4-Week Beginner Training Program to Run 1 Mile

Man and woman running 1 mile on a track
Makiko Tanigawa / 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 new runners, this means starting slowly.

The smartest, most effective way to conquer that first mile: Gradually build up stamina and strength 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, with corresponding decreases in the distance you walk.

Before You Start

Before starting this run/walk training program, check in with your doctor. And to give yourself as many advantages as possible, be prepared.

Gear Up

First, make sure your shoes are up to the job. Footwear can make all the difference between a running routine that gets off on the right foot and one that falters right out of the gate. Go to a store that specializes in running be professionally fitted. You should be able to find a pair within your budget that will fit the bill.

There's no need to buy pricey running shorts 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. Women will need a sports bra or running top with a built-in shelf bra.

Hydrate

Water is the best beverage for keeping your body hydrated during exercise. Drink water before, during, and after your runs. An electrolyte-replacement sports drink is OK, too, but watch out for products that have a lot of added sugar.

Consider consulting a trainer or joining a running club to learn proper running form, the best stretches to do before and after a run, and how to breathe while you're running.

1-Mile Training Program

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 minutes to warm up. Finish with a similar cool-down walk. Pick a comfortable pace—don't try to walk so quickly that you can't maintain a steady pace. You may get burned out before you're able to finish the day's run/walk.

You don't have to do your runs on specific days; however, you should try not to run two days in a row. 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. Once you complete this program, you should be ready to reach for a new goal: a 2-mile run or running a faster mile, for example.

Week 1

  • Day 1: Run 100 meters (1/16 mile), walk 300 meters; repeat 3 times (track equivalent: run 1/4 of a lap, walk 3/4 of a lap)
  • Day 2: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 3: Run 100m, walk 300m; repeat 3 times
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 100m, walk 300m; repeat 3 times
  • Day 6: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 2

  • Day 1: Run 200m, walk 200m; repeat 3 times (track equivalent: run 1/2 a lap, walk 1/2 of a lap)
  • Day 2: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 3: Run 200m, walk 200m; repeat 3 times
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 200m, walk 200m; repeat 3 times
  • Day 6: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 3

  • Day 1: Run 300m, walk 100m; repeat 3 times (track equivalent: run 3/4 a lap, walk 1/4 of a lap)
  • Day 2: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 3: Run 300m, walk 100m; repeat 3 times
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 300m, walk 100m; repeat 3 times
  • Day 6: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 7: Rest

Week 4

  • Day 1: Run 800m (1/2 mile; track equivalent: 2 laps)
  • Day 2: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 3: Run 1200m (3/4 mile; track equivalent: 3 laps)
  • Day 4: Rest
  • Day 5: Run 1 mile (track equivalent: 4 laps)
  • Day 6: Rest or cross-train
  • Day 7: Rest
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