21-Day Learn to Run Challenge for Beginners

Find your inner runner.

21-Day Learn to Run Challenge

If you’re not a runner, you may not know every runner’s best kept secret: running is fun! Sure, starting out takes a bit of effort, but once you’ve built enough endurance to keep your stride for miles, you’ll find yourself loving your new favorite form of exercise. Running is an art. It takes an artist to synchronize your breath with your arm and leg movements, and keep your stride stable. And our running challenge is designed to turn you into one.

This 21-day run challenge is designed move you from cardio walking (CW) to jogging to briskly paced runs. We’ve incorporated strength training days that strengthen your leg muscles as well as your bones and joints.

CW: During your cardio walks, you will walk at a fast pace, while keeping your arms at chest level and swinging them front to back–just as when running. We call this a cardio walk because of its cardiovascular and fat burning benefits.

21-Day Learn to Run Challenge

Week 1

Day 1: ½ mile jog (The best way to gauge where you are is to push yourself on day 1. )

Day 2: ½ mile CW, ½ mile jog, ½ mile CW

Day 3: In order to run strong and fast, you’ll need to build more muscle. Our Runner’s Strength Training Workout will target all the right muscles to make your next run stronger than your last.

Day 4: Rest

As you progress in your running, it’s important to prepare and protect your body. Our 7 Tips for Injury Proof Running will help ensure that you keep your body at peak performance.

Day 5: ½ mile jog, ½ mile cardio walk (CW), ½ mile jog

Day 6: ¾ mile jog, ½ mile CW, ¾ mile jog

Day 7: On the last day of your first week, rearrange and strengthen your body with our 6 Yoga Poses for Stronger Running. This workout focuses on single leg poses to make your runs stronger.

woman stretching

Week 2

Now that you’ve been running for a week, it’s time to add some motivation in the form of music. If you’re a beginner, hold off on headphones for now. Initially, you want to hear and get a feel for your breathing to make sure it flows with your pace. Our 30 Songs to Get You Running will give you all the music motivation you need.

Day 8: ½ mile jog, ½ mile CW, 1 mile jog

Day 9: ½ mile jog, ½ mile CW, 1 mile jog

Day 10: ½ mile jog, ½ mile CW, 1 mile jog

Day 11: Rest

As you get more comfortable with running, you’ll need to work on your form in order to increase your distance. Our article, 9 Ways to Improve Your Running Form, is designed to align your posture, relax your body, and make your runs feel more natural.

Day 12: 1 mile jog

It’s time to start eating like a champion runner. Longer runs require more fuel for your body. Our article, 19 Meals for Your Best Runoffers a variety of snacks and meals that will ensure that you have enough energy to finish every run on top.

Day 13: 1 mile jog, ½ mile CW, ½ mile jog

Day 14: 1.5 mile jog

woman doing pushups

Week 3

Day 15: Strengthen your body with the The Essential Workout for Runners. The stronger your core and legs, the longer you can run.

Day 16: Rest

Now that you’re running stronger and longer, your recuperation should be stronger also. Our post, Foam Rolling Basics: Lower Bodywill help you to work out the kinks in your legs, arms, and rear. Faster healing leads to a faster return to training.

Day 17: 1.5 mile jog

Day 18: 2 mile jog

Day 19: Rest

Day 20: 2 mile jog

Day 21: 3 mile jog

On the last day of our learn to run challenge, push your body. Use all of our tips, plus the momentum from the previous days, to end the challenge strong!

Your 21 days are up. Now that your legs are feeling stronger, take your running to the next level with our Beginner’s Running Program: Transform Your Body, Transform Your Life. Take the steps and tips you learned, and train your body to run a 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon.

Editors Note: This post was originally published April 18, 2015 and has been updated. 

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Trainer Clifford

Clifford is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and a lover of all things health, fitness, personal development, and community. When he's not cycling, hiking, or exploring new food recipes, he works to help others achieve personal growth.

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    1. CW stands for Cardio Walk, or walking at a brisker pace than just a stroll. We've added clarification to the article. Thank you!

  1. WAY, Way, way back in my college days I use to be a cross country runner. It was in my spirit. Between kids and my career it has been a very long time since I have hit the road. For far too long I have believed that I was too old to pick up running again. I just came across this article and it has inspired me to give it a go! Thanks for the motivation.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the omission, Tierney. Day 8 will follow the same schedule as Days 9 and 10. The correction has been made. Happy running!

    1. This program is for anyone who is looking to start a running program from scratch. A person with a history of athletics may find that a bit of muscle memory comes back to them, but the program can be adapted for any beginning fitness level. The important thing for any new runner is to start slowly with a combination of walking and short jogs, and then increase the jogging time in very small increments as your body adapts.

  2. Any advice for a beginner who does night shift on how to adapt the programme? I find any form of excercise prior to night shift leaves me exhausted half way through the shift. After a shift is easier but then i need to run for the kids by the time i’m home i’m flagging. Any advice would be beneficial.

    1. Are you eating a high-protein snack after your exercise? It sounds like there may be something in your diet that is causing you to crash during your shift. Try one of these options and let us know if you notice a difference: https://skinnyms.com/quick-and-easy-post-workout-foods/, https://skinnyms.com/7-post-workout-smoothie-recipes/, https://skinnyms.com/your-post-workout-snack-the-most-important-meal-of-the-day/. It is most important to find a routine that works best for you. This program only takes 30 minutes, or fewer, on most days, so finding the time shouldn’t be too difficult if you make it a priority.

  3. I’m more of a treadmill runner – what pace at miles per hour would you say is a good speed for the jogging you listed?

    1. As of now, there is no printable for this, but thanks for the idea! We’ll look into putting one together. 🙂

  4. A little confused with Day 12 – it says 1 mile jog, and then underneath it says “you’ve just run your first mile” but we had been doing that 1 mile jog for a few days now. What’s the difference? And isn’t that just less distance than the past three days of 2 miles? Loving this program and the effect it’s had on my life!

    1. Sarita, I removed that phrase from #12, it was a little confusing. Congratulations!!! Keep us posted on your progress. 🙂

  5. I am a total beginner who has always wanted to run but been to embarrassed. My son is a runner and it does wonders for his stress level. I will use this program to work toward this goal and not be afraid or intimidated by what someone thinks when they see me going down the street. Thank you for offering this!

    1. Lesa, High Five!!! Running is definintely great for stress reduction.

      When you’re running you should feel good about your accomplishment. I didn’t starting running until I was 50. Keep going and hold your head high! Running is a life changer. 🙂

  6. I’m counting on this to pass my court officer agility test. I’ll let you know how I did. Day 8 and still going strong!

  7. This is just going to be way wayyyy to hard for someone at my level to even think about. Right now I can barely walk a half mile on the treadmill. I certainly can’t run for a whole half mile on my first day. Do you have any recommendations for someone who is pushing forty and a smoker? And hasn’t worked out since her twenties?

  8. hi…
    could someone please create a running program in km instead of miles?
    would be a lot easier to follow:)

  9. 1 mile equals roughly 1.6 km so 1/2 mile equals roughly 0.8 km and 1/4 mile equals 0.4 km so 3/4 mile equals (0.8 + 0.4) roughly 1.2 km. 1/8 mile equals 0.2 km so if you add 1/8 (0.2 km) + 1/2 mile (0.8 km) you arrive at 1 km equal to 5/8 mile and 2 km equals 1.25 mile . So really, if you use 2 km every where you see a mile you will be running and / or walking roughly 33 meters further than the program dictates but the numbers will much easier to remember. Where you see 1/2 mile use 1 km and you will be doing roughly 16 meters more that the program dictates. If you write this down in order in chart form it will be easier to understand & utilize. Hope this helps.

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