July 8

How to Start Running: A Guide for Beginners


A Beginner's Guide to Running

Discover the basics of running and how to start a 10-week training plan

If you’ve wanted to step into the world of running but don’t know where to start, you’re not alone. Countless people search the internet daily with questions about how to start running for beginners. Getting started can be intimidating, anyone can become a seasoned runner with the right tools.

Before hitting the pavement, you’ll want to have a few things picked out: a running program or coach, ways to reward yourself as you train, a progress tracking system, the right gear, and something to work toward.

Make a Plan That Sets You Up for Success

Mount Rainier Runners 2 scaled

Pick a Running Plan

Some new runners hire a running coach, while others find a running program online to follow. A good running program, whether personalized by a coach or found online, encourages slowly building running volume while incorporating cross-training and strength training. 

Most runners benefit from a routine and predictable running plan. Planning each week and running at a designated time can help you stay consistent and make your running plan easier.

Choose a Rewards System

When getting started, one of the most important things you need  is a reason to stay motivated. Research shows that incorporating a reward system helps to increase motivation. Getting rewarded for sticking to your plan will provide you with the boosts you need to keep going.

A reward can be as simple as meeting with friends for a post-run coffee at the end of each week if you’ve hit your goals. Or, after a bigger goal is achieved, you can reward yourself with booking a trip with scenic running trails. Having the value of the reward match the size of the accomplishment will keep you motivated to work towards the big goals. 

Add Social Accountability

Sharing your running goals with your friends and family is a great way to get a support system and hold yourself accountable. Running with a friend can also help develop a routine. 

Another idea is to join a local running group. If you are a social person, this allows you to get to know other runners and ask questions. You may even be rewarded with a new friendship. You can find a running group by doing a quick internet search for local groups in your area. Many local running stores also have running groups.

Get the Right Gear

Running gear can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. At the bare minimum, you need a good pair of well-fitting shoes to run in and some comfortable clothing. However, many other items that can make your running experience more enjoyable and are worth checking out if you’re in it for the long haul. 

Here are some of the must-have pieces of gear for beginner runners: 

  • Good pair of running shoes for the type of terrain you want to run on
  • Running specific socks to help prevent blisters
  • Pants or shorts that are comfortable, breathable, and fit well
  • Breathable shirt without seams, which often cause chafing
  • Proper-fitting sports bra for women
  • Running belt for storing phone, keys, and fuel for when your runs get longer
  • A smartwatch that can track heart rate, mileage, and other data

Running shoes are one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll need to start your running journey. Local running stores can be a valuable resource for finding the right pair. Many offer free gait analysis and shoe fittings and can provide recommendations for your individual needs. 

Here are some factors to keep in mind when you are choosing running shoes: 

  • Where you are planning to run: treadmill, trails, gravel paths, road, etc.
  • The level of cushioning and support you need
  • How far you are planning to run: short runs vs. marathons
  • Your pronation, which is how your foot rolls inward vs. outward

Start Moving

Runners descend a sunny paved path through the green valleys of Estes Park at the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon by Vacation Races

You want to start slowly and work your way up as you begin running. Running too many miles too soon can result in injury, burnout, or both. While you may feel good and be excited about racking up your mile count, it takes time to build up how many miles you are running and the pace you can run. 

Start Walking

If running seems too intense, a walking routine is highly recommended. Although running requires different mechanics from walking, it can still help build your stamina and muscle tone. 

One method of transitioning from walking to running is to do occasional “speed walking” during your usual walks. These can be anywhere from 30-second to 5-minute bursts at a quicker-than-normal pace. Doing this raises your heart rate higher, which helps you prepare for the cardiovascular output that running requires. 

Once you are comfortable with walking, you can start the run-walk-run method, which encourages taking walk breaks as needed and doing a combination of running and walking. 

Ease Into Running

As previously mentioned, to safely build up your mileage and intensity, you must ease into it. When new to a high-impact activity like running, it is best to start slowly and build up over time to avoid injuries. 

Another way to avoid injury from the impact of running is to run on a variety of surfaces (concrete, asphalt, dirt, etc) and perform regular strength training. Don’t get tempted to go too far too soon, as that tends to be a primary cause of injury. Slow and steady is really best. 

Cross-training on a bike, elliptical, rower, or swimming is also beneficial for running. Although the movements may be different, these types of cardio still improve your cardiovascular health and endurance, which will be reflected in your running. 

Here is an example run training program that shows how to start running for beginners:










Run 1 min/Walk 1 min for 20 mins

Walk 15 mins


Run 1 min/Walk 1 min for 20 mins

Cross-train for 20 mins

Run 1 min/Walk 1 min for 20-25 mins

Walk 20 mins


Run 1:30/Walk 1 min for 20-25 mins

Walk 20-25 mins with occasional 1-2 min bursts at a faster pace


Run 1:30 min/Walk 1 min for 25 mins

Cross-train for 20-25 mins

Run 1:30 min/Walk 1 min for 25 mins

Walk 25 mins


Run 2 min/Walk 1 min for 25-30 mins

Walk for 25-30 mins


Run 2 min/Walk 1 min for 25-30 mins

Cross-train for 25 mins

Run 2 min/Walk 1 min for 25-30 mins

Walk 30 mins


Run 2:30 mins/Walk 1 mins for 30-35 mins

Walk for 30 mins


Run 2:30 mins/Walk 3 seconds for 30-35 mins

Cross-train for 30 mins

Run 2:30 mins/Walk 3 seconds for 30-35 mins

Walk 35 mins


Run 3 mins/ Walk 2 mins for 30-35 mins

Walk for 30 mins


Run 3 mins/ Walk 1:30 mins for 30-35 mins

Cross-train for 30 mins

Run 30 consecutive mins, taking 1 min walking breaks as needed. 

Walk 40 mins


Run 3 mins/Walk 1 min for 35-40 mins

Walk for 40 mins


Run 3 mins/Walk 1 min for 35-40 mins

Cross-train for 35 mins

Run 35 mins, consecutive mins, taking 1 min walking breaks as needed.

Walk 40 mins


Run 3:30 mins/Walk 1 mins for 30 mins

Walk for 40 mins


Run 3:30 mins/Walk 30 seconds for 30 mins

Cross-train for 37 mins

Run 40 mins, consecutive mins, taking 1 min walking breaks as needed.

Walk 50 mins


Run 4 mins/Walk 1 min for 35-40 mins

Walk for 45 mins


Run 4 mins/Walk 1 min for 35-40 mins

Cross-train for 40 mins

Run 45 mins, consecutive mins, taking 1 min walking breaks as needed.

Walk 45 mins


Run 4 mins/Walk 30 seconds for 35-40 mins

Walk for 45 mins


Run 4 mins/Walk 30 seconds for 35-40 mins

Cross-train for 40 mins

Run 50 mins, consecutive mins, taking 1 min walking breaks as needed.

Walk 45 mins


Run 5 mins/Walk 1 min for 35-40 mins

Walk for 45 mins


Run 5 mins/Walk 30 seconds for 35-40 mins

Cross-train for 30 mins


Run 5 min/Walk 30 seconds (or less) for 5k

Training for a half marathon? Check out our guide!

Maintain Proper Technique

Using proper technique when running helps your body be more efficient as you run and is helpful in preventing injury. Some guidelines include:

  • Look ahead (instead of downwards)
  • Keep your shoulders opened up and loose
  • Move your arms at a 90-degree angle and keep your elbows close to your sides
  • Make sure your hands are relaxed
  • Maintain a strong posture and keep a tight core 
  • Slightly tilt your hips instead of being completely upright
  • Landing midfoot as you strike the ground

Watching videos of professional long-distance runners can also help you visualize good running techniques and will show you that there is no perfect technique.  

Establish a good warm-up routine before you get going. This will help prevent injury and can make your workout feel smoother when you start. By increasing your body temperature and loosening up your muscle fibers, your body will be better able to tolerate the demands that exercise puts on them. Your cardiovascular system will be less shocked when you get moving.

Warm-up suggestions:

  • 3-minute brisk walk

Cool-down suggestions:

  • 2-minute slow and easy jog
  • 10 side lunges per side
  • 10 air squats
  • 10 sit-ups 

Stay Consistent

A woman grins and poses for the camera as she sprints towards the Vacation RacesShenandoah Half Marathon finish line

Once you have set a routine, you need to stick to it. While skipping one day may seem like it won’t be an issue, it opens the door for you to skip planned workouts down the road. This is best avoided by setting a realistic weekly schedule in advance. 

Seeking out new places to run, finding a pace that works for you, running with a friend of similar ability, and tracking your progress throughout your journey can also help keep you motivated and consistent in your training.

Seek Out New Places to Run  

Spending all your running time in the same location or on the same surface all the time can be boring and make running less desirable. If you can, switch up where you run. 

Running on the treadmill is a great routine, but try to run outside at least once a week. If you have trails nearby, use this as an opportunity to explore them. One of the best parts of running is all the things you get to see when you’re out. You could explore a nearby town or city that you haven’t visited on foot.

Find Your Pace

What works for one beginner runner might not work for the next. You want to avoid the comparison game if you’re new to running. Your ability depends a lot on your genetics and your fitness level, which will improve over time. 

Find a pace that feels good for you while still challenging you to some extent. You do not have to run fast to improve your running performance. Running too hard all the time can negatively impact your performance and cause overtraining, which often leads to injury or burnout. 

It’s essential to listen to your body and take rest days as needed when you first start running, though ideally, you have these built into your weekly schedule. And don’t hesitate to walk when needed.  

It’s also a good idea to build in seasonal breaks. Many people tend to take longer breaks after completing a race they have been building for. Even if you are not planning to race, it can be beneficial to take a few days off in a row every couple of months. Not only will this help your body recover, but it can help revive your motivation.

Keep Track of Your Progress

There are many ways to track your running progress, like a spreadsheet or app. Fitness or smart watches have apps they pair with which can show the amount of running time and miles you’ve racked up with different activities. You may also be able to track things like pace and heart rate depending on the capabilities of your fitness watch. 

Apps like Strava or Apple Health are also useful for tracking your metrics, or you can keep a running log. 

There are many options for tracking your progress so you can choose how simple or complex you want to get. Being able to see that you’ve increased your average pace or mileage over time can be extremely rewarding. Keeping a journal to write about your journey is also a great way to see your progress over time, which keeps you motivated to keep going. 

Take Your Running to the Next Level

When you first start running, signing up for a race or other running-related event might feel intimidating. That being said, putting something on the calendar is one of the best ways to stay motivated—especially when it’s being held in a great location 

Vacation Races offers distances from 5k to 100 miles in some of the coolest destinations in the U.S.A. What better way to take your new running skills for a spin than pairing it with beautiful views and travel? If you’re ready to get running and want to plan an unforgettable run adventure, check out the Vacation Races events calendar page. If you want to challenge yourself, you can sign up for a beginner-friendly half marathon

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I start running with no experience?
To start running with no experience you should find a beginner runner plan and make sure you have the right gear. Your mileage should start small and increase slowly. 
How do I teach myself to run?
Running comes naturally to most humans as we have been doing it since the beginning of time. The best tip for teaching yourself how to run is to listen to your body and try to feel relaxed as you go. The movement should come fairly easily and over time you will better understand the capabilities of your body.
What type of equipment do I need to start running?
The key piece of equipment you need is running shoes that fit well and work for whatever surface you will be running on. You will also need clothes that fit comfortably and are quick drying. Other bonus pieces of equipment include a fitness watch, running belt, heart rate monitor, and running vest.
How often should a beginner run each week?
A good starting point for the beginner runner is 2-3 times per week plus some cross-training and strength training to prepare your muscles for the movement of running. The runs should be fairly short and ideally include a mix of walking and running. They should also be done at an easy pace.
How many miles should I run as a beginner?
It’s much better to focus on the amount of time you spend running than the number of miles as a beginner. Generally, a beginner runner will aim to run consecutively for 15-20 minutes, slowly building up over time.

Amber Nelson


With over 9 years of studying psychology, Amber Nelson holds a master's degree in social psychology and will receive her PhD in social psychology in August of 2024. Outside of her psychology studies, she is a dedicated athlete and weight loss success story. After losing 100 pounds naturally, Amber fell in love with health and fitness. She has written health and fitness content for several well-known brands. Amber loves sharing her knowledge with the health and fitness community and using her education to enhance her writing by including research. Additionally, she is a UESCA-certified running coach and is currently working through the NASM program to become a certified personal trainer (CPT).


Beginner, Half Marathons, running, Training, Training Plans

You may also like

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

Are You Getting Enough Protein?

Subscribe to our newsletter now!

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!