Gillian Goerzen Health and Fitness Coach

Guest Post: Top 10 Tips for New Runners

pt HealthFitness, Health


The following is a guest post written by Gillian Goerzen, a health & fitness coach in Nanaimo, BC who runs her own active site & blog over at The content of this post does not necessarily reflect the views of pt Health or its employees.

You can run. Really, you can!

When you’re first starting I know it can feel overwhelming. If you go to Google there is so much information, and it’s easy to get stuck in information overload or analysis paralysis and do nothing at all!

Here’s the thing: There is a lot to know about running. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love the sport so much! There’s always more to learn and explore. And the very best way to get started, is simply to get started.

In the past 20 years I’ve taught literally hundreds of people to run – and it is absolutely one of the most rewarding things I do as a health and fitness coach.

Helping take people from “I can’t possibly run for 30 seconds” to running their first 5k or 10k is an absolute inspiration to watch. 

Here are my top 10 tips I give all of my new runners to help set them up for success.

Follow a Plan

Even if you have a solid cardio base and you feel capable of running for longer intervals it’s important to follow a progressive walk to run plan.

Most of these plans will start you with 30 seconds of running paired with intervals of walking. Slowly, week by week the plan will increase the running interval and decrease the walking until you’re running!

The primary reason we progress slowly is to give your connective tissue (aka your ligaments, tendons and your joints) time to adjust to the impact of running. Too much too soon is one of the main reasons people get injured. Stay the course and trust the program.

Want a plan to follow? Click here for a free download to help you rock your run!

Believe You CAN

Tell that negative Nelly to vacate your brain! You can do this. The hardest part was deciding to start! You’ve got a plan and you can do this.

Fun fact: did you know that we all talk to ourselves? Yup! Using motivational self-talk like mantras or affirmations is proven to support performance.

So, repeat after me: “I am a runner!”

Get Good Quality Shoes

There are literally hundreds of shoes to choose from. This is because there are hundreds of different types of mechanics and foot shapes.

The best shoe is all about finding the one that fits you best. How do you find “the one?” Head to a technical running store and get fitted by a professional. They should watch you walk, ask you to do a few movements, evaluate your gait and ask you about your running plans prior to fitting you in shoes.

Give yourself 45-minutes to an hour to complete this process!

(Ladies Only) Support the Girls

Yup. I’m talking about a great sports bra.

Your breast tissue is supported by ligaments (connective tissue) called Coopers Ligaments. These ligaments are designed to keep your breast tissue in place and healthy.

When your breast tissue moves too much (ie. If you feel pain or discomfort when you jump or run) your sports bra is not doing the trick. A good fitting sports bra should not require multiples!

Much like shoes, you should be able to find a great bra at a sports specialty store. Don’t be shy to ask for help fitting either!

You can also learn more in this video here

  • Bonus tip: Bras have a lifespan. If you’re using them regularly they likely won’t last more than a year before the fabric won’t do the job anymore. Yup, that sports bra from 10 years ago? Time to say bye-bye or relegate it to low impact activities. 

Slow Down

The 30s intervals the plan starts with are not sprints!

Run your intervals at comfortable, conversational pace. Don’t worry about your speed – that will come once you’ve built your foundation. You don’t start building a house by building a roof. Lay your foundation and the finer details will come together!

Running Form

Don’t over-think your running form at this point, but do be aware of these three common pitfalls:

  • Arms crossing the midline – hold your arms at a relaxed 90 degree angle at the elbow and gently swing front to back. Hold your core strong and resist twisting the body.
  • Over-striding – ideally your feet should land under your hips- overextending the landing of the heel in front of your body is called over-striding and can lead to injury issues.
  • Keep your eyes up and chin up – this is especially important as you go up hills! If you drop your chin/ eyes your cutting off your air supply (clearly that’s not ideal!). 


Make sure you’re well hydrated.

TMI alert: Your urine should be a pale yellow colour (assuming you’re not on any vitamins or medications that alter urine colour). For most people this amounts to about 1/2 your body weight in ounces per day).

Ideally most of this comes from water, but water rich foods like veggies and fruit also count! As does limited quantities of caffeinated beverages (up to a few cups). On days you run (especially in very warm or cold weather) you may need more! So, drink up throughout the day.

Pro tip: If you forget all day, don’t guzzle it all at the last minute – otherwise you’ll be running from bathroom to bathroom!


Running is fabulous, but ONLY running, not so much.

There are certain muscles that running doesn’t activate – and over time, this can lead to imbalances across the joints and those imbalances can lead to injuries.

Cross training doesn’t have to look complicated. It can be as simple as doing some basic strength training 2-days per week using just your body weight.

Fuel Up

Your car won’t start if it doesn’t have gas in the tank. And your Ferrari won’t run (at least not well) on the cheap gas. So fuel your engine with good quality nutrients.

Make sure you’re eating a variety of foods and include some whole grains to ensure you’re getting the carbohydrates you need.

For runs up to 60 minutes or so, no fueling is required during running, so just focus on good overall nutrition.

Stay Safe

I think most of this is common sense, but it bears repeating. Be a defensive runner – make sure you’re seen and that you’re aware of your surroundings.

Wear reflective clothing/ lights, and ideally don’t run with music in both ears. If you can’t hear what’s going on around you, you can’t be prepared. And always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Be sure to carry your phone (with your ICE – In Case of Emergency) info entered or go old school and carry ID.

Listen to Your Body

Trust your own instincts around what feels hard and what hurts.

Running is hard, but it shouldn’t hurt. If it does, it’s worth a visit to your local Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist or other rehabilitation professional of choice.

Ok, I have one more!

Have Fun!

Make your running enjoyable.

Listen to great podcasts or music. Find a buddy (or two or three). Find a local running clinic for in person guidance and support.

Remember that physical activity is meant to be rewarding and pleasurable! Sure, there will be moments when it’s hard (and you’ll question why you’re doing it) but you’ll always be glad you did.  

Questions? I’d love to answer them! Feel free to email me at [email protected]

Until then, happy running!

About Gillian Goerzen

Gillian Goerzen is a health and fitness coach with a passion for helping people feel empowered and inspired to live a healthy lifestyle they love.

You can find Gillian teaching fitness, yoga and running clinics in her hometown of Nanaimo, BC, Canada or working with clients virtually on her new Body Positive Health and Fitness Platform the Super You Studio.

You can learn more about Gillian and her health and fitness philosophy in her book The Elephant in the Gym: Your Body Positive Guide to Writing Your Own Health and Fitness Story.

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