HomeFitnessComplete Beginner's Running Plan: 0 to 5K

Complete Beginner’s Running Plan: 0 to 5K

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Regardless of your fitness level, you can start from zero and build up to running 30 minutes continuously in about 10 weeks. The beginner running plan below, does exactly that. It’s a ten-week run-walk plan, aimed at beginners in good health.

Aim to run 3 times a week, leaving a day to rest between runs. Some people take more time to recover between workouts and should run less often, while others recover very quickly and can run more. Therefore, listen to you body, and take time to recover when you need to and adjust the running plan accordingly (see how to follow this running plan, below).

Also be sure to meet your body’s daily nutritional requirements to aid the recovery process and fuel your runs. Having a snack an hour before your workout will increase your energy levels to help power you through your workout.

Beginner Running Plan

  • Warm up before you start with a 5 – 10 minute fast walk and cool down with 5 – 10 minutes of slow walking.
  • Aim to run 3 times a week.
  • Try to allow for a day of recovery between runs. On those days off you can do other workouts such as swimming, cycling or circuit training. Allow for one complete day of rest per week.
WeekRunning Workout PlanTotal Time
11 min run, 2 min walk (7x)21 minutes
22 min run, 2 min walk (5x)20 minutes
33 min run, 2 min walk (4x)20 minutes
45 min run, 2 min walk (3x)21 minutes
56 min run, 90 sec walk (3x)22 minutes
68 min run, 1 min walk (3x)27 minutes
710 min run, 1 min walk (3x)33 minutes
813 min run, 1 min walk (2x)28 minutes
915 min run, 1 min walk (2x)32 minutes
10Run 30 minutes continuously30 minutes

How to Follow this Running Plan

This program should suit beginners who are comfortable walking briskly for 30 minutes. If you are unable to walk 30 minutes at a brisk pace, start with a walking plan first.

Adjust this running plan to meet your own needs and fitness. Stay at the level you can handle until you feel able to move to the next stage. Do not exceed what you can do, listen to your body. It doesn’t matter if it takes you twenty weeks. The goal is to get there.

On the other hand, if you have been somewhat active before, you may find the program too easy and progress more quickly (or try the 4-week beginners running plan). In that case, simply move forward to the next level.

Remember to clear any exercise program with your doctor before starting, especially if you have a medical condition.

How Fast Should You Run?

Intensity. Run at moderate intensity, which is 60 – 70% maximum heart rate and walk briskly for the walking phases. You should be able to pass the “talk test.”

Pace. Your pace should be slower than you might think. And then slower still. You should be running at the slowest possible pace you can while still running. Run any slower and you’d have to walk. That’s your pace. You will get faster in time. But right now, you’re focused on simply becoming a runner.

If you run too fast, you’ll be too exhausted to repeat the intervals and will probably vow to never run again. So, take your time.

Intervals. The walking breaks are important too. Walking intervals:

  • Allow you to recover so that you can run for longer distances. Remember, you are running for endurance, not to sprint.
  • Break your run into manageable parts, decreasing the likelihood of aches, pain and injury. It also helps you to maintain proper running form.
  • Help you to feel great afterwards, not overwhelmingly fatigued and completely exhausted.

Running Gear

Running requires little gear. The most important? Running shoes and a high-impact sports bra. Everything else, if you need to buy it, can come later.

Running Shoes

Buy yourself some decent running shoes and you’ll be comfortable every step of the way. Get a foot assessment at your local running shoe store and buy shoes that are suited to your individual foot mechanics.

You don’t need to buy the most expensive shoes on offer but make sure you get good quality shoes that will enhance and not hinder your running. 

Read more: How to choose the best running shoes

Running Clothes & Sports Bra

Along with running shoes and well-fitted sports bra is a must. It should be suitable for high-impact exercise and perfectly fitted. Check out how to choose a sports bra.

Dress for comfort and according to the weather. You are going to get warm as you run so make sure you can vent yourself as you heat up.

Layers are always a good idea and a sunhat and sunglasses can make warm weather runs much more enjoyable.

Gloves and a fleece hat are more or less essential come winter time. Finally, wear clothes that will get you seen – especially if you run at night. 

Read more: What to wear running for every temperature

Running Watch

Because of its multiple uses, a running watch is a useful tool.  It can record distance, time, and pace and most running watches these days also have a heart rate monitor function.

The more expensive have GPS capabilities and can monitor route and distance information, which can be downloaded and stored to track performance for future use or comparison purposes.

As you’ll be alternating periods of walking and running, a watch will help ensure you stay on schedule. 

Running Bottle

If you are only running a short distance, chances are you won’t need a drink during your workout but if it is especially warm or you are running a long way, you may need to take on hydrating fluids during your workout.

There are specially designed running water bottles available that fit comfortably around your hand and contain just enough water to ensure you don’t go thirsty during a run. 

Running Technique

While running is a very natural and simple activity, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it wrong-ish! Running will probably never feel effortless but that’s kind of how it should look.

Running smoothly with proper running form makes your running gait more efficient so you can run further and running will feel easier. It also reduces the risk of injury and muscle imbalances.

Here are a few tips to get you started: 

  • Run tall. Lift your head and keep your shoulders down and back. Imagine there is a balloon on a string attached to the top of your head!
  • Run quiet. If you arrival is announced by loud breathing and thumping footfalls, you’re probably wasting a lot of energy. Try to keep your breathing smooth and regular, and your footfalls as quiet as possible. Remember; noise is wasted energy. 
  • Run light. Run lightly as though you are on sand and are trying not to leave any footprints. While this may be difficult at first, you will be rewarded with a much more economical running style which will carry you further and faster for less effort. 

Read more: How to run with proper form

Running is an accessible, natural and effective way to get fit. But most crucial thing is to you stick with it. As the old running adage goes, start slow and finish strong. While normally applied to racing, this saying holds true for starting out too.

Rein in your enthusiasm a little at first, follow the beginner running plan, and you will be rewarded by a long and enjoyable running career. 

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95 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve decided to give this running program a try. I’ll be doing it every second day for the time being, as I do other exercise as well; I’ve always wanted to get into running though. I’m so excited, I just did my first day of this.

  2. thank you so much for this, i suck at general running and exercise, but would like to do it more often in order to lose weight. i’m currently on 3 min run 2 min walk and suprised at how easy and fun i find it! thank you so much 🙂

  3. Hello, I am an avid cyclist, but with winter fast approaching I wanted to change to running bc Id rather be out in the cold for an hour running than 3 to 4 hrs cycling. I started yesterday and ran a little over a mile w/o stopping and wondered if the walk/run was necessary for someone already in shape but not used to running specifically. My lungs could handle it but my legs felt like lead. Its been a few weeks since I quit cycling 80+ miles a week so I have lost some of my leg power, or since running is different they felt like that bc running is high impact and cycling is not. Any suggestions where someone like me should start? Thanks! Jill

    • Hi Jill!
      Try this fast-track running plan for people who are already fit, but beginner runners. Cardiovascularly you’re fit, but it takes time to become more efficient in terms of your running gait and for your leg muscles/ joints to adapt, strengthen and get used to the high impact of running. That’s why a run/ walk plan can help, it gives your body time to adapt and reduces the risk of injury. By all means, if you find some weeks too easy, skip ahead. But remember not only to take your cardiovascular system into consideration but your legs also. Hope this helps!

  4. hi there, i just found this today and i have been walking for 20 min and only able to run for one min but i wasnt doing it this way, also was on the brink of giving it up as a bad joke. i am going to give this a try and cross fingers, my plan is to loose weight but also gain some confidence in myself i will keep you updated 🙂

    • Hi Megan,
      I’m glad you’re not going to give up! I really hope this helps you get into running. And remember, this running plan is just a guide. Some weeks you may find it harder, some easier. Just repeat a week or skip ahead. If you make your main goal to be a runner, you’ll lose weight, because you’ll keep it up. If you make your main goal weight loss, the whole process becomes harder, because you (understandably) want to lose weight fast and you’re more likely to get frustrated and give up (it’s why most people fail with diets or exercise geared just at weight loss). So your mindset sounds good to me, get into running, feel fit, strong and confident and your body will change all by itself. Just remember to watch portion sizes and learn the calorie contents of the foods you eat regularly, so you can keep an eye on your calorie intake. Good luck! Looking forward to hearing how it goes! 🙂

  5. Hi there. I’m 20 and I’ve been overweight (in all honesty, medically obese) for a large portion of my life–though I carry it decently well. I’ve had knee problems, and my patella will dislocate on occasion. Is running still a good option for me, or should I try to lose some weight before giving running a shot? I’m a bit over 200 pounds… 🙁

    • Hi Ally, you could start by walking first to lose weight. Also the elliptical machine allows for a challenging workout and is a great alternative to running. But the elliptical machine, unlike running, is low impact. An extra benefit is that it also feels easier than running and you can workout your upper and lower body on the elliptical. Running is high impact and stressful on the joints, which is why it’s particularly important to start running slowly and build up gradually. Definitely get advice from your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise plan and discuss with him/ her your thoughts about running. They’ll be super happy to help and support you on your fitness journey. Good luck! 🙂

  6. Hello! My husband and I are going to start this program tomorrow! I am overweight and hopping to lose some weight with starting this. My husband just wants to tone things up…men… 🙂 I am hoping this helps, I have tried every other diet and i am afraid i am like my mom, who lost 100 pounds by eating right and just running! so here it goes!!

    Thank you!!

    • You’re welcome! I’m sure you can do it! Your mother is great motivation and you have support from your husband. You sound as though you’ll be fine! Good luck & have fun! 🙂 Let me know how it goes.

  7. I love fitness. I am more into youga and I have done 10 min trainer. I dream of running and enjoying it. I did not know how I would start to be successful at running. This is great information! I am going to start tomorrow! I want to be cardio fit and I want to slim my thighs and lift that butt! Running is going to be my new thing!!!

  8. i was just wondering if this is running/sprinting or jogging because i jog everyday for ten minutes so will it much harder to run? this looks like a great programme and i can’t wait to start tomorrow. i am in France the moment and it is 29 degrees so will it be much easier when i return home to Ireland ?

  9. Im not trying to run to lose weight. Im doing it to tone my legs and calfs. How long do i run for and how often? I dont wanna overdue it.

  10. I am going to TRY this. I am NOT a runner, much more of a jogging gal, but I am willing to try. I am an EMT and busy as heck, so I am hoping to try to do this a couple times a week. thanks!

  11. Hi Im 42 and so out of shape the only running I do is after my 3yr old son. I would love to start this program but scared and dont now were to start I have a treadmill would it be okay to start there?

  12. Hi, I have a few questions… am not a runner, (but have always wanted to be) so every once in a while I try, I find that between the water. the Ipod, the phone, I always feel overwhelmed with everything I am carrying. but fill I need it all….Just wondering any suggestions on how to hold it all together?
    How are these runners keeping time? Just estimations?
    Is the 20 min not including 5-to10 min before and afters? So in reality we need to have about 30 to 40 minutes to do this correct? Thanks so much and looking forward to trying this out?

    • Hi Mandy, it sounds as though a running waist pack would suit your needs. You can put your key and phone in there. For the iPod an iPod armband would be ideal and as for the water you can get a runner’s water bottle that is shaped like an oval water bottle with a hole in it. 🙂
      There are quite a few interval training apps you can download to help keep time.
      The running program doesn’t include warm-up, so be sure to include a warm-up and cool-down!

  13. Hi! This plan looks great! I’ve been trying to get started running and I’ve just been too afraid that it will be too hard. This plan looks so manageable! Question….I’m going to be running on a treadmill, around what speed should I be running at? I don’t want it to be too strenuous so that I die off at the end. Thanks!

  14. Hey, I’ve been needing to get in shape for a while now and stumbled across your running program 😀 however, a few years ago, a ligament injury in my knee means that I have been advised against running. Would cycling at a steady pace on a relatively flat route/at the gym or using the cross-trainer have similar effects to this program as neither of these cause me too much hassle?? I already swim and take part in 2-3 classes a week. Thanks 🙂

  15. Hey, I’ve finished week 1 on this and I’m progressing toward week 2, excellent program :D. On week 2 you seem to have done the math wrong though ( i think it’s supposed to be 2 minutes + 2 minutes times 5 = 20 minutes total). I’m not sure if you put that on purpose or if it was an accident.

    • Thanks Savannah! It is a typo! I’ll correct it. I’m glad you like the program, keep me posted on how it goes! Thanks again for letting me know. 🙂

  16. I have recently started running and love it so far. On the treadmil, I can run for about 6-7 minutes and then rest for a few minutes. I cant wait to try this though.

    My question is, I also do 2-3 classes at the gym a week (boot camp, spinning or strength classes). Would I be overdoing it if I ran on the days I wasn’t doing a class? I have a hard time giving up the strength classes but also don’t want to burn out by adding 4 days of running. Any suggestions would be great.

    • Hi Rachel,
      That’s great! Running in addition to your taking 2-3 classes a week is fine. Just make sure you take a day off to allow for recovery. Above all, listen to your body. Everyone is different and only you know how tired or energized you feel. You can always start with 3 days running and increase that to 4 days as you find it easier. Be flexible and plan your workouts around how you feel. Have fun running! Let me know how you get on with the program!

  17. OK, I’m a middle aged out of shape woman who’s been walking sporadically for several weeks, (never been a runner), but I’m inspired to try this!

  18. Hi, I have recently purchased a treadmill and am wondering if you should run at any kind of incline to simulated road running? Or just flat? I was told to put the machine on 2% is that correct?

    Thanks

    • Hi Mel,
      Lucky you! It’s good to set the treadmill to some sort of incline – 1% incline should be enough. Running at 0% is tantamount to running downhill, because the treadmill belt is propelling you forward and there is no wind resistance, as there would be if you were running outdoors. However, a 1% incline will compensate for the lack of wind resistance and the propelling belt, and make running on the treadmill more closely simulate an running outside. Have fun!

  19. I’ve just started out on this programme and it’s brilliant. I’m doing it every other day with other forms of exercise on the other days (jump rope or yoga) and after a week I’m already noticing a difference in my fitness levels. I can’t wait to see how I feel at the end of it!

    Thanks for this 🙂

  20. I can’t wait to begin this workout. I want to run my first 5k in the next 3 to 4 months and I am embarrassed that running just a mile makes me feel exhausted. Will this program help me achieve my goal?

    • Kara,
      I started doing this program in February. I began with every other day, but soon found myself going every day. I just got back on after a week off for a small surgical procedure and found that I was a little sluggish, but I can tell you that I feel so much better while doing it…and I’m a girl who hasn’t run since she was in grade school.
      Good luck I hope it works out for you! My goal is to run a 5K sometime this year!
      Molly

  21. Hi! I just want to tell you I love this program! In the past I tried to get into running but would always try to jump into it too quickly, burn out then get discouraged and quit. This program has helped me not only get better physically but mentally also, I like that I get a bit in between to walk, it helps me stick with it. I can already run a mile without stopping and 2 miles in 20 mins and I keep improving! I’m working towards a 5k this summer! Good job at creating this program! Its very effective!

    • Hi Ashley,

      Wow. Thanks! Its great to get feedback like that. 🙂 I’m so glad it’s working for you. Running is such a great way to get fit and it’s so liberating. Humans were just meant to run – no equipment needed. Like you said, I think that most of us try to rush it and end up with injuries or feeling disappointed because we tried to do too much too quickly. Good luck for your 5K. And thanks again!

  22. I just started today and I thought I would do every other day. Though I have absolutely no experience with running so I don’t know if that is the correct way to do it or not.

    • Hi Molly,
      3 times week, or every other day is very good to start with. After that just listen to your body. If you feel comfortable you can add a fourth or fifth workout depending on how you’re feeling and how fast you recover after your runs.

      • So I started with every other day, and within two weeks I was doing it nearly every day. In the last three weeks I’ve only missed 2 days. It really is a good feeling. This week I am on the 6 minute run and 90 second walk cycle.
        What I like most about this is it gave me a realistic starting point. I think if I had tried to run on my own I would have been disgusted with myself when I couldn’t even run for three minutes and I would have given up. This was so totally manageable. The first day of the new week I still feel like I’m going to die but I manage to complete it and the next day is so much better!
        Thanks so much for posting this. It really has changed my life…I’ll let you knwo how I’m doign when I am finished with my ten weeks!

  23. are you guys running everyday or like everyother day or what? i have heard it’s not healthy to run everyday so im trying to figure out how this program works…i’d love to join in. i started “week one” on sunday and did it again tuesday and had planned to do it thurs and saturday so would i start week two on monday???

    • I run three times a week, but before I used to run everyday. I didn’t change because it was bad for my body (it was actually pretty good), but because it was too hard and it made me want to stop running. So if you’re a beginner, you don’t want to run everyday, it would be depressing. But continue what you have started, it’s great! I hope you can continue like that, and don’t give up!

  24. I am very interested in this learn to run program but was wandering what speeds do you recoment when running/walking on the treadmill
    thank you

  25. I am on week 3 of this program. I just “graduated” to the 2 min run/ 2 min walk phase. The more I run, the easier it gets! When I used the treadmill at the gym I would count the minutes and talk myself out of doing anything longer than 20 – 30 minutes. Now I find myself surprised (and often disappointed) that my workout is over!

  26. I just finished my first week, I feel embarrassingly out of shape for an active 22 year old but I’m so excited to put the old me in the past and come out of this with a major confidence boost. I can’t wait to run 20 minutes continuously & become a life time runner!

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