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Beginner RunnerRunners' Motivation

How to Start Running: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

15 Mins read

Are you ready to lace up your running shoes and embark on a thrilling journey towards becoming a runner? Then you’ve come to the perfect place.

As someone who has been pounding the pavement for over a decade and has guided countless beginners to running success, I’m here to equip you with everything you need to know to kickstart your running adventure.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll unveil the secrets to becoming a confident and injury-free runner. No more wondering how to start running or feeling overwhelmed by the process.

I’ll explain  how often you should run, the correct running technique to prevent injuries, and the ultimate beginner running plan that will take you from hesitant steps to victorious strides.

But wait, there’s more! Once you’ve conquered the basics, we’ll take your training to the next level, unlocking new levels of endurance, speed, and strength. You’ll learn the tips and tricks to elevate your running game and unleash your full potential.

By the time you reach the end of this post, you’ll be armed with the knowledge and tools to unleash your inner runner and reap the remarkable benefits that running has to offer.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Part 1 – Get Motivated – What Running Does to Your Body

First things first, let’s dive into some of the reasons that running rocks! If lack of motivation is the reason keeping you away from taking up running, this section should be enough to change your mind.

Here’s what you stand to gain by becoming a regular runner.

Lose Weight

Let’s start with a goal that many of us strive for: shedding those extra pounds. If weight loss is on your mind, running is your secret weapon.

Research conducted at the prestigious Medical College of Wisconsin reveals that running at a vigorous effort can torch up to 800 calories per hour. Yes, you heard that right—more calories burned than pedaling on a stationary bike, climbing stairs, or rowing your way to fitness. Running takes the crown when it comes to calorie-busting workouts.

But the calorie burn doesn’t stop when you step off the treadmill. Brace yourself for the after-burn effect, scientifically known as excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). Studies have shown that running boosts your metabolism even after your workout is complete, resulting in continued calorie burn. It’s like having a personal incinerator for those pesky calories.

Running Relieves Stress

As you hit the pavement, your body releases a flood of mood-boosting hormones, including the famous endorphins. These natural wonders work their magic, uplifting your spirits and banishing stress.

Research has shown that running can actually reverse the damaging effects of stress on the brain. It’s like a soothing balm for your mind, erasing the tension and worry that may have accumulated throughout the day. And that’s not all—studies suggest that running can reduce the risk of tension headaches and migraines, providing sweet relief for those who suffer from these ailments. Running truly is a powerful stress-buster.

Running Improves Mental Faculties.

Regular aerobic exercise, like running, has been linked to a slow-down in age-related mental decline. It’s like giving your brain a boost of vitality. Scientific studies, such as the one published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, have shown a strong correlation between aerobic exercise and enhanced cognitive functions.

Imagine task switching becoming a breeze, problem-solving becoming second nature, and your working memory becoming sharper than ever. In fact, subjects who participated in a short treadmill session performed a remarkable 20 percent better on memory tests than they did before their workout. Talk about mental prowess!

Running is Good For The Joints And Bones

Picture this: as you lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement, a remarkable transformation is happening within your body. With every stride, your joints are reaping the rewards of this exhilarating exercise. Let’s dive deeper into the incredible benefits that running brings to your joints and why it’s a game-changer.

First off, running is like a refreshing burst of oxygen for your joints. As you pick up the pace, your cardiovascular system kicks into high gear, pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. This surge of oxygenated blood finds its way to your joints, acting as a vital elixir. The increased oxygen delivery brings a host of benefits, including improved joint health and function. It’s like giving your joints a much-needed oxygen boost, reviving them with renewed vitality.

But that’s not all. Running also plays a pivotal role in strengthening the ligaments that surround your joints. Think of these ligaments as the protective armor for your joints, shielding them from potential harm. Unlike lower-impact exercise routines that may overlook this crucial aspect, running targets and strengthens these ligaments, fortifying your joints against pain and injury.

Research studies have highlighted the significance of running in joint health. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, runners demonstrated increased joint stability and improved ligament strength compared to non-runners. This further emphasizes the unique benefits that running offers to your joints.

Running Reduces the Risks of Cancer

Sure, running doesn’t cure cancer, but according to plenty of research, hitting the pavement on a regular basis might help prevent this notorious killer.

review of more than 170 epidemiological studies has linked regular exercise to a lower risk of certain cancer.

According to study, even the simple activity of walking, at least seven hours per week, can help women reduce the likelihood of breast cancer by up to 14 percent than their more sedentary counterparts.

Running Leads to Better Sleep

A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health reveals that your commitment to early morning runs is paying off in the realm of sleep.

The study found that individuals who consistently run in the morning experience an improvement in the quality of their sleep. It’s as if the rhythm of your morning run sets the stage for a restful slumber, allowing you to drift off into dreamland and wake up feeling refreshed.

But wait, there’s more! If you’re looking to improve your sleep quality, starting an exercise routine can be a game-changer. A study conducted at the prestigious Stanford University School of Medicine sheds light on the remarkable effects of exercise on sleep. The research showed that engaging in regular physical activity, including running, helped participants enhance the quality of their sleep.

crossfit and running

Protects you Against Cardiovascular Disease

According to a study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, regular runners have a 45 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular diseases, and running for no more than five minutes every day can slash the risk of cardiovascular disease by nearly a half.

Running helps reduce cardiovascular disease risk by:

  • Improving HDL (the good cholesterol) levels,
  • Increasing lung capacity,
  • Reducing blood pressure and
  • Enhancing blood sugar

I can go on and on about the benefits of running, but that’s a subject for another day.

By now, I hope you’re sold on the effectiveness of running for achieving total fitness and health.

Now let’s get into the practical stuff.

Note – Check out my “who invented running”  guide.

Part 2 How to Start Running? – The Exact System You Need

So you have decided  to start running.

First things first: Relax.

You won’t have to sacrifice an arm and a leg to the running gods to get started.

In fact, it’s not overwhelming, complicated, nor expensive.

The hardest part about taking up running for the first time is actually taking the first step.

If you do that, you’ve already gone farther than 82.5 percent of the population (a totally bogus statistic that I made just to make a point!), so give yourself a pat on the back.

If you ask me, it’s actually the easiest thing to do in the world—as long as you follow beginner running rules.

That’s where this section comes in handy.

Without further ado, here’s the exact step-by-step you need to become a runner.

Start Easy

Whether you’re a newbie lacing up your shoes for the very first time or a seasoned runner returning after a hiatus, there’s one golden rule you must engrave in your mind: start easy and build gradually. Trust me, I’ve witnessed too many beginners take on more than they can handle, only to find themselves sidelined by injuries or completely drained within weeks. We don’t want that for you.

Picture this: you’re famished, and a mouthwatering buffet lays before you. You can’t resist the temptation, so you pile your plate high with every delectable dish in sight. But soon enough, you realize that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

The same principle applies to running. If you go from zero to full-throttle, diving headfirst into high-intensity, high-volume, and high-impact training within a short period, you’re treading on dangerous ground.

Let me give it to you straight. You’re practically asking for trouble—burnouts and overuse injuries like Runners Knee and Stress Fractures—when you push too hard, too soon. Take a moment to let that sink in. It’s like trying to sprint before you’ve even learned to crawl.

During the first few months of your training (yes, I said months!), it’s essential to take it easy and embrace the beginner’s mindset. Start right where you are, not where you wish to be. It may not sound as glamorous as diving into intense workouts, but trust me, it’s the smartest approach you can take.

Additional resource – How to start running with your dog

Walk Before you Run

Not only does walking help you shed those extra pounds, but it also boosts your stamina, reduces stress, enhances your physical shape, and improves your overall health and well-being. It’s the foundation upon which you’ll build your running empire.

Now, let’s talk strategy. In these initial weeks, as you embark on your fitness journey, make it a habit to take 8 to 10 30-minute walks. This will gradually prepare your body for the transition into running. Think of it as priming the engine before you hit the gas pedal.

But what if you’re already in decent shape? Well, my friend, you’re ready to kick it up a notch. Gradually increase the duration of your walks to 60 minutes, three to four times a week. Allow your body to adapt to this new level of activity for at least three weeks before delving into the beginner running plan that awaits you.

How to Progress?

Now, it’s time to take your training to the next level and introduce a game-changing method that will revolutionize your running experience. Say hello to the walk/run method, a genius strategy crafted by the renowned running guru Jeff Galloway.

Here’s the secret sauce: the walk/run method combines the best of both worlds—low-intensity running intervals and strategic walking breaks. It’s like a beautifully choreographed dance between your feet and the ground, allowing you to manage fatigue, improve your fitness, and build stamina while safeguarding yourself from discomfort, injuries, and burnouts. It’s a method backed by science and championed by countless runners who have successfully embraced it.

Let’s break it down. As you transition from walking to incorporating running into your routine, take it step by step, quite literally. During the first week, aim for 20 to 30 minutes of walking per session. Feel the rhythm of your feet hitting the pavement as you gradually build up your strength.

As you move into the second week, it’s time to kick things up a notch. Increase your walking duration to 30 to 35 minutes per session. You’re pushing your boundaries, challenging your body to adapt and grow stronger.

But we’re not stopping there. Oh no, we’re just getting started. From here on out, I want you to add two to three precious minutes to your walks with each passing week. It may seem like a small increment, but it’s these incremental steps that will lead you to greatness. Keep adding those minutes until you’re comfortably walking for at least an hour. Feel the confidence surge through your veins as you conquer each milestone.

Once you’ve reached the point where you can power walk for an hour without breaking a sweat, it’s time to unleash the true runner within you. It’s time to embrace the run/walk method, alternating between easy jogs and well-deserved walking breaks. By incorporating short bursts of running into your regular walks, you’ll extend your endurance, push your limits, and remain injury-free.

More beginner plan guidelines? Try this couch to 5K plan.

How Much is Enough?

The exact run to walk ratio depends, mostly, on your current fitness level and training goals.

Now, here’s the golden rule: take breaks at the right times. Just like a well-timed pit stop during a thrilling race, these breaks will ensure you don’t push yourself to the brink of exhaustion. It’s all about strategic rest, my friend.

Let’s explore three walk-to-running ratios that you can experiment with. Remember, you have the freedom to choose the one that suits you best. No pressure, no judgment—just you and your personalized running journey.

If you’re just starting out on this exhilarating path, consider yourself a complete beginner. Start by running at an easy and slow pace for 10 to 20 seconds, and then reward yourself with a rejuvenating one to two minutes of walking. Feel the rhythm of this alternating dance between running and walking, allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger with each step.

As you progress and enter the intermediate stage, typically after two to three weeks of consistent running, it’s time to challenge yourself a little further. Embrace the runner within you by extending your running intervals. Push yourself to run for two to five minutes, and then savor the bliss of one to two minutes of walking. It’s a delicate balance, a symphony of effort and recovery, propelling you towards your running aspirations.

Now, if you’ve been on this running journey for over a month, congratulations! You’ve reached the realm of experience. It’s time to unleash your true potential. Challenge yourself to run for a solid ten minutes, immersing yourself in the sheer exhilaration of movement. Then, catch your breath with a short but well-deserved 30 seconds to one minute of walking.

Additional resource – Here’s your guide to running three miles a day.

The Ideal Beginner Running Session

Imagine yourself stepping out of your front door, ready to conquer the world one stride at a time. You’ve chosen a 2-mile loop around your neighborhood, where the sights and sounds will be your companions on this running adventure.

Before you hit the pavement, let’s not forget the importance of a warm-up. Just like stretching your wings before taking flight, a 5-minute warm-up will prepare your body for the journey ahead. Loosen up those muscles, get your blood pumping, and prime yourself for the exhilarating experience that awaits.

Now, it’s time for the main event—the run/walk routine that will keep you in perfect harmony with your body. Jog slowly for one glorious minute, feeling the rhythm of your heartbeat in sync with the rhythmic pounding of your feet. Then, it’s time to catch your breath and recover. Embrace the gentle pace of a two to three minutes walk, allowing your body to recharge and prepare for the next running burst.

Repeat this dance between running and walking five to seven times, each repetition bringing you closer to your running goals. It’s a delicate balance, like a graceful waltz between effort and recovery. Listen to your body’s cues, savoring the moments of movement and cherishing the moments of rest. This routine will be the foundation upon which your running prowess is built.

As you approach the grand finale of your running session, remember the significance of a proper cool-down. Just like a soothing cooldown song after an intense concert, it’s time to let your body unwind and return to a state of tranquility. Take a few minutes to walk and allow your muscles to gently ease out of the running phase, bringing you back to a state of calmness.

How Fast Should You Go?

When it comes to the speed at which you embark on your running journey, there’s a simple rule of thumb: embrace the conversational pace. Imagine running alongside a good friend, engaged in a lively chat without gasping for breath or struggling to string together coherent sentences. That’s the sweet spot you want to aim for.

Keep in mind that running shouldn’t leave you panting for air like a racehorse in the final stretch. If you find yourself huffing and puffing, desperately grasping for each precious breath, it’s a clear sign that you’re pushing too hard. Slow it down, my friend. Take a moment to reflect on your pace and remember that the goal is to find that delightful balance between exertion and ease.

In fact, I’ll throw in a metaphor to drive the point home. Imagine reciting the pledge of allegiance while running. Yes, that’s right! If you can smoothly recite those cherished words without gasping for air or interrupting the flow with breathless pauses, then you’ve struck gold. It’s a whimsical way to gauge your effort level and ensure that you’re running with grace and control.

Run For longer

As you progress on your running journey, the key is to gradually increase the time you spend running while reducing the number of recovery breaks you take. It’s a beautiful dance between pushing your limits and allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger. Picture it like a challenging puzzle where each piece fits into place with each passing day.

Now, let’s talk about reaching that magical milestone of running for a solid 25 to 30 minutes without feeling like you’re gasping for air. The timeline for reaching this goal varies depending on your current fitness level, but one thing is certain: consistency is the name of the game. Stay committed, my friend, and trust the process.

With each step, each breath, and each stride, you’ll inch closer to that moment of effortless running bliss.

Once you’ve conquered the 30-minute mark with ease, it’s time to level up your running game. It’s time to add a dash of variety to your training program. Think of it as spicing up a delicious dish with different flavors and textures. You can add distance to challenge your endurance, incorporate speed work to enhance your quickness, and conquer hills to strengthen those leg muscles. The possibilities are endless, and your running adventure is about to get even more exciting.

Now, let’s talk about exertion levels during your runs. It’s important to find that sweet spot where you’re pushing yourself enough without going into full-on sprint mode. Aim for a 6 to 7 out of 10 on the exertion scale during the running portion of your workout. Feel the burn, embrace the challenge, but also listen to your body’s cues.

And when it’s time to switch to a walking break, dial it down to a comfortable 2 to 3 on the exertion scale. It’s all about finding that delicate balance and honoring your body’s needs.

Want more structure?

Try my couch to 5K treadmill plan.

Follow a Beginner Running Plan

Having a plan is key to achieving any goal–let alone running.

You don’t pursue a career in marketing, for example, without a concrete plan of studying the right books and tutoring under the right teachers.

That’s why I highly recommend you follow a well rounded, well-thought training plan, just like the one shared below.

Doing so will not only help you build your training volume, but also keep you motivated beyond the initial motivation.

The simple beginner runner plan features three days of run-walk sessions.

You begin with a few short intervals of running–or slow-paced jogging–for 30 to 60 seconds, then build you on that while taking less and less for recovery.

By the end of the eight weeks, you should be able to run for thirty minutes straight–that’s roughly two to three miles–without much trouble.

Week One – Walk for five minutes, then jog for 30 to 6o seconds.

Repeat three to four times.

Week Two – walk for three minutes, then jog for one to two minutes.

Repeat the sequence for four to five times.

Week Three – Walk for three minutes, then jog for two to three minutes.

Repeat the cycle for five to six times.

Week Four – Walk for three minutes, then jog for three minutes.

Repeat the cycle six times.

Week Five – Walk for two minutes, then jog for three to four minutes.

Repeat the cycle four to five times.

Week Six – Walk for two minutes, then jog for five minutes.

Repeat the sequence three to four times.

Week Seven – Walk for two minutes, then jog for eight to ten minutes.

Repeat the cycle two to three times.

Week Eight – Warm up by brisk walking for 10 minutes, then slow jog for 20 to 30 minutes while keeping an easy and conversational pace.

Just keep in mind that this is a generic plan, so feel free to adjust it according to your own needs and preferences.

It’s not written in stone by any means.

Looking for a more extensive plan?

Try my couch to 5K training schedule.

And if you’re into challenges?

Give this 30-day running challenge a try.

You can also learn how to design your running plan here.

Note – Here’s how often should you run per week.

How Long Does it Take To Become A Runner?

If only I could conjure a magical stopwatch to provide you with a definitive answer. Alas, my friend, the path to becoming a runner is as diverse and intricate as the winding trails we traverse.

I must emphasize that each individual embarks on this journey with a unique set of circumstances and characteristics. Just as each snowflake boasts its own intricate design, your journey to becoming a runner is a personal tale, shaped by a multitude of factors.

Let’s explore some of these factors that weave together to create your running narrative:

First and foremost, we have your current shape. Are you starting from scratch, or do you possess a level of fitness from previous activities? Your starting point sets the stage for the adventure that lies ahead.

Consider your training history. Have you dabbled in running before, or are you a complete novice to the world of pounding pavement? Previous experiences, whether they involve running or other forms of physical activity, contribute to your body’s adaptation process.

Age is but another brushstroke on the canvas of your running journey. As the years grace us with their presence, our bodies may respond differently to the rigors of training. Fear not, for age is but a number, and determination knows no bounds.

Ah, the weight we carry, both physically and metaphorically. Your current body weight can influence the demands placed upon your joints, muscles, and cardiovascular system. Remember, every stride forward is a step towards a stronger and healthier you, regardless of the number on the scale.

Now, let us not overlook the intricate tapestry of our genetic makeup. Like a hidden treasure map, our genetic composition influences our body’s response to training stimuli. Embrace your unique genetic blueprint, for it holds the secrets to unlocking your potential.

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