Beginner Running Plan: Simple 8-Week Program

Published May 24, 2022
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If you've decided to take up running, it's important to find a schedule designed specifically for your level of experience. There are countless plans designed for experienced runners, but those can feel overwhelming if the sport is new to you. A true running plan for beginners will guide you through the process of improving endurance, evaluating your stride, and finding your perfect pace.

This beginning running schedule lasts for eight weeks and the only pre-requisite is that you know how to walk. Are you ready to become a runner? Lace-up your sneakers and let's get started.

8-Week Running Plan for Beginners

This absolute beginner's plan will place you on the right path to reaching your goal to become a runner. Over the course of just two months, you'll build stamina, improve your level of fitness, and gain confidence. At the end of the program, you may even feel inspired to enter a running race or set a new goal to improve your pace or endurance.

Each week, you'll participate in three 30-minute beginner running workouts. Adjust the duration of each session based on your fitness level and your schedule. For instance, if the workout calls for 20 minutes of run/walk intervals and you feel comfortable doing 30 minutes, then go ahead and add the time. By the same token, if 20 minutes feels like too much, start with 15 minutes and build from there.

Week 1: Start Run/Walk Intervals

The most effective way to learn how to run is with walk/run intervals. You'll alternate short segments of slow running, with longer intervals of brisk walking. Over the next several weeks, you'll gradually decrease the amount of time you spend walking and increase the amount of time you spend running.

You can do these workouts on a treadmill or outside on a path or on the road. If you exercise outdoors, be sure to have a way to time yourself for each interval. A smart watch or fitness tracker works well.

Begin each workout with five minutes of brisk walking to warm up your muscles and prepare your body for harder work. Then begin your intervals.

Week 1 Workout

  • 5-minute walking warm-up
  • Jog at an easy to moderate pace for 30 seconds.
  • Walk briskly for 90 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Finish your workout with a five-minute cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

Week 2: Build Confidence and Consistency

You'll notice that the workout for week two is the same as week one. Your goal during the second week of this running program is simply to develop a consistent running routine. Regular workouts train your body to handle exercise with less effort. So, even if you don't feel like you are working very hard, the steady effort will go a long way.

With increased confidence at the end of this week, you should be eager to take on increased intensity.

Week 2 Workout

  • 5-minute walking warm-up
  • Jog at an easy to moderate pace for 30 seconds.
  • Walk briskly for 90 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Finish your workout with a five-minute cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

Week 3: Increase the Effort

You've prepared your body for a longer running segment, so during the third week, you'll run longer and walk less. In fact, your running and walking segments will now last equal amounts of time.

Remember to keep the walking segments brisk. The walking segment should give your body a break from the intensity of running, but you should still feel like you are working at a moderate intensity.

Week 3 Workout

  • 5-minute walking warm-up
  • Jog at an easy to moderate pace for 60 seconds.
  • Walk briskly for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Finish your workout with a five-minute cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

Week 4: Focus on Form

The workouts this week will not change, but your focus will shift to your running form. You should start to feel more comfortable maintaining your run, so you should have the mental bandwidth to tweak your running mechanics.

Week 4 Workout

  • 5-minute walking warm-up
  • Jog at an easy to moderate pace for 60 seconds.
  • Walk briskly for 60 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Finish your workout with a five-minute cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

With each stride, you'll want to maintain good posture. Keep your focus forward and the shoulders relaxed. Allow your arms to swing naturally, with the hands and fingers loose.

The way that your foot hits the ground is called your footstrike. Many experts advise that a midfoot or forefoot footstrike is best. That means that when your foot first contacts the pavement, the middle or front of your foot hits first.

However, many beginner runners find that they hit the ground with their heel first. This is called heel striking. Some coaches try to change heel strikers into midfoot or forefoot strikers, but studies have shown that the effort may not be worth it.

There is no need to change your footstrike, but during your new running program, you may want to identify which footstrike pattern feels best for you. If you're a heel striker, try a midfoot footstrike and see how it feels. Use the stride that works best for your body.

Week 5: Amp Up Your Endurance

Week five is a turning point. For the first time, you'll run more than you walk during workouts. Keep in mind that there is no need to increase your pace from week to week. In fact, you may find that you need to dial back on speed in order to increase your endurance and that's okay.

Week 5 Workout

  • 5-minute walking warm-up
  • Jog at an easy to moderate pace for 90 seconds.
  • Walk briskly for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Finish your workout with a five-minute cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

Week five is a great time to use your favorite playlist or jog with a friend to take your mind off the effort. Since your workout now includes more running and far less rest, it can be easy to experience fatigue faster. Having a social or musical distraction can help.

Week 6: Practice Pacing

The workout for week 6 will be the same as it was for week five, but this week you'll address pace. You can use a fitness tracker or a smartphone app (like RunMeter) that provides pacing feedback., You can also do the workouts on a treadmill.

Week 6 Workout

  • 5-minute walking warm-up
  • Jog at an easy to moderate pace for 90 seconds.
  • Walk briskly for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Finish your workout with a five-minute cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

During each 90-second run interval, establish a sustainable pace that feels like you could maintain for a longer stretch of time. Your body has had a chance to adapt to the mechanics of running, so you should be able to find a running speed that feels sustainable.

Take note of the pace and adjust as needed. If you start to feel winded at the end of each interval, reduce your speed slightly and see if it helps you to feel stronger at the end of your running segment. As a beginning runner, you want to find a pace that is sustainable for 20-30 minutes.

Week 7: Stretch Your Limits

You're going to use your inner voice as your guide during week seven. You'll warm up with a brisk walk as you've done in the past. But if you feel strong enough, you can make it shorter than five minutes. The workout should still last at least 30 minutes, but you can start running whenever your body feels ready.

Then for each running interval, go as far as you can without walking. Unstructured intervals like this are called "fartleks." Usually, fartleks are used for speed workouts where you run fast for a segment and then slow down. But you'll use run/walk fartleks instead.

Start your first interval with a goal of running for at least 90 seconds. Use the pacing information that you learned from last week to get into a comfortable pace. Then when you reach the 90-second mark, see how much farther you can run before you walk. Perhaps you can add another 15 seconds. Perhaps your body is ready for several minutes or more of solid running. Then take no more than 15-30 seconds to walk briskly and start to run again.

Repeat the process for at least 20-30 minutes before ending your workout with a cool-down walk. Remember to complete three workouts this week.

Week 8: Cross the Finish Line

You did it! You've completed seven solid weeks of training and (even though you were a runner when you started) you can now call yourself a runner with greater confidence and pride.

You'll complete three workouts this week lasting 30 minutes or more. Warm-up with a brisk walk or a slow jog. Then ease into a pace that feels sustainable. Remember to check in on your running form. If you feel your form starting to slip, ease off the pace a bit.

At the end of each run this week, take time to give yourself credit for your accomplishment. Your dedication and consistency have delivered you to the finish line. Now it's time to celebrate your success and set a new goal.

Tips for Beginner Runners

Follow these basic tips to get more out of your eight-week program:

  • Before starting your beginning run program, visit a local running specialty store to get fitted for shoes. A trained specialist will evaluate your gait and provide recommendations to keep your feet happy.
  • Wear moisture-wicking running apparel to prevent chafing. Avoid running gear made out of cotton as it retains moisture and can rub against your skin. Moisture-wicking socks are especially important if you are prone to blisters.
  • Schedule your workouts as you would schedule all of your other important events. Take one day each week to put them on your calendar and then post the calendar in a place where you can see it to serve as a reminder.
  • Try to schedule your running workouts at least 48 hours apart to allow your body time to rest and repair. You can do other physical activities on your off days, just be sure to make the effort easy-moderate so that you have enough energy for your running workouts.
  • Build accountability into your new running program by engaging a friend or family member. Knowing that you need to show up for a loved one may help you stick to your plan on days when you feel like skipping a workout.

Lastly, at the end of your program, evaluate your progress and set a new goal. Did you enjoy running? Do you want to continue to build endurance? Perhaps, your success has inspired you to sign up for a 5K or a local fun run to experience the excitement of running in a crowd. Giving yourself the gift of a new goal will help you to make the most of your efforts and keep you on the path to good health and wellness.

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Beginner Running Plan: Simple 8-Week Program