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Running Plan for Beginners

stew smith

Running injury free requires near perfect technique, great shoes, possibly the addition of orthotics / insoles, and a gradual build-up after long periods of no running or beginning a running plan. Last week’s article concerning women’s running and training plan caused me to re-think my advice as the intensity of the article was not perfectly directed toward a novice exerciser. In fact, thanks to some feedback from readers, it inspired me to reach back into my archives of how I used to personally train beginners as opposed to how I personally re-started a running program after a year of not running in the past. It now is clear that the words “beginner running program” is relative. For me, the plan I placed on last week’s article was what I used to get back into running after taking a year off due to a serious injury to my femur.

To avoid or deal with running injuries:

One of my sayings is, “If it hurts to run, stop running. If it hurts to walk, do not run. If it hurts doing nothing/walking, go to a doctor.” For more information on running injuries see or for some great ideas and explanations on the long list of training plans and injuries occurring from them.

Beginner Running Chart for people seeking to start an exercise plan and need to lose 20+ lbs: (always start run workout with a quick 5:00 walk / light leg stretch). I highly recommend the RUN / WALK method as you are learning to run.

Each Run Workout is to be done THREE times a week

Week 1

Walk 20-30 minutes / stretching entire body daily (monitor weight loss*)

Week 2

Run 1:00 / Walk 1-2:00 for 20-30 minutes

Week 3

Run 1:00 / Walk 1:00 for 30 minutes (listen body as injuries occur this week**)

Week 4

3 Sets of Run 1:30 / Walk 1:30 | 3 Sets of Run 2:00 / Walk 1:00

Week 5

3 Sets of Run 2:30 / Walk 1:00 | 3 Sets of Run 2:00 / Walk 30 seconds

Week 6

4 Sets of Run 3:00 / Walk 1:30

Week 7

Run 1 mile / try non-stop / walk 1 mile fast

Week 8

Run / walk combo 2.5 miles (from weeks 8-10 – try to run as much as you can)

Week 9

Run / walk combo 2.75 miles


Run / walk combo 3 miles

* - if you are losing 2-3 lbs this week by simply adding walking / stretching and more water to your life – keep it up until weight loss slows to under 1 lb per week.

** - Typically injuries occur during running programs the 3rd week IF too aggressive with initial training

Running When Overweight – The human body is built for survival and is quite resilient to most of the stresses we can throw at it; however, the knee is not designed to take too much excess weight even through a pain free running program. Usually meniscus and articular cartilage will wear away exposing bone on bone and premature arthritis. This takes years though. So, if you are over 40 lbs overweight replace walking/running everyday with some days of non impact aerobics like biking, swimming, rowing or elliptical gliding.

Beginning running programs for folks who do not exercise are not the same as beginning running programs for recently injured or young athletes. In hindsight, I realize I made that mistake in the previous Women’s Fitness article and wanted to differentiate the two programs.

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