Featured image of post How to Start Running Today: A Step-by-Step Plan

How to Start Running Today: A Step-by-Step Plan

This step-by-step plan gets you started running safely & effectively. Learn about setting goals, proper gear, training plans, form, nutrition & motivation to become a runner today.

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Whether you are looking to get fit, lose weight, boost your mental health, or just try something new, running is an excellent choice. It’s an easy and accessible form of exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere with no equipment needed beyond a good pair of shoes. However, starting a running routine as a total beginner can feel intimidating. This step-by-step guide will walk you through exactly how to start running today in a smart, safe way that sets you up for success.

Determine Your Baseline

Before you lace up your shoes, honestly evaluate your current fitness level. This will allow you to start at an appropriate level for building up gradually over time. If you’re already somewhat active by walking regularly or playing recreational sports, that’s great - you likely have more endurance to start running short distances right away. However, if you’re very sedentary, it’s best to start with periods of walking mixed with short running intervals to avoid burnout or injury.

Set a SMART Running Goal

Having a clear, realistic goal in mind is critical for staying motivated on your running journey. Using the “SMART” goal formula is an effective approach:

Specific: Rather than “get in shape,” set a tangible goal like running a 5K race or being able to run 2 miles nonstop.

Measurable: Put a number to quantify your goal, such as running 10 miles per week.

Attainable: Choose a goal that’s challenging but possible given your current fitness level and time commitment.

Realistic: If you’re a brand new runner, setting a goal to run a marathon in 3 months is likely unrealistic. Build up gradually.

Time-Based: Put a timeframe to your goal, like running your first 5K in 12 weeks.

Get The Proper Gear

While running requires minimal equipment, having a few basic gear items can make the experience much more comfortable.

Running Shoes

Well fitting running shoes are a must to prevent injury and make running feel better. Visit a specialty running store and get fitted by watching your gait and stride. Replace shoes every 300-500 miles.


Look for moisture-wicking technical fabrics and running-specific socks. These will help keep you drier and prevent chafing and blisters. Cotton is not recommended as it stays damp.

Optional Accessories

A GPS running watch, hydration belt, body glide, reflective gear, and other products can enhance your runs but aren’t essential starting out.

Start a Walk-Run Training Plan

Most experts recommend following a structured walk-run plan to build up your cardiovascular endurance gradually. This reduces injury risk and helps develop the habit naturally. Here’s a sample 8-week beginner plan:

  • Weeks 1-2: Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. Repeat for 20-30 minutes.
  • Weeks 3-4: Run 2 minutes, walk 3 minutes. Total 25-35 minutes.
  • Weeks 5-6: Run 4 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Total 30-35 minutes.
  • Weeks 7-8: Run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute. Total 35-40 minutes.

Stick to 3-4 days per week, never increasing your time or distance more than 10% per week to avoid overuse injuries. Rest and recovery days are key.

Learn Proper Running Form

Good form is important for efficiency and prevention of common running injuries. Focus on keeping your posture tall with a slight forward lean, driving your knees up, and swinging your arms front-to-back. Land first with your midfoot directly under your body, rolling forward to the toes - not striking first with your heel. Lean forward only slightly from your ankles, keeping your head up and focused ahead, not down at your feet. Breathe steadily through your nose and mouth. It will take practice but good form will make you a better, more resilient runner.

Nutrition & Hydration Basics

What you eat and drink plays a huge role in your running performance and recovery. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, complex carbs, lean protein, and good fats. Hydrate well before runs, drinking 16-20 oz of fluid 1-2 hours beforehand. For runs under 60 minutes, water is sufficient. For longer efforts, replace electrolytes lost through sweat with a sports drink containing carbs and electrolytes.

After runs, eat a snack with both protein and carbs within 30-60 minutes to replenish glycogen stores and kickstart muscle recovery. Good options are chocolate milk, greek yogurt with fruit, or a peanut butter sandwich.

Stretching & Recovery

Don’t skip stretching, foam rolling, and other recovery activities. They’re just as important as your running itself. Dynamic stretches with movements like leg swings and walking lunges can enhance your warmup. After runs, do static stretches holding for 20-30 seconds each to improve mobility and flexibility. Foam rolling your legs and hips can also relieve muscle tightness and soreness. Finally, make sure to get enough sleep to allow your body to fully recover between runs.

Tracking Your Progress

Seeing your progress over time is an incredible motivator. Use a GPS watch, fitness app, or old school log to track each run’s distance and time. Celebrate small milestones like running continuously for 20 minutes without stopping or hitting a new overall weekly mileage number. Take pictures periodically to visually see your body changes and sense of accomplishment.

Managing Motivation

Be patient and persistent, and know there will be ups and downs in your motivation and running journey. Some tips:

  • Remind yourself why you started and how far you’ve already come.
  • Find an accountability partner or join a local running group for support.
  • Celebrate small successes along the way with non-food rewards.
  • Switch up your routes or playlist to keep runs engaging.
  • Sign up for a local 5K or other event to train for a goal.

Summary & Next Steps

Starting a running routine is simple but takes commitment and smart progression to build up safely. Follow a walk-run plan, focus on proper form and recovery, track and celebrate your milestones, and find ways to stay motivated. If you stick with it, you’ll be amazed at the endurance, strength, weight loss, and health benefits you gain as a runner. Once you can run continuously for 30-40 minutes, consider more advanced training plans like for a 10K or half marathon. Most importantly - trust the process and enjoy the incredible runner’s high!

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