages Amazon features (and I’m at work hehe). Did it really work that well for you? I really want to start running again, and these are great tips to get going. Thanks for the tips, Penny!

    – Ali

  19. Tourist running is my favourite! In your own city run where a tourist would go / or wouldn’t go come to that and see the city in full swing. Last year running in London I loved running over Tower Bridge (pretending I was running the marathon), through Soho on a Sunday morning (dustbin men and beer bottles on the streets), China Town, over Trafalgar Square, past Buck Palace and my all time five sprinting across the diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus. Try it – it’s much more fun than running in a park.

    The more random the route the better. Although I am sure this goes against all running principles! x

  20. Love this! Been looking at the comments all day. Nothing new to add really except that I think the thing that makes me want to keep running (even though I’m uber-rubbish!) is seeing the progression as you keep doing it. That’s definitely what motivates me

  21. I suffer from seasonal asthma due to hayfever at this time of year and it puts me off being outdoors. Do you have any tips for hoe I could begin to control my breathing? Thanks

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