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30 Day Run Challenge for Beginners

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Have you tried running and hated it? Or have you thought about starting to run and found it intimidating? Maybe you keep meaning to start, but there’s always that one thing that keeps getting in the way.

Then this challenge is for you!

Running is hard… at first. But it does get easier over time. Surprisingly, it’s a very short period of time.

If you can get through this 30-day running challenge, you’ll be in a great position to keep going. You’ll have improved your cardio, built up the muscles in your legs, and started to turn fitness into a habit.

Our 30-day challenge is designed to keep you motivated while you get through those first tough weeks of  building a running habit. The workouts slowly build up your fitness without burning you out. The runs are slow and steady. A gradual increase in distance reduces the chance of injury and keeps you motivated.

Who is the 30-Day Running Challenge For?

Before we get started, let’s cover the basics. This 30-day challenge is designed for people who have never run before. Or maybe you’ve run in the past but let things slip away. Now you are starting from scratch.

If you already have a solid running base, you’ll likely find these workouts too easy. We’d recommend another run challenge, or maybe trying a couch-to-5k training program.

The 30-day running challenge starts you at zero and slowly builds your mileage until you can run 2 1/2 miles. We follow a run/walk program, where you alternate running and walking for a set distance or time. We’ve found this is the best way to ease into running without getting burned out or hurt.

Other days of the program are set aside for cross training, easy walks, or rest. Alternating these days with running is another way to round out your fitness and ensure you get the rest and recovery you need to continue with the challenge.


Before you start the challenge, there are a few things you should do to get ready.

Clothing and Gear

First, make sure you have some decent shoes and workout clothing. You don’t need high-end running shoes or gear. But you do want a comfortable and supportive pair of shoes. Cheap or poorly-fitting shoes will hurt to run in, they’ll likely cause blisters, and may lead to injuries in the long run. (Here’s a link for our list of the best running shoes for beginners)

You also want to have some decent workout clothes. Try to avoid anything cotton (this includes socks!). You want clothes and socks that will wick sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable, and will prevent chaffing (ask any runner – the struggle is real).

Since most of these runs are run/walk intervals, you should have a way to time your runs. A watch is best. But your phone is also fine.

Find Some Running Routes

The great thing about running is you can do it most places, often from your front door.

But make sure the roads, parks, and other places where you plan on running are safe. Look for wide roads without too much traffic. Parks and rail trails also make for nice spots to run. A treadmill at home or the gym will work as well.

Schedule Your Runs and Workouts

Put every workout and run in your calendar and put it at the top of your priority list! Lack of time is a common excuse for missing workouts.

Fix that by blocking out time during your day to get your run done. It can be first thing in the morning or the evening when you get home from work. Lunchtime. Anytime. Just pencil it in.

Keep Track

A running journal is a great way to stay motivated. After every run, write down how far you went and how long it took. At the end of the week, total the miles up. You’ll be amazed at how far you ran!

Doing this is a great way to track your progress. It’s super-motivating to watch the miles climb.

Even if you don’t download our PDF, write it down somewhere else. In a notebook, on your phone, even in a spreadsheet. It doesn’t matter where you do it – only that you do it.

Get into the right mindset

Be positive and embrace this challenge! It will be hard at times. But persevering through those hard times are what make this 30-day run challenge so rewarding!

One of my favorite non-running running books is Grit by Angela Duckworth. Duckworth has done extensive research that shows that talent has little to do with success. Instead, putting your head down and getting the hard work done is how you succeed.

And for anyone who says they just aren’t a “gritty” person, Duckworth also has a response. This can change! You are not born with or without grit. It’s a skill that you get better at the more you practice.

Stick with it! You can do it!

Health Check

This goes without saying, but you shouldn’t have any pre-existing health issues before you start this challenge. If you are unsure, it’s always good to check with your doctor first.

Can Training Shoes Be Used for Running?

30-Day Running Challenge Workouts Explained

Run/Walk Intervals

The key run in the challenge is the run/walk workout.

These runs are done by interspersing running with walking breaks. They’ll usually be short time periods – a 60 second run/60 second walk is common. As the challenge progresses, the run portions get longer while the walk breaks get shorter.


This can be anything you feel comfortable with: biking, yoga, boot camp, elliptical. The goal is to raise your heart rate to build some cardio without stressing the muscles you use running.

Walking is ok, but ideal cross-training here would be a non-weight bearing activity such as riding a bike.

Easy Walks

Similar to cross-training, these days are recovery from the run/walk workouts. But here, we are looking for active recovery. You’ll use similar muscles as the run/walks, but they won’t be stressed as hard, allowing you to rest while still engaging those muscles.

Rest Days

Yes, days off are built into the challenge. You need time off for your muscles and aerobic system to strengthen. Take these days off to rest and prepare for the next run.

30-Day Running Challenge

Ready? Here it is – let’s go!!

Week 1

While these workouts are the shortest and easiest of the challenge, they might actually be the hardest to complete. It usually takes a few days for your body to get used to running. Expect to be tired and sore. But also, expect that feeling to pass quickly. Your body will recover!

Day 1:  Run/walk 1 mile or 20 min total – 30 sec run / 60 sec walk

Day 2: 20 min cross-training

Day 3: REST

Day 4: Run/walk 1 mile or 20 min total – 30 sec run / 60 sec walk

Day 5: 30 min easy walking

Day 6: REST

Day 7: Run/walk 1.25 to 1.75 miles or 25 to 35 min total – 30 sec run / 60 sec walk

Week 2

The run distances in this week don’t get much longer, but we bump up the run/walk interval to running for 60 seconds, then walking 90 seconds. This gives you a nice long break between running intervals, but also gets you used to running for a longer period of time.

Day 8:  REST

Day 9: Run/walk 1 mile or 20 min total – 60 sec run / 90 sec walk

Day 10: 25 min cross-training

Day 11: Run/walk 1 to 1.5 miles or 20 to 30 min total – 60 sec run / 90 sec walk

Day 12: REST

Day 13: 30 min easy walking

Day 14: Run/walk 1.75 to 2 miles or 25 to 35 min total – 60 sec run / 90 sec walk

Week 3

In some ways, this is the hardest week. Not because your body can’t do these workouts – in fact, you should be feeling noticeably stronger by now – but because this is where the excitement wears off and it becomes easy to find excuses. 

Stick with it! Just gut out this week and you’ll feel awesome. Completing a run always feels great. But completing a run that you had to push yourself to do feels fantastic.

And if you do miss a workout, don’t sweat it. Just continue with the challenge. Missing a day here or there isn’t a reason to quit.

Day 15:  REST

Day 16: Run/walk 1 to 1.5 miles or 15 to 20 min total – 60 sec run / 60 sec walk

Day 17: 25 min cross-training

Day 18: Run/walk 1.5 to 2.25 miles or 20 to 30 min total – 60 sec run / 60 sec walk

Day 19: REST

Day 20: 30 min easy walking

Day 21: Run/walk 2 to 2.75 miles or 30 to 40 min total – 60 sec run / 60 sec walk

Week 4

Here we go, the home stretch! These runs are down a notch from last week’s runs. That’s done on purpose. You need an easier stretch to let your body recover and grow stronger. 

Day 22:  15 min easy walking

Day 23: Run/walk 1 to 1.5 miles or 15 to 25 min total – 60 sec run / 60 sec walk

Day 24: 25 min cross-training

Day 25: Run/walk 1.5 to 2.25 miles or 20 to 30 min total – 60 sec run / 60 sec walk

Day 26: REST

Day 27: 30 min easy walking

Day 28: Run/walk 2 to 2.75 miles or 30 to 40 min total – 60 sec run / 60 sec walk

Week 5

You made it! Congrats! One run left, and it’s a victory lap.

Day 29:  REST

Day 30: Run/walk 1.5 to 2 miles or 20 to 30 min total – 60 sec run / 30 sec walk

Get the 30-Day Run Challenge for FREE!

Get a FREE copy of the 30-Day Run Challenge. Enter your best email and we'll email you the PDF.

Running Tips to Stay Motivated

While completing the workouts in the 30-day run challenge, here are some tips to help you get through each workout.

Breathing and pace

When you are in the run portion of the run/walk interval, remember to control your pace. You want to run, but at the same time it’s not a sprint. Run at a steady pace and monitor your heart rate.

The best way to do this is to focus on your breathing. You should be able to maintain a conversation while running. If you are breathing too hard to talk, you are going too fast.

Eating before and after

If you run in the morning, make sure to eat a light breakfast before you go. This could be some fruit, a breakfast bar, oatmeal, or an English muffin. Just make sure you aren’t running on an empty stomach.

Being new to running, it’s not uncommon to feel lightheaded while running if you have no fuel in your system.

If you run later in the day, make sure you have eaten something light about an hour before your run, for the same reason.

When you’ve finished your run, make sure you drink water to rehydrate. Avoid sugary drinks such as  Gatorade. The calories are basically empty calories. None of these workouts are so hard that you’ll need an energy drink to refuel post-run.

Dynamic stretching

A good way to warm-up before your run or cross-train is to do some dynamic stretching. Unlike those toe touches you did in gym class when you were a kid, dynamic stretching is about light movement to get the blood flowing and open up your joints.

Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Leg Swings

Stand next to a wall or other sturdy object. Hold onto the wall with one hand and swing your opposite leg back and forth, front to back. Do this for about 10 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat on both sides once more.

2. Lateral Leg Swings

Set up the same way as Leg Swings. But instead of swinging them front to back, swing them left to right. Do this for 10 seconds on both sides and repeat once.

3. Lunge

You’ll need a clear stretch of floor for this exercise. Begin by standing with both legs next to each other. Take one foot and lunge forward, then bend the forward knee until your thigh is nearly parallel to the ground. Push off with your forward leg and return to your starting position. Repeat, starting with the other foot. Do this for about 30 seconds, alternating legs.

You finished – Hurray!! What’s next?

First off, take some time to appreciate your accomplishment. This is a big deal! You should be patting yourself on the back for completing it.

I also like to reward myself after completing a major goal. For me, this is usually food- or alcohol-related. But it doesn’t have to be something you eat or drink. Treat yourself to a day at the spa. Get a massage. Buy that new pair of running shoes you were eyeing….

What’s Next? Couch-to-5k

If you feel great and you’re motivated to do more, you are in perfect shape to finish a Couch-to-5k training plan. We’ve got one here that you can pick up right at week 5. Just continue along the training plan for 6 more weeks and when you’re done, you’ll be ready to run your first 5k race!

Download your copy here:

download our FREE couch to 5k TRAINING PLAN PDF

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner