Running for beginners - A step-by-step guide

Running for beginners - A step-by-step guide

Se Kim Petersen's profil  By Kim Petersen


Do you wish to take up running, but you have some questions you want answered?

In the guide ‘running for beginners’, you get tips on how to start running in the best way possible.



Which factors should you focus on and, not least, which factors are unimportant for you as a beginner? 

The guide comprises following sections;

  • 3 areas you should focus on before you start running.
  • 3 focal areas for the actual running


Running for beginners – The first steps 

Good and effective training for beginners is centred around two things.

You need the enjoyment of running, and you need to feel improvements.

But before starting your first run, you need to consider a few things.

If you have already started your training, do not worry. You can still learn a few things


You should focus on three things before hitting the road;

- Treat yourself to a pair of good running shoes

- Set an overall goal and some milestones

- Find the nearest social running or a running club


Any other worries you might have are, at the preliminary stage, not important.

In the following sections, I will prepare you to make the rights decisions.



Treat yourself to a pair of good running shoes 

A pair of good running shoes will give you comfort on your run and, as a result, a greater running experience.

In this article, you will get succinct recommendations to what running shoes you as a beginner should pick: Picking the right running shoes as a beginner – read the article here

You should still remember that running shoes will not make you immune to injuries.

You can still suffer an injury if you are not following a structured training plan for beginners.

An effective running plan for beginners will slowly, but surely, help you build fitness while avoiding injuries.


Have 1 main objective and 2 milestones – this will increase your motivation

When you need to set your main objective for the training, it is incredibly important that you ask yourself why you have started running.


Beginners can be split into three different motivational categories;


The Social Simon – who runs for the social enjoyment

Healthy Hannah – who runs because of the healthy benefits

Competitive Caroline – who runs to improve finish-times and to compete against the neighbour


No matter what type you might be, it is important you set a main objective before you start running.

One of the tools you might use is the so-called SMART model.

This model is great for setting a clear and precise main objective.

However, this model does not accommodate for the differences in people.

If you are very focused on the results of your running, you will be running to improve your times on different distances – in this case, the model is great for you.

If you are running because of the social aspect and the healthy benefits, the model is less useful.

I will touch upon how you can set your objectives with and without the help of the SMART model.


Specify your objectives

Once you have found the overarching goal of running, you need to specify your milestones.

You need to remember that the objectives should be inspiring and guiding, and you should not feel stressed about the objective.

Simple objectives are, therefore, the best objectives.

For instance, if you are running for the social aspect, your first goal should be to find a running club or a social society in your vicinity.

Next, you should set yourself the goal of attending the group once a week.

When you have the hunger for more and have settled in with the running club, you should set yourself the objective of running your first 5k etc…

If you are doing it for the competition and challenges, you should obviously set yourself an objective that is more competitive.

This could, for instance, be running 10k in less than 60 minutes.

But before reaching this stage, your first objective should be to run 3 times a week, where one of the workouts is interval training.


This is how you use the SMART model

By using the SMART model, you can make it easier for yourself to set specified goals.

This is particularly true if you are more competitive and want to challenge yourself.

Every letter stands for an element in your objective.

The examples below are made for the runner who gets motivated by personal challenges and competitions.


S – for specific.

  • A specified objective could be something like running a particular run that you can sign up for –that particular run then becomes your objective.
  • An unspecified objective would be something like “running any competitive run.”


M – for meaningful.

  • It should be meaningful for you to reach that goal. For instance, it would not be meaningful for you to set an objective of doing a marathon if you actually love running a fast 5k instead.
  • In other words, your objective should mean something for you.


A – for ambitious.

  • It is important to make sure that the goal is not too easy for you, as it can be demotivating if you “know” you will reach the goal from the onset.
  • If you have already done ten half-marathons, it is not particularly ambitions to do another.
  • Instead, you should consider other objectives to keep up the motivation.


R – for realistic.

  • The goal should be realistic in relation to your abilities, time, and resources.
  • An unrealistic objective is a dream, and a dream never comes true!
  • It is, therefore, important to find the right balance between the ambitious (the A) and the realistic.
  • It can be difficult if you do not know the ins and outs of your body and running yet.
  • Therefore, it is a good idea to ask a trained runner or other runners.


T – for time-based.

  • The goal should be time-based in order to prevent you from thinking something along the lines of “no worries, I will reach that goal eventually in the future.”
  • This line of thinking will help you get out once it becomes tough.
  • A time-based goal works like a voice that will keep you training.


Write down your objectives and hang them on your fridge

A brilliant idea is to write down your goals on a post-it notes and stick it to the fridge where you will see it every day.


Write down 1 main objective.

I recommend that the main objective is to attend a particular run you can sign up for – no matter your overarching reason for running.

This way, your main objective will work like an anchor. You will get a finish date, which will definitely make your objective time-based.

When you pick a run, you also become a part of something. The experience will also become part of the objective and help increase the motivation. Many beginners ask how long it will take to train for the various distances if you start at 0.


Unfortunately, there is no set answer for this question, but here are the guidelines I use.


  • 5km = 8-12 weeks
  • 10km = 12-16 weeks
  • Half-marathon = 16-24 weeks
  • Marathon = 24-40 weeks


The more time you have to train for the various distances, the better the end-result will be.

In addition, a long training session will also mean that you minimise the risk of getting injuries, as you are not forcing the training.


Write down at least 2 milestones.

Milestones will keep you motivated for the training.

In contrast to the main objective, milestones are typically more related to the actual trainings.

For instance, you could set a milestone of attending the running club 5 times next month, or to finish all workouts in the running plan. You can also set a milestone of attending a smaller run circa 4-6 weeks before your main objective. Setting the milestones are entirely up to you. Once you have reached a milestone, you cross it off. Every time you can cross a milestone off the list, your motivation increases.


Find a running club or a social community

If it is possible, sign up for a running club or attend a social running community. There are other runners attending that can help you. There are several benefits of attending a social running community or a running club. Most running clubs or social running communities have beginner teams, where you can train and talk with other like-minded runners. These runners are probably running around with the same challenges and questions like you.


Search on

Use the keywords running club/social + city name.

This should hopefully yield a list of various running clubs/socials in your vicinity. In a running community or club, you will be running on the same days and times. Two workdays and 1 day in the weekend. On the two workdays, the training time is usually between 17-19. This means you will have to consider your dinner (more about this later). In the weekends, the run usually takes place on Saturday mornings. The training time is usually between 9-10. Having a routine of the same training days and times is a benefit for you, as you then know exactly when you will be training.

You can then plan your other activities in accordance with this.


But even more importantly:


  • It becomes harder for you to find a last-minute excuse for NOT doing the work-out.
  • Your running buddies are waiting for you.
  • A good trick is to always finish the work-out with the words “see you…”. It makes it feel more binding for the next social running session.
  • If you do not have time to attend all three days, then do one or two.


Simply attending the community/club and experiencing the unity will help to increase your motivation.


This is how running works in practice

Naturally, every running club does it differently, so there are minor differences in the practical execution of the training session. However, the training is typically split in teams according to tempo. If there is a beginner’s team, then pick this. The beginner team will usually run between 3-5k on a running route close to the starting point. You should therefore be able to find your way back if anything should go wrong. If there is no beginner’s team, you will have to pick one of the other teams. The tempo on these teams will range between 4:30min per km to 7:30min per km. The training session will last from 30 minutes or more. If you are unsure which team you should pick, then ask one of the people responsible for the event. They would probably ask you a few questions and quickly be able to guide you towards the right running team.

A bonus you do not want to miss!

One of the great things about attending a running club or community is the unity and the sharing of good running stories.

Imagine you have just finished your first real run, and it is a huge personal success for you. It is fantastic to share this experience with your running buddies and receive their tribute – and trust me, they will cheer on you. For just a second, you will feel invincible. It is a great feeling you will not be without. It is always cooler to share your running experience with other runners than celebrating all alone!


This is how to train as a beginner

Now you have bought yourself a pair of good running shoes, found a running club or society, and set a main objective and some milestones.

Now it is time to start running!

There are two types of beginners.

Runners that can do at least 3k without having to stop for a breather – and runners that can hardly run for a few minutes without stopping for a breather.

You will quickly find out which category you belong to, if you do not know it already.


How many times a week should you be running?

Once you start running, it will take longer for your body to recover from every run. 2-3 weekly runs with at least 1 day of rest in-between will be great for the majority. This way, your body will have enough time to recover before your next run, and you will be training enough times to build up a great fitness. Most beginner work-out plans propose a training load of 2-3 workouts per week.


Running for beginners - "Hard is NOT Smart"

When you start running, you might be tempted to focus on improving your tempo run by attempting a fast run. It will not give you any running pleasure to be running with your heart out and a heart rate of 200 every run. Many beginners stop running after the first 14-21 days because they only associate running with a feeling of displeasure. If you are a Competitive Caroline, you might ask yourself whether it requires hard training to improve your running.

The answer is "no"!

Low intensity is enough to create some progress in the beginning. You do not need to work out in a particularly high intensity to improve your fitness when your starting point is zero. Various scientific research has shown that you can improve your fitness significantly by training at moderate intensity. So why push your body to the limit when, instead, you can reach great improvement in your fitness while enjoying your run?

Secondly, you might even risk working out the “wrong” energy system if you are constantly “running beyond your limits.”

In the long run, to become a good runner you need to train the energy system that requires oxygen. This is done by extending your training time instead of increasing the intensity. Once you can run for 40 minutes without problems, you can then focus on training your intensity – but not any sooner. Instead, focus should be on finding the right running tempo where you can reach a steady state and run for miles.

I usually call this point for the “sweet spot.”

Once you find the “sweet spot”, you will experience a feeling that runners commonly call “Runners High.”


This is how you find your “sweet spot”

  1. Find a running tempo where you still have the energy for a light conversation. 
  2. Once you have found the tempo, you increase the tempo until you reach a point where it becomes hard. 
  3. You start feeling difficulties in having a conversation and feel displeasure in your muscles.
  4. Just below this point is your sweet spot
  5. In other words, the highest tempo you can run before it gets too hard.
  6. When you have this feeling, you have a great starting point for your continued running training.
  7. The sweet spot is also commonly referred to as training at moderate intensity.
  8. Try running in this tempo for 2/3 of your training sessions in the first 8-12 weeks.
  9. One of your training sessions should be in a slower tempo.
  10. You will feel how your fitness improves and how the sweet spot is gradually moved.
  11. You have now slowly improved your fitness without overloading your body.
  12. As a beginner, it is all about improving as “much as possible” by doing as “little as possible”.


Enjoy the training!


Below, you can find three different workout plans:

Read more HERE



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