Beginning Running Plans

It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how far you go—what’s important is that you run. CARA offers free beginning running plans with four different levels. Whether you are new to fitness, transitioning from walking to running, or looking to run your first 5K, our plans will help you take your first steps towards personal improvement, wellness, and or running success. 


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Tips For New Runners:

  • It is recommended that you check with your physician before beginning any new physical activity.

  • Walk, before you run. Before beginning a running program, build up to walking at a brisk pace continually for at least 20 minutes.

  • Focus on building endurance and developing your heart and lungs, before you focus on speed.

  • Pacing is important. Your pace (i.e. how fast you run) should allow you to continue running/jogging for a sustained period of time. 

  • The best way to begin running is with a “run/walk progression plan”. That is starting with alternating a short running bought (like 1-2 mins) with walk breaks (typically 1-3 mins).

  • Run at what is called “conversation pace”. That is an effort that allows you to carry on a conversation, at least in phrases, without being out of breath.

  • Walk breaks are part of the process of building into a running plan. Embracing how they help you become a better runner. Using run/walk intervals actually allows you to see improvement sooner by allowing you to cover longer distances and reduce injury risk.

  • During walking breaks, let your heart rate come down. You don’t need a heart rate watch. You will be able to sense your heart rate lowering on your own. For reference though, getting your heart rate down to 120-130 beats per minute (on average) is recommended before you start your next run interval. 

  • While having a GPS running watch with all the bells and whistles can be helpful, it’s not necessary. Phone apps, such as STRAVA, can track both time and distance for free from your smartphone.  

  • REST is important to re-charge and give muscles a chance to recover. As a beginner, running every other day is ideal. Avoid significant exercise on the rest days on your training plan.

  • If you are following a beginning running plan, allow for some flexibility to accommodate for work-life-fitness balance. That may mean adapting the schedule to fit your own personal life conflicts. If you do make adjustments,  avoid back-to-back days of run or run/walk workouts. If you do miss a workout, do not stress or feel like you have to start over. Simply move on to the next day’s scheduled activity. Avoid trying to “make-up” missed workouts. In general, when starting out, completing 80-90% of your scheduled runs is a realistic goal.

  • Cross-training on one or two of your non-running days is good. This can be brisk walking, hiking, biking, swimming, yoga, weight-training (anything that gets the muscles moving differently). For the purposes of our beginning running pans, cross training days are not intended to be overly intense exercise sessions. 

  • Stretching and strengthening are important. (PDF Guide)

    • Do a “Dynamic” warm-up (designed to get muscles moving and warm) before every workout.

    • Do static stretches afterwards (those are the kinds of stretches you hold for 15-30 seconds). 

    • Also consider doing some core strengthening (planks are great) and strength training but do after runs (or on rest or cross-training days) and be careful not to overdo it, especially if you haven’t previously done any weightlifting

  • One of the biggest reasons new runners don’t stick with it is because of “injuries”. The most common cause of injuries in beginning runners is progressing too fast. Sticking with a beginning running plan is the way to progress safely. Some discomfort, such as soreness, is normal and not a cause for concern. Lingering pain, especially sharp pains, may signal the need to consult a doctor or sports medicine professional. Feel free to contact if you have an injury question.