Get Inspired: How to get into Athletics

Fast Answers
Why get into athletics?Athletics offer the widest range of choice of any sport as its various disciplines provide the opportunity to throw, run or jump.
Who is it for?Everyone. There is so much choice within athletics and the different disciplines suite different body shapes and sizes.
Is there a cheap option?As long as there is space for a race, you can practice athletics.
What if I want a proper workout?If you are looking to work up a sweat, athletics is the activity for you as every discipline requires muscles, strength and fitness.
Can I take it to another level?Join a club and start competing for them in your preferred events.
Is there a disability option?The various impairment categories in Athletics make the activities widely accessible.
Is there a family option?Running, throwing and jumping is for everyone. Grab some props, head to the park and create your own mini athletics competition.

Whether you want to run, jump, throw - or mix them up, athletics can find a home for you. Athletics also offers opportunities to coach, officiate or help out on club nights. To get involved take the first step by finding your local club on the British Athletics website.

Further information is also available on the England Athletics,Athletics Northern Ireland,Scottish Athletics and Welsh Athletics websites.

Athletics itself isn't really a sport, but it is made up of a range of different activities. We've listed them out here so that you can find a discipline that could be for you:

Cross country

Cross Country runner's legs

Cross country running is a discipline that sees athletes race outdoors on grass or woodland courses. It usually takes place in the winter outside of the track and field season. There is no set distance but races would usually fall into the long distance category of running (see below). Stamina and endurance are very important but you also need to be ready to get muddy. While predominantly an individual sport there is often a team element to races.

Sprint Events

Sprinters in action

Sprint disciplines include the short, sharp powerful events like the 100m and 200m. The sprint hurdles (100m for women, 110m for men) require the same explosion of speed, but with the added element of having to clear a number of barriers. There's also the one lap 400m race and the 400m hurdles. A packed calendar of events in stadiums and running tracks throughout the UK can be found on the Academy's website.

Middle Distance Events

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Get Inspired: Steve Cram on track athletics

Middle distance running relies on pacing and stamina rather than pure explosive power. The 800m involves running two laps around the track. In the 1500m and 3,000m tactics are everything. Go off too hard too soon and you will fade and be out of contention in the sprint finish. The 3,000m steeplechase has the added excitement of a water jump.

Long Distance Events

Long distance marathon runners

Going long requires stamina and mental toughness. On the track, the 5,000m and 10,000m involves covering the same ground twelve and a half or twenty five times. It can become a real mind game. By contrast, the marathon takes place on a 26.2 mile course outside of the confines of an athletics stadium. Its a true test of endurance to keep going until the end.

Throwing Events

Javelin thrower

While upper body strength is key to shot put, javelin, discus and the hammer throw, these disciplines require more than just power. Strong legs anda stable core are crucial so you can transfer your body weight and generate the acceleration required to secure a lengthy throw. Your local club will be able to provide you with any specialist equipment to give the events a try.

Jumping Events

Woman competes in a high jump competition

A polished technique is needed to perfect the jumping disciplines. Strength is also required to generate the necessary speed at take-off for long jump and triple jump. You need flexibility, especially in high jump, to arch your back, raise you hips and clear the bar. Pole vault meanwhile is often described as the extreme sport of athletics. The discipline sees strong, fast and gymnastic competitors use a pole to launch themselves upside down and over a bar which can be higher than a double decker bus- not for the faint hearted!

Heptathlon and Decathlon

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Get Inspired: Denise Lewis on athletics

If you can't decide which discipline you want to concentrate on and you're a good all-round athlete then perhaps decathlon (men) or heptathlon (women) is for you. The heptathlon consists of seven events, while men have to compete in ten events. Both competitions are the ultimate athletic challenge. You need to have incredible stamina, along with strong running and fine throwing techniques to score as many points as possible over a multi-day competition.

Race Walking

Women compete in a race walking event

Speed up walking and you get Race Walking. It's a healthy sport, suitable for all ages and initial levels of fitness. It has all the cardiovascular benefits of running or jogging with very few of the risks of joint and muscle injury. There are a few specifically Race Walking clubs but most walkers belong to general athletic clubs. All you need is a pair of trainers to get started and someone to teach you the proper technique.

Disability Athletics

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Rhys Jones on his journey from "hopeless case" to Commonwealth medallist

Athletics uses a classification system that groups athletes based on their ability. Track events include all Olympic and Paralympic distances. Field disciplines comprise shot, discus, javelin, club throwing (for athletes with a high level of impairment), plus long Jump, high Jump and triple jump. Some events are specific to particular classifications. If you are looking to start in athletics, the Parallel Success programme from British Athletics offers great opportunities.

Coaching and Volunteering

Usain Bolt greets a volunteer

If you don't fancy competing or training but you still want to be involved in athletics, then coaching could be a great alternative. Athletics clubs are always looking for people to coach, officiate or help out on club nights. So whether you want to help inspire children, get adults running or encourage someone to take up javelin, there will be a role for you and the uCoach can help to get you started. Sport Coach UK can also steer you in the right direction.

To find out about event or club volunteering opportunities across Britain, JoinInUK can help you find a club that needs some help. You might also like to try Volunteer Scotland or Welsh Athletics and for Northern Ireland visit Athletics NI and Volunteer Now.

Masters Athletics

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BBC Sport looks at the thriving British Masters scene

The wide range of activities that make up athetics means that there is something for everyone - regardless of age. The British Masters Federation operates throughout the UK to encourage, organise and regulate athletics competition for anyone 35 and over. Get in contact to find out how to you can be involved.

Fell running

Fell running is a race up and down a hill, or collection of hills, in the fastest possible time. The discipline has its origins in the fells of northern Britain and has parallels with cross-country running and orienteering. Run by the Fell Runners Association, it is not for the faint hearted. Competitors need to carry survival equipment such as warm clothing and a whistle and races often require competitors to self-navigate. Races can vary in length from three miles up to marathon distance.

D.I.Y. Athletics

Children competing in a sack race

Schools across the UK have their own athletics competition each year at the annual sports day where kids (and parents) can try out some of the different disciplines. By adding fun elements (who doesn't love the egg and spoon race?) everyone can have some fun while learning the fundamental skills of the sport. But these don't have to be a once-a-year treat. All you need is a park and some props and you can create your own mini games whenever you like.

Aspire to be like: Jo Pavey

What's next?

1. Go to our Activity Finder to get into athletics near you.

2. Visit British Athletics or find local athletics opportunities in England,Northern Ireland,Scotland and Wales.

3. Share your story and inspire others.

Are you inspired to try athletics? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the sport by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired, visiting us on Facebook or email us on

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.