How to Start Running: A Beginners Guide

By Kate Schwartz, Caroline Bermel Updated on

Ready to start running? We’re here to help! Running might seem intimidating at first, but it’s worth the challenge. From your physical and mental health to your social life and sense of accomplishment, running can make you feel like the best version of yourself.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. If you’ve been sedentary for a while, or have a pre-existing health condition that could affect your approach, it’s important to get the green light beforehand.

So, how to begin? No matter your goal or your reason, the key is to start small and progress slowly. Here’s the bird’s eye view:

  1. Walk first to build up fitness. Then use the run/walk method to gradually incorporate running.
  2. Gradually increase your running intervals and total exercise time.

Bonus: Add strength training, cross training and speed workouts to get stronger, faster, and prevent injuries.

Let’s get started!

When you start a new running routine, we recommend you think in terms of minutes rather than miles. Here is our suggested plan of action as you begin to establish a weekly running schedule:


Weekly Running Time


50-150 min. activity/week


200-300 min. activity/week


350-400 min. activity/week

Choose Running Shoes and Gear

A customer gets fit for shoes at Fleet Feet.

Your shoes, socks and apparel can mean the difference between an enjoyable run and a blister-filled sufferfest. To keep your feet happy, start with expert outfitting for the perfect pair of shoes, socks and insoles.

Read our expert outfitting advice in our article: Essential Gear You Need to Start Running.

Your comfort is the most important thing, and an expert outfitter can help you find your best fit. Get a 3D scan of your feet, recommendations for your foot shape, then try on shoes to see what you like the best.

Learn more about Fleet Feet’s fit id® outfitting process (it’s free!)

Find the freshest styles and performance technology in our wide selection of men’s and women’s running apparel:

Find the Best Running Clothes

These are our top five tips to choosing the best running shoes:

  1. Plan Ahead: Looking to get into a consistent running routine? Or maybe take on your first race? No matter your goals, create a plan around the surface you want to train on and how you want your shoes to feel while you’re running.
  2. Get Started By Walking: Running shoes are great to walk in, and walking is often a segue for beginning runners as you feel out the way your body moves for prolonged periods of time.
  3. Learn How You Move: The natural alignment of your joints and the degree to which you pronate can make a big difference in how you search for shoes to support your body. Using our in-store fit process or at-home wear analysis can help you determine how much you pronate and what kind of running shoe to buy.
  4. Find Your Fit: A good rule of thumb to determine that you’re wearing the right size is to keep a thumb’s width of space between the end of your toes and the tip of the shoe. Your foot should feel secure from heel to toe, without any squeezing or pinching. Pay attention to the way your foot aligns over the midsole to determine if you need a wide size shoe.
  5. Put On Some Miles: Once you find shoes with the support you need and a comfortable fit, hit the road! The average running shoe lasts about 300 miles for regular runners.

Start Running

A man and woman run alongside a tree-lined path.

Sometimes new runners make the mistake of trying to run too much too soon, and wind up quitting because they’re discouraged or injured. So, try easing into your new routine gradually.

The best way to start running is by using the Run-Walk method, especially if you have not had much aerobic activity in the past few months.

Shop the smartest Garmin GPS watches to help you track your run and connect with friends.

The Run-Walk Method

Start by walking 10 to 30 minutes on a regular basis, and increase that time gradually. Once you can walk comfortably for 30 minutes, you’re ready to incorporate some running.

Before you get too far down the road, check with your doctor if you have a pre-existing condition that may require you to alter your plan.

Here are some suggestions based on your familiarity with aerobic activity:

  • Beginners: completely new
  • Intermediate: some aerobic exercise, but not frequent
  • Advanced: frequent aerobic exercise

This chart suggests interval lengths based on level of activity. Repeat run-walk intervals as many times as you’d like within a 10-30 minutes period of activity.


Run Time

Walk Time


10-30 seconds

1-2 minutes


1-5 minutes

1-2 minutes


5-10 minutes

30 seconds- 1 minute

Muscular strength is an important piece of injury prevention and overall health. It is especially important if you are looking to build speed. Strong leg, core and back muscles help generate momentum and propel your body forward.

Here are a few of our favorite strength workouts:

  • Squats: there’s a ton of fun variations you can try, weighted or unweighted, but overall squats are a great way to build muscle and improve your range of motion.
  • Side lunges: these engage the muscles around your hip to not only build strength, but also to prevent injury as you put on more mileage.
  • Power bridges: with or without a resistance band around your knees, power bridges focus on your hamstrings and glutes to build strength in your posterior chain. This can help you get faster and improve your running form.

Find more information on strength training for runners from Fleet Feet experts and contributors here:

Find a Training Group or Coach

A man and woman run along a country road.

Find a Fleet Feet training group near you!

Training groups provide a social environment to help you work on your fitness and speed with other runners. Running with othersis shown to increase happiness related to social connection. It also has a huge effect on motivation, making you more likely run faster and for longer distances.

You don’t have to be competitive in order to be a runner. Many people love the simple joy of finding community while logging miles with their friends and family. Many others prefer to use running as a sacred opportunity to be alone. Do what feels right to you, and make running your own.

Follow Fleet Feet and your friends on Strava.

Nutrition and Hydration for Running

Whether you’re running for weight loss or training for a race, nutrition and hydration are key elements of a healthy lifestyle.

But it’s not all about counting calories and heavy dieting; fueling your body to feel and perform its best involves listening to its needs and giving yourself the healthiest, most effective nutrition possible.

What to Eat Before Running

When it comes to running, a bit of trial and error is required to discover what energizes your run without upsetting your stomach.

You will want to match your fuel to the type of run. Keep the planning simple and stress-free (your gut prefers simplicity, too!).

  • Easy runs: All you need are fluids and electrolytes. If you’re hungry, add simple carbs like crackers or a banana.
  • Hard runs or speed work: Go for simple, clean-burning carbs. Try sports drinks or gels, toast with jam or a banana.
  • Long runs: Complex carbs will keep your energy up. Aim for a carb-heavy meal a few hours before (time for digestion is key), and add a bit of protein and healthy fats. Try overnight oats with a scoop of almond butter.

No matter what you eat, be sure to drink plenty of water, which aids digestion and energizes your system.

Time Before A Run


Less than 1 hour

100-200 (sports drink)

1 hour

100-200 (snack)

2 hours

200-400 (snack)

3 hours

300-600 (snack)

But your nutrition isn’t just about on-the-run fuel. What you eat is crucial for your recovery and general everyday health. To replenish your body, it’s important to eat a balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats from wholesome, nutrient-dense foods.

When you start running you are likely to burn more calories and may feel hungrier than usual. It’s important to be mindful not to go on a hangry binge, but to eat (mostly) healthy foods to replenish your system.

Read more about all things nutrition and hydration, and how it helps to improve your running:

Three individuals with different body shapes talking after a trail run

Every Body Runs

Many people begin running to lose weight, improve their heart health or find stress relief. No matter the health benefits of running, the most important goal should be to feel good in your body, no matter its size or shape. If your body runs, you have a runner’s body– simple as that.

Read more about how to start running at any size, and how to feel your best doing it.

How to Run a Race

As a basic rule of thumb, the longer the race distance, the more weekly mileage you’ll need to prepare for and the more time you’ll need to spend running. But whether you break down your training by time on the move or mileage, here are some basic 5K training plan outlines you can use to build out your training plan for even longer races!

Based on your race distance, here are some weekly mileage and activity time goals for beginners:

Race Distance

Weekly Mileage Goal

Daily Run Time Goal


10-25 miles/week

20-40 mins of activity/day


25-30 miles/week

40-50 mins of activity/day

Half Marathon

30-40 miles/week

50-65 mins of activity/day


40-60 miles/week

65-100 mins of activity/day

  • 5K: 10 to 25 miles per week (20-40 mins of activity/day)
  • 10K: 25 to 30 miles per week (40-50 mins of activity/day)
  • Half-marathon: 30 to 40 miles per week (50-65 mins of activity/day)
  • Marathon: 40 to 60 miles per week (65-100 mins of activity/day)

If setting a weekly mileage goal isn’t for you, try setting a time goal instead. Allow yourself a certain amount of time each day to run, and see how far you can go.

Both are equally effective ways to get in shape for race day, it’s all about finding what works best for your mind and body.

Read more about how to build your own training schedule.

Calculate Target Base Mileage:

In general, you can calculate your base target mileage by doubling (or if you’re comfortable, tripling) your race distance.

For example, if you are training to run a half-marathon, your race distance is 13.1 miles.

As a beginner, you can double this mileage to arrive at a goal of 26.2, or roughly 30 miles per week as you’re training.

If you’ve run a half-marathon before or are comfortable with higher mileage, triple your race distance to arrive at a goal of 39.3, roughly 40, miles per week as you’re training.

Using a pace chart can help you set goals for yourself as you train toward your race distance, and even give context to the paces you should try to run during various workouts.

Check out our pace chart here

How to Build Endurance

Whether you’re training for your first long-distance race or want to push yourself to see how far you can go, building endurance is essential to running well.

Incorporating these two types of runs into your workout schedule can help you build the endurance you need to run farther.

The best time to begin endurance training is after you’ve already established a strong running routine, running about 30 minutes for 5 days a week, and can run 3 miles without stopping. This way, you know your body can handle running for longer periods of time.

Here’s a suggested week of endurance training:








Total Mileage

4 mi. (or 40 mins)

4 miles (or 40 mins)

Cross Train

4 miles (or 40 mins)

5 miles (or 50 mins)

8 miles

(or 80 min)


25 mi.

No matter how many miles per week you decide to run, a combination of easy runs and long runs will help your body ease into more mileage while avoiding injury.

How to Run Faster

A with anything, practice makes perfect. If you want to be a faster runner, practice running fast. Luckily, there are plenty of dynamic and engaging workouts that will help you build the strength and anaerobic endurance you need to achieve your fastest speeds.

A week of speed training might look like this:








Total Mileage

Easy run: 3 mi. (or 30 mins)

Hill Reps: 4x 2 minutes effort

Strength Training

Tempo: 4 miles

Intervals: 5x 2 min run: 1 min walk

Tempo: 4 miles


10-15 miles