A Simple Learn to Run Program Anyone Can Do

Learning to run doesn’t have to be so complicated or hard. The key is to make it fun and keep it simple. When you do, running becomes a habit for life. I’m going to share a learn to run strategy that is so simple, I could even do it. This is how I learned to run despite hating it for years. This is also how I’ve coached newbies for years. It doesn’t involve intervals, speed, calculations or big words. It is based solely on your body and how it responds to running. In fact, it’s a plan that is customized to you because it progresses when your body is ready to do so.

Are you ready?

Here we go…

Mark three months on your calendar and schedule a running workout three times per week – every other day (ie. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday).

Commit to thirty minutes. No more, no less.

Warm-up five minutes.

Start every running workout with five minutes of walking to prepare your body for the demands of running. Start out at an easy effort and progress to a purposeful walking pace by the end of the five minutes.

Run and Walk by your body.

Alternate running until you hear your breath, and walking until you catch your breath for a total of 20 minutes. That is, no formula or intervals, run by your body and breath. If you’re like me, you may start out with 15-20 seconds of running and 2-3 minutes of walking until you catch your breath. No worries, that may be where your body is at fitness wise right now. Go with it, tune into your body and avoid pushing to go longer.

The next workout may be close to the same as well. But a few weeks down the road, that 15 seconds will grow to 30 or 45 seconds or even a minute and the time it takes to catch your breath will drop. That’s when it starts to get fun because you feel the difference as you go.

Stick with 20 minutes.

Keep the total time of the running portion of the workout to 20 minutes until you build up to running 20 minutes total. That is, maintain the total time of the workout and allow your body time to adapt to the demands of running until you go farther. You’ll recover faster, enjoy the workout a lot more, and progress to running more efficiently. It may take you several months to run 20 minutes, but once you’re there, you’ll be able to add on more time (25, 30, 35 minutes…).

Finish happy.

Let’s face it if it hurts the chance of us repeating the activity again is slim to none. When you stick with a plan that is based on your body and avoid pushing for a certain time or pace, you end up finishing happy. And when you’re happy, you want to do it again and again. Running happiness leads to consistency and develops into a habit.

Be the tortoise, not the hare.

Keep your running effort easy – this will become habit over time. In other words, don’t try to break the world record out there, keep it easy and one step above your fastest walking pace.

Finish with a five minute cool down.

Invest five minutes to cool down and gradually bringing your body back to its resting state. Like the warm-up, it bridges the gap between running and reality and aids in the recovery process.

Run to infinity and beyond!

As the weeks go by, you’ll notice being able to run longer and cover more distance. Eventually, you’ll be able to run all twenty minutes! When that day comes, give yourself a high five, and begin to progress your running time by adding five minutes to your workout every 2-3 weeks. For instance, running 25 minutes three times per week for 2-3 weeks and then progressing to 30 minutes. You can also add five minutes to one or two of the workouts per week and take your time as you progress.

Tune into your body along the way. It’s the best coach you’ll ever have.


  • Magda says:

    Thank you!! I’ve done your run/walk programs in the past for the Indy 500 half marathon and loved them! I love your approach to running. I’m trying to start back up and get my family to join me..I hope you and John are staying healthy! 💕

  • Great to hear from you! Be safe and run strong!

  • Tom O says:

    I just dropped 15 pounds over the last 3 months. Want to start running again. Body mechanics does not seem right. I have been riding my bile but not fast and only 3.5 miles 3 times a week. I am almost 72 have had some hip issues periodically from sitting too much in front of a computer. I am in Real Estate. Working out daily with light weights 20 reps. Mostly upper body.
    Should I try this plan or start out with the Couch to 5K again?
    Tom O

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