Beginner Running Plan: 9 Ways From Zero To Runner Hero
As a beginner runner, you need a plan. This is the best way to go from being a walker to getting started in the sport. A beginner running plan is also the best way to feel like your experience level go from being at a zero to a feeling like legit runner like our heroes.
It can take months and even years in some cases for runners to actually feel like they are a runner. Keep in mind that if you are physically running (that includes with walk breaks) at any pace you are a runner.
What you need to a beginner running plan to get to that step of being able to take off without feeling like you are dying or want to immediately quit.
From Zero To Runner Hero
We all start from the same starting line. This happens at different times in life, and that path takes some the pro route while others just run because they want to be fit and enjoy the activity.
Having a running plan for beginners is necessary for multiple reasons. It’s the basis from going from zero miles to a 5k, then 10k, half marathon, marathon and so on.
A solid plan means accountability. It is much easier to stay on track and get runs done when there is a plan in place. Scheduling runs means the intention is already out there for a bigger chance of sticking to the game plan.
Plus it helps to prevent injuries associated with overuse, taking on too many miles too fast or close together.
Sure, even our running heroes get injured. But they have years of experience and a team of professionals on their sideline. Follow a beginner running plan to ensure that you don’t need to take a break before even getting close to feeling progress.
Running Plans For Beginners
A simple search online reveals countless different running plans.
Here is an overview of the common ones.
Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run Method:
Created by the Olympian Galloway, this plan is perfect for beginners because it calls for running for up to 30-seconds, then walking for one to two minutes. Then repeat. This plan is so successful, even half marathoners and marathoners use it.
Couch to 5k program:
This is another popular beginner running plan, and its name says it all. It gets people from not having any running experience to being able to finish a 5k (3.1 miles) in nine weeks. This program includes intervals of walking and running until getting to run the entire distance without stopping.
Distance-specific running plans by Hal Higdon:
Higdon offers plans from 5k to marathons and distances in between. There are adjustments made in the program for beginners, intermediate and advanced runners, as well as walkers. This is a popular running plan for beginners training for a half marathon, taking the runner from 4-miles on week one to up to 10-miles before the 12-week plan ends with race day.
This is another program created by Hal Higdon. It is a beginner running program that really teaches people how to start running. The plan starts with just 30-minutes of exercise for 30 days. This consists of just walking and then builds up to a few minutes of jogging and walking until a base is built to be able to run. Keep in mind this requires 30-days of workouts or 60-days, going out every other day.
Nike 5k Training Plan:
This is a good option for those looking to track runs with the Nike + Run Club app. It is 8-weeks long and is customized based on your schedule. The runner chooses the days they workout and which four days are for recovery. The training includes speed and endurance runs, which helps to make a well-rounded runner.
Want to run faster? There are specific training plans for beginners to increase speed.
Try an advanced version of Hal Higdon’s plans.
It’s important to mix up the kinds of runs to include sprints, hills at a slower pace, and tempo runs. It’s best to first reach a major distance goal and then work on speed as a beginner.
9 Ways To Go From A Zero To Feeling Like A Runner
Knowing which beginner running plan is right for you is just the start of the process. Now it’s time to start getting to work. Follow these tips and you will start feeling like a runner—and actually start running in no time.
1. Strategize: Set Short-Term And Long-Term Goals
Before getting out there, come up with a game plan. Having a strategy for tackling this challenge is everything.
This means first setting the main goal. This could be being able to run 3.1 miles, a 5k or running a marathon. But be realistic and set a time to complete the goal. A marathon is a great goal for completing in the next few years, but a 5k can be done in just a few months.
Set multiple short-term goals to help achieve the larger one. This includes running a mile non-stop, running an 8-minute mile, or running 3 times a week. Be specific.
Then create a workout schedule. Strategize which days of the week are dedicated to run, which are for cross-training and rest.
2. Keep Track Of Workouts
This means writing everything down.
Start by getting a running journal and mapping out each week’s workouts. Then after each run or workout, enter in details like time, pace, what you ate before and how you felt during.
Having runs written down adds an accountability factor. Pencil it in like an appointment.
Also, keep track of workouts by downloading a running or fitness app. Invest in a running watch if you can to also see pace and distance. Keeping track of progress helps to see overall growth.
3. Train Like A Pro Runner
You don’t need to be a professional runner competition on the world’s stage to channel one. Training like a pro means having the mental grit, determination and inner motivation to push through workouts—even when we don’t want to.
Start by considering yourself an athlete now. Even if you are walking or taking walking breaks, you are moving and being active and increasing fitness.
Even without following a specific plan, beginners should start running three times a week. Avoid running back-to-back days at first to avoid injuries like shin splints.
Increase mileage slowly.
Training like a pro means also incorporating cross-training in the mix. Strength train by using weights at home or the gym twice a week. Take a spin class or play basketball. Keep workouts fun and fresh to stick with the program.
4. Know Your Pace
Beginners often suffer from common mistakes like start too fast. Before you are even a half-mile into the run, your lungs are burning and legs are heavy.
Think of the start of the run as the warm-up. Always stretch before a run, but start slow when it’s time to get going. Then increase the pace.
Pace should be conversational for beginners. Don’t worry about being speedy. You should be able to talk without being completely out of breath.
Save the speed sessions for later when you are more established as a runner.
5. Fuel Up
Beginners need to have a plan when it comes to nutrition. It’s not enough to run for 30-minutes and continue to eat junk.
Runners need to fuel their bodies with healthy, wholesome foods. Think of it as giving the tank gas it needs to run smoothly. Junk food before a workout means being lazy, bloated and tired. Healthy options mean having the energy to push through.
This also means drinking lots of water before, during and after runs.
Those beginners looking to run mid- to long-distances also need to read up on fuel during the run. There are various sports nutrition products like energy gels and chomps for this purpose.
6. Gear Up
Beginners also need to know what gear they need.
This means just getting the most durable shoes for running. Go to a running store and get properly fitted.
This is a right of passage to make you feel like a pro runner and sport the pro gear. But it is to also have the right size and fit to prevent injury and discomfort.
As mentioned before, a running watch is also a good idea, but not required for beginners. All other gear is just extras unless running long distance which requires hydration and fuel gear.
7. Nail Down Proper Form
One of the main reasons why running feels hard or uncomfortable for beginners is because these runners have poor form.
Know that even pro runners have to focus on their form. It takes time and practice.
But the head should always be up, don’t look down, arms swinging front and back, not across the chest. Lead with the hips and don’t overstride.
8. Embrace The Warm-Up
Beginner runners number one fail is not warming-up properly.
The muscles and ligaments need to be stretched and warmed up to work it the best of its ability and without injury.
But the misconception is dropping down for a few seconds to touch the toes is enough. Warm-up instead by getting the blood pumping. Do what is called a dynamic warm-up which consists of moves like forward lunges, squats, and leg swings before the run.
9. Sign Up For A Race
Nothing makes a runner more legit than a race. Once you complete your first race, it’s hard not to feel like a pro runner.
You put in the hard work, stuck to a goal and accomplished it.
Keep up the momentum and continue to sign up for races throughout the year. This helps to keep pursuing running. Plus the experience makes a beginner feel more and more like a seasoned runner over time.