4-Week Beginner Training Program to Run 1 Mile

Plus Smart Tips for Starting a Running Routine

Couple running for exercise
Jordan Siemens/Digital Vision/Getty Images

For most new runners, whether they're setting out to jump-start a fitness routine or they have their eye on one day running a 5K race or even a marathon, the first big goal is to run a mile without stopping. And for most beginners, this means starting slowly—not lacing on a pair of sneakers and going for it.

The smarter and more effective way to conquer that first mile is to slowly build up the stamina and strength necessary by alternating walking with running. The training program that follows outlines a way to do this that should have you running a mile nonstop after four weeks. The trick is making slight increases in the distance you run as you decrease the distance you walk by the same amount.

Before starting this run/walk training, check in with your doctor if you have any medical issues that might be exacerbated by exercise or other health concerns. Also, to give yourself as many advantages as possible, keep these tips in mind:

Make sure your shoes are up to job. Your footwear can make all the difference between a running routine that gets off on the right foot and one that could easily falter right out of the gate. Don't skimp on expense: Go to a store that specializes in running and walking shoes and be professionally fitted. You should be able to find a pair in your budget that will fit the bill.

Dress for success. There's no need to buy pricey running shorts or tights or special tops, but do choose running clothes made of a material that will wick perspiration away from your skin to prevent chafing. Cotton will just get wet—and stay wet—with sweat. And if you're a woman, buy a sports bra or running top with a built-in shelf bra to support your breasts.

Pick a comfortable pace—and stick with it. Don't try to walk or run so fast that you can't maintain a steady pace. You may get burned out before you're able to finish the day's run/walk.

Drink up. Water is the best beverage for keeping your body hydrated during exercise but an electrolyte-replacement sports drink is OK too. Watch out for those that have a lot of added sugar.

Master the basics. Some ways to learn things like proper running form, the best stretches to do before and after a run, and how to breathe include consulting a trainer or joining a running club.

Getting Started

It's best to do these running workouts on a 400-meter track (the equivalent of a quarter of a mile) that is marked in increments that will allow you to see how much distance you cover.

Start each workout by walking for five to 10 minutes in order to warm up. Finish with a similar cool-down walk.

You don't have to do your runs on specific days; however, you should try not to run two days in a row. It's better to take a rest day or do cross-training (participate in a complementary activity, such as biking, swimming, yoga, or weight training) on the days in between runs so your body has a chance to adapt to training. If you find that the program progresses too quickly for you, you can repeat a week before moving on to the next week.

By following this program, you should be ready to reach for the next goal: a two-mile run or running a faster mile. On your mark, get set, go!

Week 1

Day 1: Run 1/16 mile, walk 3/16 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 1/4 of a lap, walk 3/4 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 2: Rest or cross-train
Day 3: Run 1/16 mile, walk 3/16 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 1/4 of a lap, walk 3/4 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Run 1/16 mile, walk 3/16 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 1/4 of a lap, walk 3/4 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 6: Rest or cross-train
Day 7: Rest​

Week 2

Day 1: Run 1/8 mile, walk 1/8 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 1/2 a lap, walk 1/2 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 2: Rest or cross-train
Day 3: Run 1/8 mile, walk 1/8 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 1/2 a lap, walk 1/2 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Run 1/8 mile, walk 1/8 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 1/2 a lap, walk 1/2 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 6: Rest or cross-train
Day 7: Rest​

Week 3

Day 1: Run 3/16 mile, walk 1/16 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 3/4 a lap, walk 1/4 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 2: Rest or cross-train
Day 3: Run 3/16 mile, walk 1/16 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 3/4 a lap, walk 1/4 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Run 3/16 mile, walk 1/16 mile; repeat 4 times (Track equivalent: Run 3/4 a lap, walk 1/4 of a lap; repeat 4 times)
Day 6: Rest or cross-train
Day 7: Rest​

Week 4

Day 1: Run 1 mile (Track equivalent: 4 laps = 1 mile)
Day 2: Rest or cross-train
Day 3: Run 1 mile (Track equivalent: 4 laps = 1 mile)
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Run 1 mile (Track equivalent: 4 laps = 1 mile)
Day 6: Rest or cross-train
Day 7: Rest

Was this page helpful?