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. hi..am looking forward to this. i have just started training two days ago and am feeling great. thank you for this programme.

  2. Hi! I have been going to a crossfit gym 4 times a week and have a BMI of 21, am 5’6” with 17.5% body fat at 133 pounds. However, I used to be a BMI of 19 or 20 and weigh 125….I like that my thighs are shaping up more with the workouts at crossfit, however, I have gained 8 pounds, my thighs are getting really big (for me), and yet I don’t feel like the fat is coming off so now my pants don’t fit. I hate running, but I started today with the beginner’s running plan and am excited to try it. Do you think I should go to this crossfit gym 3x per week, run the other 3 days for 20 minutes and then rest one day? We do a ton of deadlifts, squatting, rowing, lunges, etc. that bulk the thigh and I read the post on how to slim muscular thighs as I’m definitely a mesomorph and am thinking this cardio plan may help? But some places on your site say 20-30 minutes is good other places say 40-60 is good, which is it? and how many times a week is good? Thank you! Amazing amazing amazing wonderful helpful inspiring site!

  3. Hey! I just finished my first day today and I have some questions.
    What if i’m interested in running 7 days a week, would that be wise or should i not do it no matter how pumped I am?
    I’m not technically ‘out of shape’, but i’m not in the best of shape either.

    Also, would this help with weight loss? I’m interested in being overall physically fit but also hopefully shed some pounds along the way. 8)

  4. Hi ! I need some help and I hope you answer this. I really want to loose weight and burn fat, especially on my thighs. Is this a good one for burning thigh fat or does it build muscles? And how should I do if I want to work my butt because if I do squats and lunges it will affect my thighs and it will build muscles. How should I do? Should I just run or do these intervals ? Thankful for any answer.

    • Hi, there is no specific pace that you should set the treadmill at. It varies from person to person. It’s more about what feels comfortable for you. So run at a pace that allows you to run for the prescribed time and then recover during the walk period. Basically you’re looking to run at a moderate pace (about 60 – 70% maximum heart rate). It’s not so much about speed as about how you feel. You should be able to finish your running workout feeling challenged, but not completely exhausted. Good luck! Keep us posted on your progress! I hope you’ll love running as much as we do! 🙂

  5. Hey guys, good luck to everyone doing this beginner’s program. I’ve wanted to be a runner for some time now and I’m extremely happy that I came across this site. I think it’s the best that I’ve found, everything one could possibly want to know about fitness is here. Thank you guys so much for providing this tool for us! I need clarification on one thing, I know that we should have a rest day in between runs but wanted to know if I’m doing 5 days a week is it ok to take the same days off every week ex: run Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, with Wed and Sun off or should I switch up my off days? Any suggestions would help, thanks!

  6. I just finished my 2nd week and I feel good. I was adjusting my app that times my walking and running and just realized that for my second week instead of 5 sets, I did 7 sets since I forgot to change it, oh well more exercise. My first day, I remember that when it got close to 1 min of running I already was tired and wanted to stop…and it was only the 1st set. By the end of the week I didn’t feel tired at all. This week was the same my lasts sets were the ones where I wanted to stop…the ones I accidently added on…but I kept with it even though I was a lot slower then when I started the sets. I’m a little afraid of week 3 but I’m going to try and report back.

  7. Sorry but one point of confusion: “All it requires on your part is the commitment to go out and run 3, preferably 5 times, a week. Depending on how often you are running, try to allow for a day of recovery between runs. For example, if you are running 4 times a week, avoid running 4 consecutive days.” If it’s preferrable to run 5 times a week, how do we implement that in a 7-day week?

    Thanks, I’m not trying to be a smart-alec, just trying to make sure I’m following the strategy correctly.

    • Hi Ann,
      Basically, all it means is try to avoid consecutive days of running where possible. As an example, if you’re running 5 days a week, rather than running Monday through to Friday, run Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri, Sat, with Wednesday and Sunday off. Hope that makes things a bit clearer!

  8. I’m new to running but I am active. I go on the elliptical for 60 minutes 4-5 times per week so now would it be easier to run on a track (which I’m assuming it would) but if I’m new to running is it ok to run in my development. There are hills but I’m thinking I would stick to the roads that are a little more flat. Just curious on what most beginners would do

  9. I am planning on starting this tomorrow as it is the first of the month! I have really wanted to start running and this sounds like a great easier, great way to start out. Im not much of a runner, never have been but my goal for this year at some time is to run at least a 2k run locally and finish. I will try and keep you updated on progress! Thanks very much!

  10. Alright. Its time for feedback. This program works. Its easy. It gives one time to adapt. There were times i refused to get up in the morning and there were times i thought i would not make it at all. Just a little self doubt. Stick to the program. It worked for me. It will work for anyone else.

  11. Thanks for posting this! Would you also recommend this “beginners” program for people resuming activities after injury? I just had my torn ACL repaired and I’m itching to get back to running so I’m praying my PT will approve of doing something regimented like this once I’m cleared to run! If anyone’s in the same boat comment and let me know what ya think

    • Hi Stephanie, make sure to clear any running program with your physio/ doctor first. You don’t want to get back into running too early and then suffer further setbacks! Wishing you a speedy recovery! 🙂

  12. This program is great!!! Thank you very much 🙂 this is my 4th week and I’m doing it very good. good luck to all :)))

  13. I just started the 10 week beginners running program. Yesterday was day 1 and I am so proud that I was able to do it. It was not easy, but I was able to get through it. I am 50-years-old and have wanted to run for quite some time. I would like to do a marathon at some point in my life. I will keep you posted on my progress.

  14. I recently have lost 10lbs so far in my weight loss journey and was looking for a way to build my stamina plus I needed something to help me bust this plateau! lol I’ve only got 15 lbs to go! I’m starting this today! Why wait?!!! Thanks so much! I’ll check in weekly!

  15. I want to participate in a 5K this May 4. My plan is to start this today (seeing as how I have 7 weeks until the run). My question is, if I start this and follow it to the ‘t’ along with adjusting my run/walk based on how I see my body performing, do u think I will be prepared to run the 5K?? I don’t care how long it takes me to finish the 5K, just as long as I finish the run without stopping to walk. I’m 35 years old and about 20 lbs over my ideal weight.

  16. hi its makaila im going to start on monday and i really hpe this works cause i have tried everything and nothing seems to work but thats ok so yeah :]

  17. Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for posting this!! I found this website through pintrest and it is exactly what my weight loss plan needed! I have an athletic build so it’s pretty easy for me to adapt to a workout, even though I haven’t worked out in years. I just recently got motavated to loose the weight and get fit, and now I am really excited! This running plan along with the Podrunner app on my ipod will get me through this. 🙂

    thanks agian!

  18. i cnt go out as am a bit shy.no1 s willing 2acompany me.could u plz tell if i could spot jog or jog in circles insid d room.plz suggest.

    • Hey Tracy,
      Running in the same spot will help improve your cardiovascular fitness and will burn calories, but it isn’t really the same as running as you can’t “run” like you would outdoors. Your stride length would be much shorter because you’re remaining in the same place or are confined to a small space. Basically you’re not able to stretch your legs out in front of you as you would when you’re running. But start small – start with indoor exercises and as you get more confident, go outside for 5 or even 10 minutes at a time with a family member for support. You don’t have to do 30 minutes. Take it slowly and your confidence will grow! Good luck with everything! 😉

  19. Hi,

    I am looking to adopt this plan you’ve created above, I used to go to a personal trainer and lost 30 inches but had to stop due to an ENT operation. I went to sign up to go back and his prices are just far too expensive now. I am looking to take up running as my partner loves it too and it would be a great thing to do together (He runs 2 miles four times a week) but I dont want to slow him down. I am overweight, so do you think it is best to try this plan or try doing each cycle over 2 weeks? so 1 min run then 2 min walk(X7) for two weeks or should I just try doing it in one week?

    I took part in a 5k last year and power walked the entire race, but this year I am hoping to run majority if not all of it.

    many thanks.

  20. ,Hi, just read the program, I am 59 over weight , out of shape, one bad knee, but I am going to give this program a try. I have always wanted to be a runner, but was afraid to start. any suggestions as to how to run on a treadmill, it just feels very akward. Its been very icey and cold, as soon as the weather breaks, I will be outside. Thanks again for any suggestions

  21. Starting this beginner program. I like the baby steps, I dread running as its really outside my comefort zone. Reading the comments is really inspiring. I have marked off the 10 weeks on my calendar, and hope to be encouraging someone else in the next two months.

    • Hey Jared,
      Yes! I really hope you’ll love it! Remember that it’s a guide. So if you need to adapt it to your needs, by all means do so. For example, some weeks you may want to skip a week, other weeks you may want to repeat a week. Listen to your body. Good luck! I look forward to hearing your success story in a couple months! 🙂

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