An 8-week running plan for beginners that's easy and effective

Our running plan for beginners will build your fitness and endurance in just two months

Woman on an urban run, as part of a running plan for beginners
(Image credit: Getty Images)

New to running? We're here to help with this, our running plan for beginners.

Running is great for your body and mind; you'll burn around 350 calories for every 5k you clock up, whilst studies have found aerobic activities such as running can help boost self-esteem and reduce stress, partly due to that famed 'runner's high', which releases feel-good endorphins.

Perhaps best of all, running is free to do – all you need is a good pair of sneakers and you're set to go. (If you don't already own a pair, check out our guides to the best running shoes for men and the best running shoes for women).

However, it's also easy to make painful mistakes when you're just starting out. That's what it's important to work up to it bit-by-bit. This is the most effective way to build strength and fitness, plus it will help you avoid injury.

With that in mind, we've devised this eight-week running plan for beginners, to help you find your feet and build towards achievable and sustainable goals.

Eight-week running plan for beginners

The beginner's running plan set-out below requires you to exercise on four days every week, over the course of eight weeks. They can be done either outdoors or on a running 

Where possible, we recommend that you try and break these four days up with rest days in between. Take the opportunity to grab a foam roller and do some recovery rolling.

The length of your runs and rests varies from session to session, so be sure you know what's required before you set out. During each session, use a watch to time your runs - take a look at our pick of the best fitness watches that might be of use.

The third session of each week gives you a break from running. Instead, you're required to take 'gentle exercise' for a specified amount of time. This might include time on an elliptical machine, cycling on an exercise bike or road bike, or swimming.

Read to get going? Here's your eight-week running plan for beginner's schedule!

Week 1

  • Day 1: 15 minute run (Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes x 5)
  • Day 2: 10 minute run (Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute x 5)
  • Day 3: 15 minute of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 15 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 2

  • Day 1: 18 minute run (Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes x 6)
  • Day 2: 18 minute run (Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute x 6)
  • Day 3: 20 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 20 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 3

  • Day 1: 24 minute run (Run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes x 6)
  • Day 2: 16 minute run (Run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute x 4)
  • Day 3: 22 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 25 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 4

  • Day 1: 20 minute run (Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes x 4)
  • Day 2: 24 minute run (Run 4 minutes, walk 2 minute x 4)
  • Day 3: 25 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 30 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 5

  • Day 1: 21 minute run (Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes x 3)
  • Day 2: 30 minute run (Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute x 5)
  • Day 3: 25 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 35 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 6

  • Day 1: 28 minute run (Run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute x 4)
  • Day 2: 36 minute run (Run 9 minutes, walk 3 minutes x 3)
  • Day 3: 30 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 37 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 7

  • Day 1: 24 minute run (Run 7 minutes, walk 1 minutes x 3)
  • Day 2: 30 minute run (Run 12 minutes, walk 3 minute x 2)
  • Day 3: 35 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 40 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Week 8

  • Day 1: 36 minute run (Run 8 minutes, walk 1 minutes x 4)
  • Day 2: 28 minute run (Run 15 minutes, walk 3 minutes, then run 10 more minutes)
  • Day 3: 40 minutes of gentle exercise
  • Day 4: 45 minutes walk or run, taking as few breaks as possible

Top tips for following our running plan for beginners

  • FIND A FRIEND

Running is more fun with a pal, plus it keeps you accountable. Better still, why not join one of the many beginners’ running groups around? You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish when surrounded by a supportive, like-minded group of people.

  • REMEMBER THE HIGH

If your motivation levels are low, try telling yourself that you’re only going to run for five minutes. Nine times out of 10, by the time the first five minutes are up, the outdoors and the exercise will have done their job – you’ll be feeling more awake, more refreshed, and ready to tackle the rest of the run. You know what they say, the  first five minutes are the hardest!

  • INDOORS OR OUT?

‘Both are good, but if you can get outside to run, even better,’ says Olivia Ross-Hurst, adidas Runners Captain. ‘Breathing in fresh air gives your muscles a boost of oxygen, increases your energy levels, and wakes you up. Natural sunlight (even on a cloudy day) stimulates vitamin D (crucial for overall health and wellbeing) and boosts Serotonin production.’

  • DON'T MISS THOSE REST DAYS

Remember to schedule in rest days! Invest in a foam roller to ease the aches and pains that can come with regular running - uncomfortable perhaps, but a good indicator that you're actually working your body.