Ask any runner how they got started running, and they’ll make it sound so simple. And, in theory, it is: Grab a pair of sneakers, throw on some shorts, and get moving. But just like that final term paper you had to write your senior year of college, starting anything from scratch can feel super intimidating.

Here’s the thing: Running (even just a little bit) can bring you gobs of health benefits. A mere 30 minutes of running per week for three weeks can boost sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. And for those of you who have been using the “ugh, it’s hard on my knees!” excuse, you can throw that out the window. One 2016 study found that running may in fact benefit the joint, changing the biochemical environment inside the knee in ways that could help keep it working smoothly.

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Still nervous? I hear you—but don't stress. I've connected with some top run coaches to get you all the information you need to start (and stay!) moving. From the right gear and best-practice tips to a 4-week, beginner's running plan, you’ll be lacing up and perfecting your “pick up the pace” workout playlist in no time.

First things first, gear up

"Wearing the right gear is one of many ways to help make your run more comfortable and less stressful," says Becs Gentry, Peloton Tread instructor and Nike running ambassador.

The good news? Today's gear is created with a runner’s comfort in mind, such as sweat-wicking, cooling or heating, wind protection, chafe-minimizing, blister control…the list goes on. All of these features help you get from start to finish more calm and collected.

Gentry’s biggest equipment advice for newbies? Purchase based on fit and functionality before fashion. "Look at the product closely and think about what your body does when you run," she says. "Seams running down the back of your knee could cause chafing, since you're constantly flexing and extending that area of your body."

Focus on form

Just like with any sort of workout, it’s important to get the form down before going out and, say, signing up for a 5K. Running correctly is crucial for improving overall speed and reducing the risk of injury, says Karli Alvino, a coach at Mile High Run Club in New York City.

Alvino suggests that all beginner runners set up a time for an initial form assessment with a local run coach, where you can learn the basics and assure you’re prepared for successful, safe miles. But if that's not accessible to you, consider Alvino's form-friendly, best-practices to keep in mind when it comes to pounding pavement.

  1. Stand tall. This will help keep your spine aligned. That means your head, shoulders, hips, and feet all stay stacked on top of one another. "Eyes are up, chest is open, hips are centered, and feet are landing right under your center of gravity," she says.
  2. Find a breathing rhythm. A common issue for beginner runners is that you may get out of breath way too quickly, making your endurance feel low. "While certain breathing rhythms do exist, just be sure to breathe, period, as you begin your journey," she says. "Once you become a bit more advanced, you can test out different breathing rhythms." (Try these breathing techniques for a better workout.)
  3. Think about follow through. You want your stride to look clean from start to finish. This starts with knee drive, or bringing your knees up toward your chest—which is a great way to keep from developing lazy legs, and ensure you don't trip, says Alvino. Then, after your foot touches the ground, think about following through and bringing your foot toward you butt. Which not only increases speed and power, but "also reduces the possibility of injury by firing up the back side of the body, therefore taking stress off the front side," she tells me.

Learn how this Olympic medalist completely transformed her running career:

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Keep a few tips in the back of your mind.

You’re almost ready to get moving. Before you take your first stride, keep these helpful expert tips in mind:

  1. Don’t overshoot from the start. Running—and getting better at running—is a journey. Before you sign up for a race, start small with goals that feel manageable. "Humble progress takes time and patience," says Gentry. "The more you enjoy the process, the more of an adventure you'll have.”
  2. Squad up! Committing to a weekly session with a friend will hold you accountable to incorporating running into your routine. Even better if you can find someone that’s a tad more experienced than you—research shows that working out with a "more capable" partner can encourage you to work out for longer. "Learn from them and listen to their story, as they may have gone through similar highs and lows as you," she says. "It can make running feel less lonely and like you are more part of the global running community."
  3. Write things down. Whether it’s a super-light jog while catching up with a friend or a harder, longer-speed session, writing down your workouts is a great way to keep track of your progress. "I have journals upon journals detailing how I felt both mentally and physically, along with what was a going on in other areas of my life like sleep or nutrition," says Gentry. "It’s even a great way to decompress after a run."

Follow this 4-week plan

Okay, you’re ready to move. I teamed up with Nike+ Run Coach Jes Woods to create a 4-week running plan, perfect for newbies.

"In just four weeks, we’ll be introducing all the tools needed in your running toolkit: recovery, speed, strength, and endurance," says Woods. "These will not only make you a better runner, but they will also help keep things interesting."

Follow this beginner running plan, and scroll down to read more about Woods' recommended goals for each week.

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Jewelyn Butron

Week 1 goal: Just get out there and have fun!

This week, let’s get comfortable moving and making running part of your weekly routine. Running may not feel natural (or even fun) at first, so consistency is key early on. Music can make getting after it easier. We’ll incorporate it in two of your runs this week.

Day 1: Easy Run

  • 10 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 5 to 8 minutes: Run at comfortable pace (easy)
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Woods says: "Find comfortable pace with an emphasis on comfortable. This means it’s conversational. If you find yourself unable to sing along to your music, slow it down."

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Speed Intervals (Fartlek)

  • 10 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • Repeat for three songs: Push the pace during the chorus, and walk (or easy jog) to recover during each verse
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Woods says: "It’s okay to start getting breathless during these speed play surges. Unlike your easy run earlier this week, if you find yourself unable to sing along to the chorus, you’re doing it right!"

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Rest

Day 6: Long Run

  • 5 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 10 minutes: Continuous running, easy pace
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Woods says: "This should feel like your easy run, but longer."

Day 7: Rest

Week 2 goal: Get stronger

This week, we’re introducing a strength workout by finding your threshold pace. Threshold pace may sound daunting and super scientific, but you can get pretty close to it simply by feel and by staying in tune with your breath. It should feel like a 7 out of 10 effort, in terms of perceived exertion. Your threshold pace is the magical tipping point between aerobic (conversational) and anaerobic (breathless). If you’re still listening to music on your run, the threshold pace breath test is to find a pace where you can sing just one quick sentence of your song, then need a couple of breaths before singing another quick sentence.

Day 8: Strength Workout

  • 10 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 3 times 5 minutes: Running at hard pace
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Day 9: Rest

Day 10: Recovery Run

  • 5 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 10 minutes: Continuous running at conversational pace (medium)
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Day 11: Rest

Day 12: Rest

Day 13: Long Run

  • 5 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 15 to 20 minutes: Continuous running at conversational pace (medium)
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Day 14: Rest

Week 3 goal: Pick up the pace

This week, we’re working on making your fast faster. When you do this, you’ll notice all of your paces will start to get faster. For example, your easy pace will start to get faster while you’re still able to hold a conversation.

Day 15: Speed Intervals

  • 5 minutes: Jogging warm-up
  • 5 to 6 times: 2 minutes on (running), 2 minutes off (jogging or walking)
  • 5 minutes: Jog cool-down

Woods says: "When you're running, gradually build speed until you’re breathless. Then slow until your breathing is under control, an easy jog or walk."

Day 16: Rest

Day 17: Recovery Run

  • 5 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 15 minutes: Continuous running at conversational pace (medium)
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Day 18: Rest

Day 19: Rest

Day 20: Long Run

  • 5 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 15 to 20 minutes: Continuous running at conversational pace (medium)
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Day 21: Recovery Run (optional)

  • 5 minutes: Jogging warm-up
  • 15 minutes: Continuous running at conversational pace (medium)
  • 5 minutes: Walking cool-down

Week 4 goal: Go longer

Going farther isn’t just about building physical endurance, but building mental stamina as well. Now is not the time to panic. Grab a friend, find a crew, look for a local running group. Long runs are always easier (and more fun) with friends.

Day 22: Rest

Day 23: Hill Run

  • 10 minutes: Jogging warm-up
  • 3 times 30 seconds (short hill), 3 x 45 seconds (medium hill), 3 x 60 seconds (long hill)
  • 5 minutes: Jogging cool-down

Woods says: "Hills are speed work in disguise. You should run the hills with the same intense effort as last week, using an easy jog or walk downhill to recover."

Day 24: Recovery Run

  • 5 minutes: Walking warm-up
  • 2 x 10 minutes: Easy pace run (2-minute walk recovery in between, if needed)
  • 5 minutes: Jogging cool-down

Day 25: Rest

Day 26: Rest

Day 27: Long Run

  • 5 minutes: Jogging warm-up
  • 20 to 30 minutes: Continuous running with your run buddy or crew (medium)
  • 5 minutes: Jogging cool down

Day 28: Rest

Day 29: Rest

Day 30: Recovery Run

  • 5 minutes: Jogging warm-up
  • 15 minutes: Running at easy pace

And at the end of week four: "You’ve made it!" says Woods. "This is your victory lap. You now have all the tools needed to make running a seamless part of your lifestyle.”"