Running Program for Absolute Beginners

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Running Program for Absolute Beginners

Congratulations! You’ve tackled the first major step toward a new, healthier you. Just by clicking on this article, you’ve told yourself that becoming a runner is possible, and you’re right! Our Running Program for Absolute Beginners will help you take baby steps toward reaching your goals. This beginner’s running program is designed for those with absolutely no running experience. It’s important to mention that you should always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Once you get the green light, pull that hair back, lace up those shoes, and let’s get going!

Download your free copy of the Running Schedule for Absolute Beginners.

Running Program for Absolute Beginners

This beginners’ program combines cardiovascular fitness activities with strength training exercises. Combining these two things will allow your body to build both strength and endurance, as well as help to prevent injury. You’ll notice that during the first few weeks of this beginner’s running program, you actually won’t be running at all. By starting out with a fast-paced walk, you’ll allow your body the time it needs to adapt to your new fitness routine. Follow the schedule below and you’ll be a runner before you know it.

Cardio Walk (CW): Your cardio walks will be fast-paced. You will keep your arms at chest level while swinging them front to back–just as when running. We call this a cardio walk because of its cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits. This walk is also designed to progressively move you into running.

icon Strength Training (ST): On strength-training days, you’ll follow a method of improving muscular strength by gradually increasing the ability to resist force. You’ll do this through the use of free weights, machines, or even your own body weight. Strength training sessions are designed to impose increasingly greater resistance, which in turn stimulates the development of muscle strength to meet the added demand.

Mile (M): As you increase your fitness levels, the distance of your cardio workouts will increase. Wherever you notice a number followed by an ‘M’ in the schedule, you should cover as many miles in your workout as the number dictates.

Cross Training: Cross training incorporates various forms of exercise. Some examples of cross training are aerobics, bicycling, brisk walking, jogging, skating, snow skiing, weight lifting, swimming, and walking. The choice is yours!

icon Get the Running Schedule for Absolute Beginners here

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Editor’s Note: Originally published Aug 11, 2013

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Gale Compton

Gale co-founded SkinnyMs. with a goal to provide women with delicious recipes, fitness routines, and ways to reach their ideal weight. Gale has been featured on the Today Show in which she won a cook off for the best Lasagna. Be sure to search for her winning recipe, Skinny Lasagna Rolls.

Guided by her firm belief in healthy eating and the power of exercise, Gale has written two cookbooks and several fitness ebooks. She earned her Fitness Training Certification from, National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association. Gale loves to run with her dog Maggie and has completed numerous half-marathons.

More by Gale


  1. Just an FYI, on the pdf download, at the bottom it says CW=Cardio Workout instead of Cardio Walk. I was confused. Hahahaha πŸ™‚

  2. hello! i am really wanting to try this out.. I have been wanting to do a half marathon for so long! and i would love to do it before i am 30! (i'm 28). Has anyone tried this training yet? i am curious to know how well it went??

    1. I started this program in February 2013. I went directly by the program (maybe changing up days sometimes to suit my schedule). I ran the half marathon distance on schedule but there was not a half marathon race close but I kept up the running during the week as well as on the weekends. I didn't run the race until March of this year (2014) and won 1st place in my age division. I just completed my 1st full marathon November 8, 2014 and placed in the top 64% of all ages and genders of the nearly 2800 runners. Oh and by the way, I am 59 and my goal was to complete the 26.2 miles in under 5 hours before I was 60. I was able to achieve this goal with time to spare on both age and run time. This program is the best out there, hands down!!

  3. Hey printed this off and was looking at it and just wondering how long are you suppose to strength train for on Mondays?

      1. I had back surgery 4 mths ago and have worked up to walking for an hour each day plus 45 min strength and core training. I want to start jogging again. Where would you recommend I start on the chart since I’m already walking 3-4 miles with a 16-17 min. per mile pace?

        1. Deborah, Please check with your doctor. Once given a “thumbs up”, I would recommend starting around week 4, but again, get approval
          from your doctor first. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

  4. Hi I am wanting to start this on Monday but when it says CW- how long should we walk for? Thanks in advance!!

    1. It varies between 1 mile and 2 miles weeks one through three as you can see, and then on week 4 and 5 it's 1 mile, including the running. On week 4, you walk for 2 minutes, and then 1 for a minute, and keep repeating for a mile. One week 5, it begins with 1 minute CW and 5 minute run, and you repeat for a mile, going from 1 minute of walking to 5 minutes of running for the whole mile.

  5. is it high speed running, because I have a bad back and pinched nerves in both my legs. is this workout good for all?

    1. It does not have to be high speed running, but jogging. You can take it at your own pace. If your nerves or back start to bother you, rest.

    2. Also…Try Yoga. There are some positions and stretches you can do to reduce the pain. I have the same issue, and I in the 3rd month *every 4 months now to get steroid shots….and no pain. In recent months I would have been screaming by now. As told you have to strengthen your core and be consistent about it. Plus you have to stop eating and drinking stuff that makes your body hurt…like Coffee ( oh I miss it but pain I can live without), sugar *I cut down a lot…weaning myself off and drinking liquids that clean my system and keeps the acid levels down.


      Cut out caffeine, cut the sugar way down, drink more water
      start slow, start walking 15 each day
      Stretch, 30min every day…* trust me it will help. I am not walking with my cane now * oh yeah if you can stop using the cane….that made a huge difference.

      Linda…where I was using pain meds everyday….I am down to every once in a while * when I do too much. Which is a huge difference since that stuff mucks with your liver. Good luck

  6. Over 1 year ago I posted something like this…On New Year's morning 2013 I woke up and realized I didn't feel good and I needed to change. It took a few weeks but I found this program… well, I have shared this program with so many! I am 58 (59) this year. I have run numerous 5K's, 10K's coming in 1st or Grand Master each race. I recently won 1st (in my age group of course) in the Berry Half Marathon. I am scheduled to run the Savannah Marathon in November.

    Without this program, none of this would be possible. I had tried other programs but I always felt pushed. This program is the best out there. Stay within its guidelines and you will not suffer injury or defeat!

    1. I am 58 and in the worst shape ever. I don't feel good, and can't get a job. Thanks for the encouragement, Fran. I will try this! So glad I found you, SkinnyMs. And ladies, this is free guidance, encouragement and recipes galore. See ya on the winning side!

    2. Thanks Fran, for the encouragement. I've been running some but without a schedule of any kind. More structure will make for better progress. I'm 61.

  7. I am sensing that this beginning running program is okay for older adults. I am 53 and have never ran before. I love to walk, but with knees/back problems and a few (okay 40) extra pounds, I need something I WILL stick with. Is this an good program for women my age? Thanks.

    1. Yes, this running program will work for older adults. Just be aware of your knee/back problems and if you experience pain, switch to walking.

  8. Ok ladies I'm going to try this. I'm more of a walker than a runner but I need to get back into shape.

    1. Newbie, Some people use their cars odometer by driving the route to measure a mile and then mark that to run/walk. Of course nowadays, there are a lot of free apps out there if you have a smart phone, such as Runkeeper through itunes app store.
      Lastly, if you have none of the above, if you can do this at a track at a park/school, 4x around a track is equal to a mile.

    2. Hello Newbie,

      As SkinnyMS listed a few things you could do, I wanted to add one more thing. If you know your route, like starting destination and ending destination, you could put both on google maps and see the distance.

      1. Thanks, Penny. Yes, Google Maps or sites, like Map My Run, can help you predetermine your running route and distance without the use of a GPS device.

  9. I'm 64 years old and have a lot of bad eating habits (old style Southern comfort foods). I also have a number of health conditions that make exercise challenging (no impact – doctor's orders). I have a membership at a 24 hour gym thanks to Silver Sneakers but there's no water aerobics anywhere near my home. I've done much better and am losing weight at a snail's pace but have minimum 100 pounds to go. Any suggestions on how to speed up the process?

    1. Congratulations on taking those first steps, Laura. Try not to be discouraged by the slow progress. You will be the same age a year from now whether you continue to put in the work, or not. Celebrate the small steps. The best way to maximize your weight loss is to incorporate small changes over time. Look for ways to make healthy substitutions in your favorite comfort food recipes– Skinny Ms. can help with this. We also have plenty of low or no impact workouts to choose from. One of the best low impact workouts is walking. Aim to work your way up to 10,000 steps per day. The key is to be consistent. It WILL pay off.

  10. I am Thirteen and one of the biggest girls in my class, but that’s not really what is motivating me. I weigh more than I should at around 120 or 30. My sister who is 17 weighs less than me and is always complaining she is fat. It makes me feel bad and I am trying to lose weight in any way possible other than medication and starving myself (I eat little anyways before I am full). I like running but every time I do it hurts my heart and throat. I have no clue what to do!

    1. Dunbar, I highly recommend checking with your doctor about appropriate workouts for your age. Our
      website is geared toward adult workouts. πŸ™‚

  11. Once I finish this program I will have about 3 months before I actually run a half marathon race. I was wondering what I should do so, I can still run a half marathon in the three months after? I know to keep running (obviously), but I don’t know how far I should run. I was thinking of repeating the last 2 to 4 weeks of the program, do you think this is a good idea?

    1. Michayla, Great question! Here’s what I do in between runs: continue to run on the days designated, anywhere from 3 to 7 miles. On my long day, I typically run about 8 miles. It’s good to change it up, so feel free to run a few miles several times a week then increase your run on Sunday, or the day you’ve chosen for the long run.

      I hope this helps! πŸ™‚

  12. For week 4
    on Tuesday it says 2 MIN CW, 1 MIN run and then repeat 1 M- is that repeat 1 Mile?

    After I complete this, is there a recommended plan for my first marathon?

    1. Larri, Repeat the sequence, walk 2 minutes, run 1 minute. Do this for 1 mile.

      We don’t have a running schedule for a full marathon. However, you can easily use this running schedule and continuing building on it. Most marathon runners, that I know, don’t run a full marathon before race day. Typically, someone should be able to run approximately 25-30 miles per week before training for their first marathon. Recovery from running a full marathon can be tough, especially for a new runner. And, it depends on your goals. Do you want to eventually qualify for the Boston, NY, or simply enjoy a local run (without qualifying first)?

      Being able to run 16-18 miles or about 3 or so hours, should be sufficient. Just remember, recovery before and after a full marathon is essential to prevent injuries. Happy running!

    1. Lisa, Running shoes is a personal preference but I love Nike. Also, depending on the weather, you’ll want some
      comfortable running clothes, i.e., thermal jogging pants and jacket for sure.

  13. Where is the actual link to download program? I keep clicking on what appear to be links but I just keep getting sent in circles from one page with a link to click on to another page with a link to click on but never to a download?

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