Beginner Running Program

The beginner running program is for new and experienced runners to get started running.

The 12-week Beginner Running Program is designed to get beginner runners in shape to start a full-fledged marathon training program.

Running helps you get stronger

If you run a little, this plan helps you get mentally and physically prepared to run a half marathon. Many half marathon training programs start with the assumption that you can run at least 3 miles a few days per week, so you’ll want to make sure that you can do that. Where The Base Fitness Plan helps to boost your fitness level gradually over the course of 10 weeks, this plan prepares you for your first week of full marathon training.

beginner running program

About the beginner running program

Most training programs are goal-oriented. You train for a certain number of weeks and then show up at the starting line of a half marathon ready to run. 

This 12-week program will provide structure to build your running level and get you ready to jump right into a marathon training program.

Measured in Miles

This program will lay out how many miles to run each day, but it does not determine the speed of those runs. You are building a mileage base and gaining road running experience. Run the mileage at your level of running. 

For example, if the training calls for a long run of 6 miles, run 6 miles. Some people can do 6 miles in 90 minutes, while others may be able to complete 6 miles in 60 minutes. That’s okay. You’re working from your own running level. We’re all in this together.

Beginner Running Program Training Structure

In these 12 weeks of training, you will start with 9 total weekly miles in week 1 to 15 total weekly miles by week 12. This program contains the following:

  1. Walking
  2. Running
  3. Cross-Training (XT)
  4. Strength Training (ST)
  5. Rest


The most fundamental component of training is walking. It gets you from where you are to where you want to be. Walking is time-based and is a way to break up your running days. You can vary the speed of your walk depending on your level of fitness and how you are feeling on walking days.

You can choose the intensity for your walking sessions from one of the following:

  • Walk. This is the entry-level speed. It’s how you walk every day.
  • Brisk walk. Push yourself and get your arms moving and your heart pumping.
  • Speed walk. This should be a difficult (but not impossible) speed to push you further and faster.


This program is designed to help you run consistently, focusing on completion, not speed. Your body will become stronger and more conditioned throughout the program, as will your confidence in running. Speed will come with time.

cross training

Cross-training mixes it up

Cardio and aerobic workouts, like brisk walks or slow jogs, expand your lungs and your heart pumping. The reason the duration of each workout increases is to help you build endurance, which is a measure of how long you can keep it up. Cross-training helps increase your aerobic activity while changing things up with other exercises. Cross-training sessions allow you to be creative and do things that you like or try things for the first time. Here’s a list of great cross-training workouts to boost your cardio and aerobic activity:

  • Cycling
  • Spinning Class
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical Trainer
  • Rope Jumping
  • Stair Climb
  • Aerobics Class (Zumba, Step, Kickboxing, Dance)
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Hiking 
  • Climbing

Strength training (ST) in the beginner running program

Strength training (ST) helps to improve muscle strength and build anaerobic activity. Where cross-training is focused on endurance, getting your heart rate up for long periods of time, strength training is short bursts with periods of rest. 

The program includes strength training or gym workouts to build muscle. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Squat. This is one of the best lower-body exercises because it works for all lower-body muscle groups. Try bodyweight squats, barbell squats, leg presses, dumbbell squat
  2. Hinge. These exercises create a backward shift in weight through the hips with minimal knee movement while bending at the waist. Try deadlifts, and lying hip extensions.
  3. Push. These exercises push away from the body and work the upper body. Try chest presses, push-ups, and military shoulder presses.
  4. Pull. Exercises that pull the weight toward the body. Think dumbbell rows, pull-ups, cable pull-downs, and rowing machines.
  5. Core. Many of the exercises will use core muscles, but a focus just on the core will help with overall flexibility, stability, and endurance. Try plank, leg raises crunch, and sit-ups.

Since you are training to boost your strength, use lighter weights at high repetitions. Find exercises that work best for you and mix them up with new exercises to keep them interesting.

late night run helps sleep

Importance of Rest

As you’re getting started on this fitness journey, understand the importance of rest. In this plan, rest is twofold:

  • To recover after the Saturday longer duration run
  • Give your body a break when the plan calls for an increased mileage

Many scientists suggest that it is during rest periods is when muscles get stronger. A study found that training without rest can lead to a compromised immune system. And many prominent running coaches say that you shouldn’t run hard unless your body is well-rested. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you remain consistent through the full 12 weeks, you can benefit from sufficient rest periods.

Get started with the beginner running program

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to get running. Don’t waste time. Start now. 

The Chubby Runner Beginner Running Program