New to running? Get started with a personalized running plan

Whether you want to start running to build your general fitness, train for a race, or simply try out a new activity, there are many factors to consider. 

Every runner has unique needs – so, the best way to start is to have a solid running program that not only caters to your running preferences and current fitness level, but also aligns with your objectives and schedule.

In this guide, we’ll give you our top running tips for beginners and talk about everything you need to know about getting started with running.

How to start running

If you’re new to running, you’ve come to the right place! Runna offers all the support you need to build a safe and sustainable running habit for years to come.

Whether you want to run your first 5k, build your general fitness, or you're getting back to running after a long break, there are several things you need to consider to make running as enjoyable as possible.

From improving your running form and building a consistent running habit to using strength training strategically and optimizing your nutrition and recovery, there are some essential components to setting yourself up for success – and cruising those first five kilometers.

Many runners start with the goal to run 5k without stopping or walking. A 5k (which stands for 5 kilometers and is approx. 3.1 miles) is a popular running distance that is an accessible goal for nearly everyone – even if you have no running experience at all or are not feeling very fit at all.

Once you get to running a 5k within 60 minutes, you can look into further decreasing your finishing time – and even signing up for your first 5k race! 

A key element to taking up running is staying consistent and holding yourself accountable. Some of the best ways to do this are to:

  • Build a weekly running routine and get used to running a few times a week
  • Add your training sessions to your calendar to make it easier to integrate running into your schedule
  • Sign up for a 5k race – having a specific, tangible goal ahead of you can do wonders for your motivation
  • Run with other people! Try a local running club or run with your friends or a run buddy

To help you with all this, we’ve built Runna, a dedicated running coaching app that you can use to build your own beginner-friendly running plan that adjusts all training sessions to your goals, availability, and preferences.

Our personalized running plans for beginners

If you’re a complete beginner, taking up a new sport like running can feel intimidating. One of the best ways to get started safely and build a solid running habit is to use a personalized running plan that adapts to your schedule and objectives. 

A tailored couch-to-5k plan will help you to get ready for your first 5k race efficiently, while also minimizing injury risk and improving your overall fitness. There are many running apps out there, but none offer you the support of a personal running coach in your pocket like Runna does.

With Runna, your running coaching app, you get a personalized training plan that:

  • Structures each week and sets out all training sessions for you
  • Automatically adjusts your mileage and types of runs to your goals
  • Incorporates strength training sessions adapted to the equipment you have
  • Helps you manage your recovery and nutrition

In short, having a balanced beginner’s running plan will help you stay on track and enable you to become a better runner, week after week. 

Whether you are just looking to get started with running or are coming back after a break, we have the right running plan for you. 

Pick the one that best suits your goals and level:

8 week new to running plan (couch to 5k)

If you’re looking to get started with running but have never ran before, this running plan is for you. With Runna, you can start training for your first 5k, improve your fitness level, and build a solid weekly running routine.

No matter your current running ability, we’ve created the optimal running programme to help you make the leap from zero to 5k and become fitter and healthier. 

With this beginner’s running plan, you’ll get a mix of walking and running sessions to gently build up your speed and stamina and enable you to run 5 kilometers in one go. You can even use strength training to get in better shape and improve your running game!

6 week returning to running plan

Haven’t ran for a while? This returning-to-running plan will get you back to running a 5k in just 6 weeks. It sets out all running sessions for you, based on your schedule and preferences, so that you can simply focus on your running game.

This plan will help you get back on track and run a 5k, regardless of your current running ability. It combines all the running essentials for beginners, including a mix of walking and running sessions, optional strength training, and plenty of running tips and advice on your nutrition and recovery. 

Rediscover running and build up your speed and endurance towards the 5k distance.

8 week get fit plan

Once you get to running a 5k comfortably, you can use this plan to get fitter and faster, develop healthy habits, and build a sustainable weekly running routine in just 8 weeks. Whether you're looking to burn some calories or set yourself up with healthy habits for the new year, we'll be by your side every step of the way. 

In it, you’ll get an introduction to intervals and structured training sessions, plus lots of easy runs to build a solid fitness base and gradually improve your running skills.

As you gain more experience, you’ll progressively increase your speed with faster sessions and build up endurance with long runs to help your body adapt to a range of distances.

Get your running journey off to the perfect start!

Take your running to the next level

Start your plan today for just $17.99 / £15.99 per month.

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First week free. Cancel anytime.

Nutrition for runners

If you’ve just started running (or are planning to), you need to know that training is only one part of the equation. To become a better runner, you need to also fuel your training and recovery – and make healthy food choices on a day-to-day basis.

Essentially, as a runner, you need to: 

  • Keep your protein high to help with muscle recovery
  • Eat a slightly higher proportion of carbs before your more challenging runs

If you’re looking to gradually become faster, you might wish to experiment with caffeine, too. 

While carb-loading is not necessary for runs under 5k, carbs are still a great option for fueling your body – so before you get out the door for your next run, make sure you eat a meal or a snack that’s rich in carbs. 

Don’t go overboard with sugar, though! There are plenty of healthy carb choices out there, mostly in the form of complex carbohydrates: whole grain, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fruits, and vegetables are ideal for runners of all levels. 

Race day nutrition

If you’re planning to run your first 5k race, here are a few things you should know about race-day nutrition: 

  • A few hours before you start running, eat a carb-rich meal. This will allow your body to digest the food and keep you fresh during the actual run.
  • Limit fiber, protein, and fat intake before your run. Those can slow down digestion and might make you feel heavy. 
  • Don’t try anything new on race day. Use tried and tested foods and combinations of foods that you’ve used in the past. 

Cross-training and strength training for beginner runners

Although it’s not a must, adding cross-training and strength training to your running program has two important benefits: they’ll help you reduce injury risk and improve your running performance. Here’s how: 

  • Cross-training enables you to add variety to your training schedule and also stay in shape in case you’re dealing with an injury. There are many options you can try: cycling, hiking, swimming are just a few. Most importantly, choose a sport you enjoy doing.
  • Strength training helps you improve your endurance, speed, and running economy, making you a better runner. It also protects your joints and muscles against injuries by helping your body manage muscle loads better.

With Runna, you can add customized strength training sessions to your running plan and tailor them to your schedule, equipment, and current strength level. 

Graphic with two phones and a smartwatch featuring Runna app.

Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

Walking and running to get to your first 5k 

The best way to get to running your first 5k is to use walking and running strategically.

A walk-run is, as the name suggests, a training session in which you alternate running and walking breaks. By adding walking intervals to your runs, you’re giving your body time to adapt to running, learn how to absorb the impact, and build your running volume over time. 

A deliberate walking interval lowers the impact of running on your musculoskeletal system, which also reduces the risk of injury. Over time, you need to reduce the amount of time you walk and increase the amount of time you run, until eventually you get to running only.  

Once you get to that point and can run a 5k, you can use our Get Fit plan to level up your running game. This plan uses different types of runs to help you improve your running skills, such as:

  • Interval and tempo sessions
  • Long runs 
  • Easy runs

This variety of running sessions will help you adapt to running at higher speeds and for longer stretches of time, making you a better runner with time.

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Running form and pacing

Your running form is important for a few reasons. Running efficiently will: 

  • Protect your body from the impact with the ground as much as possible
  • Reduce the energy needed to run and therefore help you run faster and stronger
  • Reduce the risk of injury

How you run is something you’ve learned over a lifetime, so changing your running form might feel strange at first. Be patient and keep in mind that it’s a continuous process.

Your running pace is simply the speed at which you run. It’s usually measured in terms of time-per-distance unit, for example 8 minutes/km or 12 minutes/mile.

You can use a running watch or your phone’s GPS tracker and a running app like Runna to monitor your pace; this is helpful if you’re trying to achieve or maintain a specific pace during workouts or a race. Keeping an eye on your pace is essential once you start training for specific distances or time goals, so it’s a good idea to develop this habit right from the start.

Take your running to the next level

Start your plan today for just $17.99 / £15.99 per month.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.

Recovery for runners: sleep, mobility work, sports massages

Shorter distances typically don’t require a long recovery period, but if you’re just getting started or coming back from a short break, you might feel quite tired after your first training sessions. Don’t worry, though: Your body has an enormous capacity to adapt to new types of physical activity!

If you’re feeling too sore from running after your first sessions, cross training at low to medium intensity is ideal.

Recovery and downtime are key for optimizing your running performance. Remember to:

  • Get enough sleep: Aim to get 8 hours of sleep each night to help your body recover.
  • Do mobility work: Mobility work will help you feel less stiff and become a better runner. You can try yoga, pilates, or simply stretch. 
  • Do sports massages: Use foam rollers or go to a sports massage from time to time to help with recovery.
  • Listen to your body: Don’t hesitate to change your training schedule or take an extra day off, if needed.

Running gear: shoes, clothing, and more

The gear you use during training has a huge impact on your comfort and performance. Here are the things to consider when buying running gear for the first time: 

  • Running shoes: Shoes help protect your body from the impact with the ground. Get a good pair of running shoes, ideally from a running store with an in-store treadmill.
  • Clothing: Avoid cotton, because it retains moisture and can cause chafing. Buy clothes from high-quality performance fabrics that wick moisture and dry quickly. 
  • A running watch or GPS tracker: You can use your phone’s GPS tracker or buy a running watch like Garmin or COROS to keep an eye on your pace and the distance. Runna integrates with Garmin, Apple Watch, Coros, and Strava to help you get most of your training plan.
  • Accessories: You might consider getting a running belt or armband to carry your phone, keys, and other essentials.
  • Sun protection: Don’t forget to use high-SPF sunscreen, even on cloudy days.

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Review stars

“Very grateful I stumbled across this game changer! Out of years of different running programs, this is by far my favourite; it’s been so enjoyable”


“The plan has given me an achievable goal to work towards which has kept me motivated and I actually look forward to my running days!”


"Training program really adapted to my goals that got me motivated to run again and get ‘back in my groove’."


"Only into week 2 and loving It already. The structure is great and the app is so easy to use - also big appreciation for the playlists. V happy to be on a runbuddy plan for the next few months!"


"Great personalized running plan so I can really be intentional with my training! The Runna team have all been super responsive and helpful making sure the plan and paces are right for me, and there to answer any questions. Great value, would highly recommend!"


"Excellent app, so easy to use! The training programs are fantastic. Can’t recommend enough!"


FAQ: All you need to know about starting to run

5k distance: How long is a 5k in miles?

How long will it take me to run a 5k without walking breaks?

Which running plan should I pick?

What 5k time should I aim for?

5k training and injuries: What should I do if I’m recovering from an injury?

How can I improve my 5k time?

Running and general fitness: Do I need to do strength training to run?

What’s the first running goal I should aim for as a beginner?

Graphic with two phones and a smartwatch featuring Runna app.

Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

Download on the App Store.Get it on Google Play.
First week free. Cancel anytime.