Beginners Unite! The Start of Your Beginner Running Plan Made Simple

Coming up with a beginner running plan can be intimidating because you’re not sure how or where to begin. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with options and either not start at all, or waste a bunch of time trying to mash together a variety of plans from different sources. 

That’s where we come in! In this beginner’s guide, we’re going to lay out your first two weeks of training, day by day. You’ll start slowly with a combination of runs, strength training, and mobility work, and build a few good habits along the way. 

Your 14-Day Beginner Running Plan

This two-week running plan is also the perfect onramp for our Beginner Running Program, available in our mobile app. The program will continue the work of these two weeks by adding mileage, incorporating run drills, and stepping up the strength training.

It’s a complete, month-long training program that you can follow, by downloading our mobile app and jumping into our Prime platform.

For now, let’s get started with your first two weeks of training for your beginner running plan!

Week 1:

Day 1: Baseline Test 

Let’s get started! To launch your beginner running plan, you’ll complete a baseline test. This test is a great checkpoint so you can see the progress you’re making throughout the weeks. It’s super simple, too.

You’ll put 10 minutes on the clock and see how much distance you can cover in that amount of time.

Now, don’t feel pressured to run the whole time. We encourage you to pick a strategy that works for you. You can run or walk the whole time at your own pace. Or you can set out with an interval strategy to mix speeds. 

  • We like a split of 30 seconds walking alternated with 30 seconds of something faster. 
  • This can be a faster walk, a jog, or a run. 
  • Choose what feels comfortable for you to maintain for 30-second intervals through the whole ten-minute test. 
  • Make sure to record your distance for future reference.

You’ll revisit this run after two weeks, but you aren’t limited in how often you track your progress this way in your running journey.  As you continue to build your fitness level, you can always come back to this checkpoint. 

To learn more about the walk method created by Jeff Galloway, be sure to watch this video with all the background information and the best way to use it:

Day 2: Nutrition Thoughts

You can’t talk about starting running without a mention of nutrition. After all, you need to support your work and recovery with a balanced diet and sufficient calories. Grab and go foods can fit the bill from time to time, but as a new runner, it will pay off to spend a little more time planning your meals.

Something as simple as packing a snack to have on hand or starting your day with a green smoothie will go a long way to setting the stage for healthy habits. You can read more about some common nutrition mistakes here, and how to avoid them! 

Day 3: Strength Training 

While running does provide the bulk of your training, it’s essential to include some strength training in your week.

Not only will strength training help get you stronger, but it can also help with weight loss and reduce the risk of injury as you get started on your running journey

Some of the biggest benefits of strength training include:

  • Core strength to build midline stability and prevent over-rotation as you run. This also helps with maintaining good posture while running. 
  • Leg strength to power you up hills and through speed work
  • Upper body strength to contribute to a strong arm swing and prevent fatigue over longer distances.

This first strength workout will pair two of our favorite moves: the squat and the plank. These bodyweight movements will activate your glutes, hips, and core as well as build leg strength and shoulder stability. Not too shabby for two simple exercises! 

Here’s are some cues to keep in mind:

Squat: 
  • Start of standing with feet hip-width apart.
  • Sit back and down as if sitting back into a chair.
  • Lower as far as you’re comfortable, whether that’s just a small dip down to until your thighs are parallel to the ground. You can always go lower in the next set. 
  • As you stand back up, think about pushing your knees out and squeezing your butt. 
Planks:
  • Get into a pushup position on the ground, with your hands directly under the shoulders.
  • Keeping your belly and butt tight, hold this position for the prescribed time. 
  • Focus on keeping your shoulder engaged instead of letting your chest slump toward the ground.
  • To modify this move, you can rest your knees on the ground, instead of holding the position on your toes.
The workout:

You’ll complete an 8-minute ladder of alternating movements which will look like this:

  • 10 squats/10 second plank hold
  • 10 squats/20 second plank hold
  • 10 squats/30 second plank hold
  • Rest as needed, then repeat the circuit until you hit eight minutes. 

Day 4: Mobility & Optional Run

Just like strength training, mobility work is a very important piece of your training plan.

Mobilizing will help work out any sore spots that creep up as you start running as well as work your joints through their full range of motion. These are great movements to do right after a run, workout, or at night before bed.

Dynamic Mobility:

  • Start off in a lunge position, with the right leg extended back and the left leg bent at 90 degrees.
  • With your left hand on your left foot for support, spend a few breaths stretching your hip flexors at the front of your right hip. 
  • Then, push your hips back to straighten your left leg until you feel a gentle stretch in your left hamstring. 
  • Next, bring your right knee back down to the ground and lift your arms up to the sky, keeping your butt squeezed to protect your lower back. 
  • Bring your arms back down, the right arm to the ground and your left hand to your left knee. Rotate your upper body to the left for a gentle twist. 
  • Come back to center with both hands on the ground and push the hips up and back into downward-facing dog. 
  • Pedal out the feet to stretch the calves and feel the shoulders stretch as well. 
  • Repeat the sequence by bringing the right leg forward and working through that side.

Day 5: Rest, Reflection, & Optional Strength Training

Rest days are just as important as training days, especially for beginner runners! Don’t think you have to go all out every day of the week.

Taking that approach can often lead to burn out, stress, and possibly running injuries. Especially at the start of your running journey, be sure to take days off to focus on recovery. 

This day is also a great opportunity to take some notes about how your workouts are feeling so far. Keeping track of your progress is a great way to stay motivated and adapt your training to your needs. 

Here’s even more great information about the importance of recovery days for runners: 

An optional add on today is to repeat the strength training workout from Day 3 for a little extra work this week, but only if you’re feeling up to it.

Day 6: Speed Work

Varying the pace of your runs is important to build your endurance, speed, and power. While it’s easy to set out for each run at the same pace, we’ll show you how easy it is to get in a speed session to really move your feet. 

  • To set up for this session, find a set of 20-30 stairs, a short hill, or a treadmill
  • Climb the stairs or hill as many times as possible in 10 minutes.
  • You’ll get your rest while descending. 
  • Keep track of how many sets you completed!

Day 7: Hydration & Mobility 

After yesterday’s speed session, another dose of mobility should feel great. You’ll repeat the routine from Day 4 and if you feel up to it, it’s a great idea to spend a little extra time in those positions that feel especially good. If your hips are a bit tight from yesterday, spend a little more time in that lunge to loosen them up. 

It’s also a great time to talk about hydration. If you’re like a lot of people, it can be easy to forget to drink water throughout the day. So today’s goal is easy: drink water!

  • 4-6 glasses of water before 2pm
  • 4-6 glasses of water after 2pm
  • Add a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon to support your electrolyte balance as you get started on this running program

Week 2:

Day 8: Strength Training 

Time to change up your strength training! You’ll still be targeting core and leg strength but in a different way with new moves. 

Let’s take a look at the exercises: 

Walking Lunges:
  • From a standing position, step your left leg out in front of you and drop your right knee to the ground.
  • Check that your left leg is at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Adjust your stance if you’re not quite there. 
  • Too narrow a stance can be difficult to balance with, so keep your staggered stance about hip-width.
  • Push off your left foot to stand back up, then repeat by alternating the front leg from left to right.
Bicycle Crunches:
  • Start off lying on the ground with your core engaged and your lower back pressed to the ground.
  • As you bring your left leg up toward your chest, you’ll also bring your right elbow down to meet your knee. 
  • Your hands can support your head gently, but be sure to not yank on your neck.
  • Straighten out and repeat with the right leg and left arm.
The workout:

You’ll complete a 6-minute workout alternating between:

  • 30 seconds of lunges
  • 30 seconds of bicycle crunches
  • 30 seconds of rest
  • Repeat 3 times

Day 9: Mobility, Soft Tissue Work & Optional Run

Last week’s mobility was more of a flow to move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion.

This week the focus will be on soft tissue work. That means you’ll be giving yourself a mini-massage to apply pressure to your muscles. You can imagine that you have a lump of cookie dough that you need to smooth out in all directions. 

You’ll need a small lacrosse ball or foam roller for this. You can use softer, tacky balls designed for tissue work, or use everyday objects like a tennis ball, coffee thermos, or even a wine bottle. 

  • Put the ball or roller under your calf and gently roll around, feeling for tender or tense spots.
  • Staying on those spots, flex and extend your foot and rotate side to side to hit it from all directions. 
  • Spend five minutes on each leg, covering the whole calf from side to side.

Today you also have the option of a 10-minute walk or run. There’s no expectation of pace or speed, so go at your own pace and see if you’re starting to feel more comfortable while running. If not, don’t worry. We’ve still got lots of time for practice! 

For a complete guide to foam rolling and mobility work, check out this video. Your body will thank you!

Day 10: Speed Work

Today you’ll complete another 10-minute run. You can complete this on the road, a trail, or a treadmill. Instead of focusing on climbing this time, you’ll target some faster speed intervals combined with walk breaks

  • 1 minute of easy jogging
  • 1 minute of hard running
  • 1 minute of walking 
  • Repeat this 3 times for a total of 9 minutes
  • End with 1 minute of slow walking to cool down and settle your heart rate

Day 11: Nutrition Thoughts & Mobility

Your nutrition challenge for this week is to try out one new recipe or ingredient. By getting out of the usual routine of meals and ingredients you get a chance to bring in new flavors, a different cooking technique, and potentially some new vitamins and minerals in whatever food you don’t normally eat. Besides, variety is the spice of life, they say. 

In addition, today you’ll repeat the mobility routine from Day 9. Seek and destroy those sore spots that have snuck in over the past few days, and you’ll be ready for tomorrow’s strength session. 

On this lighter day, check out our comprehensive Beginner Runner’s Guide which is chock full of tips for gear, fuel, weight loss, motivation, and more. 

Day 12: Strength Training

So far we’ve spent most of our strength training time on the lower body and core. Today you’ll change it up and focus on the upper body with a circuit of pushups and lateral shoulder raises. 

Here are some notes to keep in mind on your form:

Push Ups:
  • From the pushup position on the ground, align your hands directly under the shoulders.
  • Keeping your belly and butt tight, slowly lower your body to the ground, keeping your elbows close to the side of your body.
  • Push back up either from your toes or your knees, whichever feels more comfortable.
  • As you raise up, remember to keep your back straight to avoid sagging and compromising your lower back. 
Lateral Raises:

You can do this with bodyweight only, but for a bit more challenge you can hold weights in your hands. If you have a pair of dumbbells, great, otherwise use a household object like two cans of beans or water bottles.

  • Start by standing tall and holding your weights in your hands with the palms facing forward.
  • Without shrugging your shoulders, slowly raise your arms out to the side until they’re parallel to the ground at about shoulder height.
  • Bring your arms back down to your sides. 
  • Don’t forget to breathe through the movements!
The workout:

You’ll only need 9 minutes for this upper body circuit.

  • 1 minute of pushups
  • 30 seconds of rest 
  • 1 minute of lateral raises
  • 30 seconds of rest
  • Repeat 3 times

Day 13: Mobility

Just as yesterday’s strength focused on the upper body, so will today’s mobility work. With some dynamic stretches, you’ll work out any stiff muscles and be ready for the next day’s retest of your baseline run. 

  • Start with arm circles to bring movement to your shoulders and chest.
  • 30 seconds each of forward and backward arm circles
  • Bring one arm up to bend it behind your head for a tricep and scapular stretch. 
  • 30 seconds on the left arm and 30 seconds on the right arm.
  • Next, cross one arm in front of your body and hold it to your chest to stretch the back of your shoulder. 
  • 30 seconds on each arm of this stretch.
  • Lastly, come down to the ground for child’s pose.
  • With your knees on the ground, lower your upper body down with arms stretched out in front of you. Try to relax into the pose for at least 30 seconds with deep breaths and feel a gentle stretch in your hips, back, and arms. 

Day 14: Retest Baseline

Today’s the day! With this retest you’ll be able to see just how much improvement you’ve made over the last 14 days. Remember that improvement isn’t only in seeing your distance increase. It might also look like easier breathing while running, or reduced need for walk breaks. Maybe you’re feeling a little lighter on your feet now, or notice improved posture. All of these factors are an improvement, so don’t obsess about how much more or less distance you covered. 

With that in mind, head out for your 10-minute retest run. If possible, run in the same location as before so you can get a good comparison.

Day 15 and Beyond

With these past 14 days of running, strength, and mobility, you are primed to continue your training. Don’t forget that our Beginner Running Program is a perfect next step to keep progressing in your running. 

Download the app to check out this and all our other full training plans from 5k to half marathon and beyond. Our incredible running community is there with you as well in this awesome sport of running!