Do you dream of learning to run so you can just put on your trainers, leave the house and setting off running?

Confident in the knowledge you won’t be spending precious me-time gasping for breath, constantly checking how long you’ve been out and feeling resentful of runners who look like gazelles when they go past?

For many years it was a dream of mine. Yet it took a lot of failed starts and frustration to get there.

I thought this was just my story as everyone else seemed to find running easy. But when I became a personal trainer and run coach, I realised the challenges I’d experienced when learning to run were common for countless others.

Here’s the 5 most frequent ones experienced by women and how they can be hurdles we overcome, rather than the finishing line on our learning to run journey.

1. Learning to run feels too hard

You’re hot, sweaty, panting for breath and your legs feel like lead. And it’s only a few minutes since you set off. There’s no way at this rate that you’re going to learn how to run 5km!

Has this happened to you?  It definitely did for me. I felt so bad after one failed run I didn’t try to again for over 3 years. Yet learning to run doesn’t have to feel this way.

On my beginners programme we talk about pace a lot. But not the kind of pace you can track on an activity watch. The kind where you can chat whilst you’re run! Yes ‘conversational pace’ is SO important when we’re starting out running because it means we don’t get out of breath and struggle to continue.

Imagine how nice it would be running along, chatting away to another mum and putting the world to rights. Much more pleasant than gasping your way up the street on your own hey?!

2. There’s no time to learn to run

Hands up if your to-do list feels never ending. The juggle for us working mums is constant isn’t it? It can feel impossible to be able to find time for ourselves to learn how to run.

I won’t lie and say it’s easy. Do you remember those child-free times when you could plan what you wanted to do on an evening or weekend? I so wish I’d appreciated them more at the time.

Though whilst not easy, I promise with a juggle of family and work commitments it can be done. One of the women in the MTW community talks of ‘ring-fencing her time in the family calendar’. Her partner and children all know that’s mummy’s time and support this.

As mums we juggle things to enable our children to take part in activities don’t we? How about we also do that for ourselves too.

3. There’s no joy in learning to run

When I used to drive past runners, I thought they looked so carefree and joyful. The wind was blowing in their hair, there was a bounce in their step and a smile on their face. Do you feel such joy when you try to run? I certainly didn’t for a LONG time.

I’ve already talked about one of the reasons why this happens – that we’re not running at a comfortable conversational pace. Another is that we’re running for the wrong reason.

Say what?! You’re likely thinking now. Surely the reason is to learn how to RUN isn’t it and be a runner?

“But WHY do you want to run?” is the question I ask on my beginners programme. I’d encourage you to take a minute and think about this too.

The answers often link to weight loss as running is thought by many to be particularly good at eliciting this. Yet if we run primarily to lose weight, we’re basically trying to run ourselves thinner. Every step in our run becomes a punishment; rather than a celebration of what it can do. I have yet to meet a woman who keeps this as their primary reason for running, actual enjoy doing it.

There is no judgement from me here. If you’ve read my blog ‘4 women’s fitness myths busted’ blog you’ll know that for years I choose to do exercise classes based on how many calories they burned.

When we start to explore the reasons why we run and what we’d like to get out of it, so many are identified. Things like having time for yourself, clearing your head from work, family and life, achieving a fitness goal that you never thought possible, the list goes on and on.

What would yours be?

4. Learning to run when you’re in pain

For many women their running journey of learning how to run is cut short by feeling pain – the knees, shins or hips are common culprits. Can you relate?

What starts as a niggle, turns into an ache and then ouch-like pain. Worse still, this extends beyond the run, and you feel it after. It’s no wonder women stop. No one needs to be in pain through exercising.

So does this mean you’re not a runner? No, it doesn’t!

When those niggles appear during my beginners programme – yes I’m honest as there’s always at least a few women for whom it does – we find out what’s causing it. There are 2 key causes of pain during running. Either you’re wearing the wrong trainers or you have a weakness in a particular muscle. Both of which can be fixed!

When it comes to running, the trainers we wear have a massive impact. Often things start to niggle because we’re wearing the wrong type of trainers for our natural running style. Having your gait (the way in which you run and how your foot strikes the floor) done can identify if it’s being caused because they’re not supporting you properly.

If you’ve not heard about running gait before then check out this article from a local running shop where many of my runners go. It explains it really well.

Second up in the niggle causation department is a muscle weakness. Yes we all have them, myself included! It’s a reason why my beginners programme has a strength programme built into it. Through doing a few simple exercises we can identify if your calves, hips or glutes (bum!) need to be a little bit stronger to support your running.  If so, then I plan some simple exercises for you do at home to strengthen them.

This strength programme was developed with Worsley Physio. Many of my runners (myself included) go there for sports massage and also additional strength programming to support them as they develop their running distances.

5. Learning to run on your own

When I first started to learn to run I was all about doing it on my own. I hated running with other people.

I used to think why would someone else want to run with me? Plus, I was new to the area, none of my few friends ran and those that did were ‘proper runners’ and I was embarrassed to run with them.

It may surprise you to learn it was only when I became a run coach in 2019 that I started to run with other women and enjoy it. Now my least favourite runs are the ones on my own – I tend to go slower and for less distance – even when I occupy myself with a podcast or music.

One of the best things that women find about my beginners run programme is that they have a ready made group of like-minded women to share their running journey with.

During the group runs they find others who run at the same conversational running pace. You might think this wouldn’t happen to you in a group but it’s like magic; I’ve never run the programme yet its not! Then when it comes to home runs outside of group sessions, women meet up together if they’d like a run buddy.

As a coach, the beginners programme has to be my favourite for seeing friendships blossom on. Many women who ran together on previous programmes still do so today and talk fondly of those first times and getting to know each other.

Turn your running dream into reality

Have I given you more confidence that these common challenges that women face when learning to run can be overcome? Having now coached over 170 women to confidently run; giving them time for themselves, movement in their bodies and headspace from life; I’m confident that I could do this for you too.

My next beginners programme starts Monday 21st September – let me support you to turn your running dream into a reality.

For programme details click HERE.

Emma x