Beginner RunnerRunners' Motivation

How to Start Running: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

9 Mins read

Are you ready to lace up your running shoes and embark on a thrilling journey towards becoming a runner?

Then you’ve come to the perfect place.

As someone who has been pounding the pavement for over a decade and has guided countless beginners to running success, I’m here to equip you with everything you need to know to kickstart your running adventure.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll unveil the secrets to becoming a confident and injury-free runner. No more wondering how to start running or feeling overwhelmed by the process.

I’ll explain  how often you should run, the correct running technique to prevent injuries, and the ultimate beginner running plan that will take you from hesitant steps to victorious strides.

But wait, there’s more! Once you’ve conquered the basics, we’ll take your training to the next level, unlocking new levels of endurance, speed, and strength. You’ll learn the tips and tricks to elevate your running game and unleash your full potential.

By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and tools to unleash your inner runner and reap the remarkable benefits that running has to offer.

Ready? Let’s get started!

How to Start Running? – The Exact System You Need

So you have decided  to start running.

First things first: Relax.

You won’t have to sacrifice an arm and a leg to the running gods to get started.

In fact, it’s not overwhelming, complicated, nor expensive.

The hardest part about taking up running for the first time is actually taking the first step.

If you do that, you’ve already gone farther than 82.5 percent of the population (a totally bogus statistic that I made just to make a point!), so give yourself a pat on the back.

If you ask me, it’s actually the easiest thing to do in the world—as long as you follow beginner running rules.

That’s where this section comes in handy.

Without further ado, here’s the exact step-by-step you need to become a runner.

Start Easy

Whether you’re a newbie lacing up your shoes for the very first time or a seasoned runner returning after a hiatus, there’s one golden rule you must engrave in your mind: start easy and build gradually. Trust me, I’ve witnessed too many beginners take on more than they can handle, only to find themselves sidelined by injuries or completely drained within weeks. We don’t want that for you.

Picture this: you’re famished, and a mouthwatering buffet lays before you. You can’t resist the temptation, so you pile your plate high with every delectable dish in sight. But soon enough, you realize that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

The same principle applies to running. If you go from zero to full-throttle, diving headfirst into high-intensity, high-volume, and high-impact training within a short period, you’re treading on dangerous ground.

Let me give it to you straight. You’re practically asking for trouble—burnouts and overuse injuries like Runners Knee and Stress Fractures—when you push too hard, too soon. Take a moment to let that sink in. It’s like trying to sprint before you’ve even learned to crawl.

During the first few months of your training (yes, I said months!), it’s essential to take it easy and embrace the beginner’s mindset. Start right where you are, not where you wish to be. It may not sound as glamorous as diving into intense workouts, but trust me, it’s the smartest approach you can take.

Additional resource – How to start running with your dog

Walk Before you Run

Not only does walking help you shed those extra pounds, but it also boosts your stamina, reduces stress, enhances your physical shape, and improves your overall health and well-being. It’s the foundation upon which you’ll build your running empire.

Now, let’s talk strategy. In these initial weeks, as you embark on your fitness journey, make it a habit to take 8 to 10 30-minute walks. This will gradually prepare your body for the transition into running. Think of it as priming the engine before you hit the gas pedal.

But what if you’re already in decent shape? Well, my friend, you’re ready to kick it up a notch. Gradually increase the duration of your walks to 60 minutes, three to four times a week. Allow your body to adapt to this new level of activity for at least three weeks before delving into the beginner running plan that awaits you.

How to Progress?

Now, it’s time to take your training to the next level and introduce a game-changing method that will revolutionize your running experience. Say hello to the walk/run method, a genius strategy crafted by the renowned running guru Jeff Galloway.

Here’s the secret sauce: the walk/run method combines the best of both worlds—low-intensity running intervals and strategic walking breaks. It’s like a beautifully choreographed dance between your feet and the ground, allowing you to manage fatigue, improve your fitness, and build stamina while safeguarding yourself from discomfort, injuries, and burnouts. It’s a method backed by science and championed by countless runners who have successfully embraced it.

Let’s break it down. As you transition from walking to incorporating running into your routine, take it step by step, quite literally. During the first week, aim for 20 to 30 minutes of walking per session. Feel the rhythm of your feet hitting the pavement as you gradually build up your strength.

As you move into the second week, it’s time to kick things up a notch. Increase your walking duration to 30 to 35 minutes per session. You’re pushing your boundaries, challenging your body to adapt and grow stronger.

But we’re not stopping there. Oh no, we’re just getting started. From here on out, I want you to add two to three precious minutes to your walks with each passing week. It may seem like a small increment, but it’s these incremental steps that will lead you to greatness. Keep adding those minutes until you’re comfortably walking for at least an hour. Feel the confidence surge through your veins as you conquer each milestone.

Once you’ve reached the point where you can power walk for an hour without breaking a sweat, it’s time to unleash the true runner within you. It’s time to embrace the run/walk method, alternating between easy jogs and well-deserved walking breaks. By incorporating short bursts of running into your regular walks, you’ll extend your endurance, push your limits, and remain injury-free.

How Much is Enough?

The exact run to walk ratio depends, mostly, on your current fitness level and training goals.

Now, here’s the golden rule: take breaks at the right times. Just like a well-timed pit stop during a thrilling race, these breaks will ensure you don’t push yourself to the brink of exhaustion. It’s all about strategic rest, my friend.

Let’s explore three walk-to-running ratios that you can experiment with. Remember, you have the freedom to choose the one that suits you best. No pressure, no judgment—just you and your personalized running journey.

If you’re just starting out on this exhilarating path, consider yourself a complete beginner. Start by running at an easy and slow pace for 10 to 20 seconds, and then reward yourself with a rejuvenating one to two minutes of walking. Feel the rhythm of this alternating dance between running and walking, allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger with each step.

As you progress and enter the intermediate stage, typically after two to three weeks of consistent running, it’s time to challenge yourself a little further. Embrace the runner within you by extending your running intervals. Push yourself to run for two to five minutes, and then savor the bliss of one to two minutes of walking. It’s a delicate balance, a symphony of effort and recovery, propelling you towards your running aspirations.

Now, if you’ve been on this running journey for over a month, congratulations! You’ve reached the realm of experience. It’s time to unleash your true potential. Challenge yourself to run for a solid ten minutes, immersing yourself in the sheer exhilaration of movement. Then, catch your breath with a short but well-deserved 30 seconds to one minute of walking.

Additional resource – Here’s your guide to running three miles a day.

Run For longer

As you progress on your running journey, the key is to gradually increase the time you spend running while reducing the number of recovery breaks you take. It’s a beautiful dance between pushing your limits and allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger. Picture it like a challenging puzzle where each piece fits into place with each passing day.

Now, let’s talk about reaching that magical milestone of running for a solid 25 to 30 minutes without feeling like you’re gasping for air. The timeline for reaching this goal varies depending on your current fitness level, but one thing is certain: consistency is the name of the game.

Stay committed and trust the process.

With each step, each breath, and each stride, you’ll inch closer to that moment of effortless running bliss.

Once you’ve conquered the 30-minute mark with ease, it’s time to level up your running game. It’s time to add a dash of variety to your training program. Think of it as spicing up a delicious dish with different flavors and textures. You can add distance to challenge your endurance, incorporate speed work to enhance your quickness, and conquer hills to strengthen those leg muscles. The possibilities are endless, and your running adventure is about to get even more exciting.

Now, let’s talk about exertion levels during your runs. It’s important to find that sweet spot where you’re pushing yourself enough without going into full-on sprint mode. Aim for a 6 to 7 out of 10 on the exertion scale during the running portion of your workout. Feel the burn, embrace the challenge, but also listen to your body’s cues.

And when it’s time to switch to a walking break, dial it down to a comfortable 2 to 3 on the exertion scale. It’s all about finding that delicate balance and honoring your body’s needs.

Want more structure?

Try my couch to 5K treadmill plan.

Follow a Beginner Running Plan

Having a plan is key to achieving any goal–let alone running.

You don’t pursue a career in marketing, for example, without a concrete plan of studying the right books and tutoring under the right teachers.

That’s why I highly recommend you follow a well rounded, well-thought training plan, just like the one shared below.

Doing so will not only help you build your training volume, but also keep you motivated beyond the initial motivation.

The simple beginner runner plan features three days of run-walk sessions.

You begin with a few short intervals of running–or slow-paced jogging–for 30 to 60 seconds, then build you on that while taking less and less for recovery.

By the end of the eight weeks, you should be able to run for thirty minutes straight–that’s roughly two to three miles–without much trouble.

Week One – Walk for five minutes, then jog for 30 to 6o seconds.

Repeat three to four times.

Week Two – walk for three minutes, then jog for one to two minutes.

Repeat the sequence for four to five times.

Week Three – Walk for three minutes, then jog for two to three minutes.

Repeat the cycle for five to six times.

Week Four – Walk for three minutes, then jog for three minutes.

Repeat the cycle six times.

Week Five – Walk for two minutes, then jog for three to four minutes.

Repeat the cycle four to five times.

Week Six – Walk for two minutes, then jog for five minutes.

Repeat the sequence three to four times.

Week Seven – Walk for two minutes, then jog for eight to ten minutes.

Repeat the cycle two to three times.

Week Eight – Warm up by brisk walking for 10 minutes, then slow jog for 20 to 30 minutes while keeping an easy and conversational pace.

Just keep in mind that this is a generic plan, so feel free to adjust it according to your own needs and preferences.

It’s not written in stone by any means.

Looking for a more extensive plan?

Try my couch to 5K training schedule.

And if you’re into challenges?

Give this 30-day running challenge a try.

You can also learn how to design your running plan here.

Note – Here’s how often should you run per week.

How Long Does it Take To Become A Runner?

If only I could conjure a magical stopwatch to provide you with a definitive answer. Alas, my friend, the path to becoming a runner is as diverse and intricate as the winding trails we traverse.

I must emphasize that each individual embarks on this journey with a unique set of circumstances and characteristics. Just as each snowflake boasts its own intricate design, your journey to becoming a runner is a personal tale, shaped by a multitude of factors.

Let’s explore some of these factors that weave together to create your running narrative:

First and foremost, we have your current shape. Are you starting from scratch, or do you possess a level of fitness from previous activities? Your starting point sets the stage for the adventure that lies ahead.

Consider your training history. Have you dabbled in running before, or are you a complete novice to the world of pounding pavement? Previous experiences, whether they involve running or other forms of physical activity, contribute to your body’s adaptation process.

Age is but another brushstroke on the canvas of your running journey. As the years grace us with their presence, our bodies may respond differently to the rigors of training. Fear not, for age is but a number, and determination knows no bounds.

Ah, the weight we carry, both physically and metaphorically. Your current body weight can influence the demands placed upon your joints, muscles, and cardiovascular system. Remember, every stride forward is a step towards a stronger and healthier you, regardless of the number on the scale.

Now, let us not overlook the intricate tapestry of our genetic makeup. Like a hidden treasure map, our genetic composition influences our body’s response to training stimuli. Embrace your unique genetic blueprint, for it holds the secrets to unlocking your potential.

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