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How Fast Should Beginners Run?

If you are a new runner, here is how to know you're running at the right pace.

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What do a 6-minute mile and a 12-minute mile have in common? It’s the same distance.

As a new runner, it’s intimidating to head out and start logging miles, whether you run solo or in a group. So many runners have gizmos and gadgets that keep track of their heart rate, calories, miles and pace, not to mention runners who wear the latest compression sleeves, tights or shoes. They talk about splits and intervals and thresholds. It’s confusing to know what is important. But most confusing of all is knowing how fast, or what pace, you should be running.

But there are tricks to help you find your right pace. Andrew Kastor, elite running coach, shares a few secrets to help you run at a level that is right for you and will help you develop your running abilities. Before you know it, you’ll be passing other runners.

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Let breathing be a good guide of your pace

“New runners should focus on completing their run at a comfortable effort (aerobic),” shares Kastor. “If breathing is too heavy to converse with a friend while running, then slow the pace down.” Running alone? Talk to yourself or try to sing a few lines. Back off whenever your breathing gets ragged, when you feel “out of breath” and anxious for the run to stop.

Use time, not miles

New runners should focus on the amount of time they spend running versus aiming for distance. With each run, you’ll notice that time span gets a little easier, because you’re building your endurance and cardiovascular health. Your pace will drop naturally and you’ll run more miles. Maybe the first time you will only be able to get a couple miles in, but over time you’ll gradually notice 2 miles turns into 2.5, then 3 and so on.

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Use a run/walk approach

“A walk is defined as always having one foot on the ground at all times. A comfortably fast walk is around 15 minutes per mile. Running is defined as both feet leaving the ground at the same time. I don’t believe in using the word jog,” says Kastor. You don’t need to break into a run until you’re going faster than 15 minutes per mile. Kastor says a new runner can shoot for  12 to 13 minute pace per mile as a good range to start off with, with walk breaks structured in.

Start with a 3-minute run, then walk for 1 minute to recover. This will help you keep your breathing in check and heart rate up. Continue this pattern for the time you allotted to run. Do this for a week or two until it feels comfortable. Then aim for 4-minute runs and 1-minute walks. Continue this pattern as you gain more endurance strength.

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Listen to your body

“If you think you are running too fast, you probably are!” says Kastor. Your body can tell when it’s time to back off, so let it tell you so. Don’t try to push yourself too hard, too often. If you do, you’ll risk injury.