Running for Absolute Beginners? Run This Way!

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

The sun is out! You want to get into shape? You want to loose weight?
You want to have more energy? You want to be healthier? You want to run!
You can find a multitude of running programs for beginners on the internet, so which one to choose?
Choose this one, if you are a beginner and want 1) to have a motivating program, 2) to follow a goal-oriented program for beginners and 3) to run safely with minimal risk of overuse injuries.

It is time to get started:

Find your motivation
What drives you? Some people are motivated by:

  • running alone, others by running with friends.
  • running to meditate and relax, others by working out and burning fat.
  • running to music, others by silence or nature sounds.
  • running with a heart rate monitor, others by listening to the body.

Find out, what motivates you and plan accordingly.

Choose the right strategy
Avoid the usual running mistakes, which are very common:
Too ambitious and much too much initially; 1) running without a warm-up, 2) running too fast and 3) running too far …
Choose to:

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes by walking faster and faster, then jog and then run.
  • Run a very moderate distance initially, eg. 5 x 300 ft … increase gradually over time.
  • Cool down by walking for the last 5-10 minutes of your ‘run’.
  • Stretch lightly; hips, thighs, hamstrings, calves, 15-30 sec. to relax and loosen up.

Start smart
A moderate (conservative estimate) tempo initially and a gradual progression is essential for running success. It takes time to get into running shape: Muscles need 1-2 months, the tendons, which attach the muscles to the bones, need 3-6 months, and the bones and joints need 6-12 months to become more resilient to the impact forces of running.
Exactly how long depends on your ‘body age‘ – health, body weight and fitness level – and training age – how long you have been exercising regularly.
Start gradually to avoid overuse injuries in your feet, legs and hips.

Plan your runs
Make a plan, take notes in your calender; how many days do you run, how long/far do you run and how hard do you run? Check your training volume to avoid overtraining … and undertraining.
Beginners benefit from a regular running program to make running a fun and healthy habit.
Tip 1: Have your running shoes and clothes ready, so you are all set to run.
Tip 2: Run with a dog, friend or family member to increase motivation and keep on track.

Løb for begyndere BegynderløbRunning is freedom, fresh air and fun. Photo: Photographer John Nyberg.

Running equipment
Hardly any equipment or gear is required for running. However, the running experience is a lot nicer, if your clothes fit and are ‘dry fit’ (avoid cotton), so they don’t get cold and clammy, which can induce hypothermia (you feel cold).

  • Running shoes, for your feet and running style. They are important: Have your running technique checked on a threadmill by a sports physiotherapist or a running coach, so you get the right shoes for you. You can also do ‘barefoot running’, run in bare feet (or FiveFingers), with extra attention and extra gradual progression.
  • Sweat-transporting running pants, tight fit without (annoying) seams.
  • Sweat-transporting running shirt.
  • Windbreaker jackets (and pants).
  • Sweat-transporting underwear.
  • Sweat transporting socks without seams.


  • Sports-bra or comfort top (eg. PureLime award-winning sports-bras)
  • Sports panties, which stays in place.

Running technique and tips
Humans are designed for walking and running, so you don’t need special training to run. However, as many people are very inactive during the everyday and start running from scratch, check and focus on this:

  • Breathe deeply; inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth or nose.
  • Run on softer surfaces initially; grass, sand or soil.
  • Listen to your body; your breath, heart rate and muscles. Running should feel good and a little hard (your body loves to exercise); nothing should hurt or feel painful.
  • Run in a natural way: Start walking and then ’fall’ slightly forward, so you start to run and land with your body weight evenly distributed across the foot, instead of landing hard on the heel. Run with a full natural stride length and cadence, that fits you.
  • Run with a natural arm swing forward backward, not diagonally in front of the torso.
  • Run with a proper running posture; spine neutral and head up, relaxed neck and shoulders. Full body lean from ankle to neck, do not bend at the waist.
  • Run straight forward, avoid bouncing; hopping up and down.

Running program for new runners
This is a running program designed especially for beginning runners:

Realistic and goal-oriented program: The goal is to run 2 miles (or less) in 12 weeks. Far too many beginning running programs include too much running too soon (eg. 0-3 miles in 10 weeks), which often leads to overuse injuries.
Gradual progression: The program progression respects not only the heart and lungs, but also muscles, tendons, bones and joints, preparing them for increased load in time.
Goal-oriented with variation: The program is based on advanced interval training principles and designed  for optimal results, running with fun, with minimal risk of injuries.

Try it out! Here (at the bottom) is a program for running 3 times a week for 12 weeks.

  • Every run warm-up by walking for 5 minutes with a gradual increase in tempo.
  • Then run for some seconds/minutes, then walk for some minutes.
  • Repeat this run-walk sequence a number of times, a number of series.

Is it too easy? Then run a little faster in the same timeframe.
Is it too hard? Then repeat the same program, the next day or the next week.
Your body and your running should feel well.

The program suggests monday, wednesday and saturday, but you may choose other days. However, it is recommended to have a day of rest between running days, so the body is able to recover before running again.

Listen to your body: Do you feel energetic and ready for the runs of next week. If not, continue another week with the same program without increasing time and intensity.

If you experience pain or soreness, find out what is causing it. Maybe have a break from running, do something else, or repeat the same interval run or runs from an earlier week program and proceed with caution.

Note.: Have you been injured or ill? Are you overweight (Running-for-weight-loss)?
Are you very inactive during the everyday? Then you should start even more gradually with a walking program or a variation of this program (make it easier and run/walk the same intervals for more days, eg. same intervals monday, wednesday and saturday, before moving on).

Running for beginners  From 0 to ~ 2 miles in 12 weeks

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