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Home arrow Fitness arrow Running arrow A Complete Running Plan for Beginners: How to Go From 0 to 5K

A Complete Running Plan for Beginners: How to Go From 0 to 5K

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: July 28, 2023
7 min read 715 Views 0 Comments
clock 7 eye 715 comments 0

Want to start running but don’t know how? Learn how to create a running practice that sticks!

beginner running plan

Running is a form of exercise that most of us have tried at one time or another. Requiring nothing more than a pair of running shoes, running remains one of the most accessible activities out there and an easy introduction for people looking to get in better shape.

Whether you’re completely new to running or making a comeback after an injury, this guide is for you. Inside, you’ll find everything you need to know to safely build a running routine that you won’t want to stop.

What Does a Beginner’s Running Plan Look Like?

A beginner running plan is typically designed with the intention of building strength and endurance while also prioritizing injury prevention. For this reason, the best beginner running plans offer a mix of running and walking workouts while also prioritizing rest days.

Since increasing mileage is the goal for most new runners, taking on too much before the body is ready is a common problem. Following a running plan gives new runners the opportunity to increase mileage and intensity in a way that is not only safe for the body but also helpful in preventing running burnout.

How to Get Into Running

The process of getting started in running is different for everyone, depending on your starting fitness level, age, and any pre-existing health conditions.

Adults who exercise regularly should be able to get into a routine of running/cross-training 3–4 times a week fairly easily. Seniors, people with pre-existing health conditions, and those who don’t exercise regularly should check with their doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Running Plan for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Guide

Below you’ll find running techniques that can be used by complete beginners, as well as options for intermediate runners.

#1 Use the run-walk method

Also known as running intervals, the run-walk method is a great strategy for introducing running while limiting the impact on your bones and joints. 

Interspersing long periods of running with periods of walking, such as 10–30 seconds of running followed by 60–120 seconds of walking, makes the benefits of running accessible to even the most novice runners.

This type of training is especially useful for new runners in the first few weeks of training. It gives you the opportunity to strengthen your muscles, improve your bone strength, and increase your aerobic endurance without having to be in shape enough to handle continuous running. 

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Beginner

Week 1
Run x 30 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest dayRun x 30 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest dayRun x 30 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Run x 30 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest day
Intermediate

Week 1
Run x 60 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest dayRun x 60 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest dayCross train /Run x 60 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Run x 60 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest day

* Beginners = no experience
Intermediate = some running/workout experience

#2 Build endurance

When you start running, don’t expect to have the endurance for longer runs right away. A beginner runner should expect to need 8–10 weeks of consistent running to build a solid base.

Incorporating a combination of easy and long runs into your running schedule is ideal for building a base in a shorter amount of time. Easy runs should be done at a conversational pace – an easy pace where you can run and still carry on a comfortable conversation.

Long runs can include walking intervals, but you should still feel challenged during your runs, ideally a 4–6/10 on a difficulty scale. 

MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
BeginnerEasy run

25 minutes brisk walking/jogging
Rest dayRun x 30 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest dayRun x 30 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Easy run

25 minutes brisk walking/jogging
Rest day
IntermediateEasy run

25 minutes jogging/light running
Rest dayRun x 60 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Rest dayRun x 60 seconds

Walk x 2 minutes

Repeat x10
Easy run

25 minutes jogging/light running
Rest day

#3 Add speed

Ready to add more speed? Including a variety of speed-specific running workouts to the mix can help. Some examples include:

Sprint intervals: Sprint for 10–30 seconds, followed by a 2–3 minute walk/jog

Fartlek runs: A more open-ended version of sprint intervals, choose an object in the distance to run to and then one to walk to, rinse and repeat.

Hill/stair repeats: Choose a hill or staircase no more than 300–500 feet tall to run to the top of, followed by a slow walk down.

Beginner-friendly speed workouts like these can be used to replace any of your regular running workouts. To get started, limit yourself to 1 per week, and don’t forget your rest days.

#4 Do strength training

Strength training is an often overlooked part of the training plan for both new and experienced runners. 

Cross-training with weight-bearing exercises not only helps build bone and muscle strength but also has the added benefit of being less impactful than running, which means it puts less stress on your joints.

Some of the best strength training exercises for you to do on your cross-training days include squats and lunges, both of which strengthen most of the lower leg muscles, especially those around the knees, which can help with joint stability.

Hip bridges and calf raises are two other exercises that are essential for strong, explosive movement through the lower body. It’s best to add 1–2 strength training sessions to your weekly routine.

#5 Think about your running form

Maintaining proper form while you are running has many benefits. Some of these include improving your performance by enhancing running efficiency and reducing stress on the joints and muscles, allowing you to continue your running journey injury-free for longer.

Some of the postural cues for you to remember include:

  • Maintaining an upright posture as you run
  • Keeping your core muscles engaged
  • Remembering to relax your shoulders and hands
  • Be mindful of landing on your midfoot
  • Not allowing your arms to swing over the midline of your torso

Changing bad postural habits can take time. But the best way to make these changes is to do regular body scans while you run and make adjustments as needed, such as incorporating running drills into your routine.

#6 Don’t forget to rest

It may sound counterintuitive, but rest days are as important to race preparation as the training itself. This is because of the role that rest plays in muscle recovery. 

When you rest, your muscles have the opportunity to build themselves up, bigger and stronger than they were before. Giving your body proper rest, which means 24 hours between most workouts, and making sure you get 8–9 hours of sleep a night are two easy ways to maximize your gains.

How to Choose Running Shoes

One of the greatest benefits of running, and the thing that attracts many beginners to it, is the fact that it only requires proper running shoes.

However, since it’s the only piece of equipment you’ll be using, it’s important that you invest in a running-specific shoe. Although some people choose to run barefoot, if you’re just starting out, you’ll want a running shoe that provides a good amount of cushioning.

The experts at running specialty stores can help you identify your unique arch type to ensure you find a shoe with just the right amount of cushioning. They can also point you in the direction of shoes made specifically for the terrain you plan to run on to help you avoid slipping and sliding.

How to Prepare for Your First Running Race

Longer races, such as a half marathon, are better reserved for more experienced runners. The most popular race distances for a beginning runner are the 5K (3.1 miles) and the 10K (6.2 miles) and for good reason.

Both of these races offer new runners the opportunity to achieve a big goal without the risk of burnout or injury that comes with running longer distances.

Most 5K running plans recommend a preparation period of 4–6 weeks, while safely training for a 10K will likely take 8–10 weeks, depending on your starting fitness level.

If you’re now unable to run even close to 5 or 10 kilometers, don’t get discouraged. Luckily for you, building up the strength and endurance necessary to run these distances is very possible – as long as you follow a race-specific training plan and stick with it.

These plans are designed to help you gain strength while limiting your chances of overuse injuries, which affect up to 70% of runners each year. Giving yourself enough time to prepare and all the rest days your body needs is the best way to prevent injury while you prep.

FAQs

What is a good running routine for beginners?

A good running routine for beginners is one that doesn’t involve continuous running or running every day but instead strengthens the body through brisk walking done a few times weekly to start.

How long should your long run be?

The ideal length of your long run will differ according to your current fitness level. A good rule of thumb is to aim to run no more than 25–30% of your total weekly mileage in one go, increasing your running distance by no more than 10% every week.

How many miles should a beginner run per week?

Beginning runners may choose to rely on time or distance to measure their weekly mileage. Those who measure mileage will want to run no more than 10–15 miles/week, while timed activity of 100–150 minutes is ideal for injury prevention.

Should beginners run every day?

No, it is not a good idea for beginners to run every day. This can put them at a higher risk of injury or burnout. Instead, try to follow a beginner’s running plan that includes lots of walking.

A Word From a Running Coach

Starting out as a novice runner may seem intimidating, but the truth is that starting your running journey – even as a complete beginner – is easier than you might think.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, improve your mental clarity, or reap the cardiovascular benefits of running, remember that you don’t have to run faster or double your miles per week to get there.

Most people give up running because of injury or burnout. That’s why it’s important to start a beginner’s running plan at a slower walking pace and gradually increase your mileage as your fitness improves. This will put you on the right track to achieving all of your fitness goals.

Conclusion

The truth is, you don’t need a running app or fancy sports drinks to become a better runner. As with any sport, practice makes perfect. The only real way to improve your running is through consistent training and plenty of rest days in between.

Regardless of where you begin your fitness journey, the run/walk method is a great place to start. Once you have built a base, you can begin to run longer distances and incorporate a variety of workouts – including strength training – to maximize results.

Written by Isabel Mayfield
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
The article was fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
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Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield
Dr. Donika Vata
Fact checked by Donika Vata, MD
Last update: July 28, 2023
7 min read 715 Views 0 Comments
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