Best Apps for Beginner Runners

I’ve decided to dedicate my Friday posts for the next few weeks to beginning runners. If you’re a beginning runner I hope you find these posts very useful, and if you’re an experienced runner please share your best tips and advice in the comments!

Today I want to talk about the best apps for beginner runners. These are apps that will help you train safely, track your progress, help you improve your nutrition (if you want to do that) and keep you motivated even when the going gets tough.

I’ve used all of these apps myself (except for MyFitnessPal, more on that below) and can highly, HIGHLY recommend them all!

1. Couch to 5K – $2.99

If you’ve never run before except for the occasional mile in gym class then the biggest tip I can give you is to ease into the sport slowly. For many years I thought about becoming a runner, but I would run for 30 seconds and find it so hard I would give up instantly thinking I HATE RUNNING, I CAN’T BREATH, MY LEGS BURNNN!

Then in 2012 I decided to download the Couch to 5K app and that was a total game changer for me. Running still felt hard, but Couch to 5K eased me into the sport with short and manageable run/walk intervals that gradually built up over the weeks.

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If you not only want to start running but want to stick with it I cannot recommend this app enough. The app gives you audio cues so you know when you should start running and when to stop and start walking. It also tracks your progress.

If you don’t want to splurge on the app you can find a free version of the training plan HERE.

If you don’t have a watch that can be set to alert you at specific intervals, I would highly suggest getting the app. It will make training so much easier (trust me on this one)!

2. Strava (or RunKeeper, Nike+, MapMyRun, etc.) – Free 

If you’re planning on doing most of your training on the treadmill you’ll be able to track your stats (time, distance, pace) based on what the machine tells you.

However, if you’re planning to run outdoors for some or all of your runs I would suggest downloading a GPS tracking app like Strava to track your stats. This will help you see your progress over time which is really rewarding and will help you stay on track!

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(image source)

I used RunKeeper when I first started running to track my data, but I know in recent years Strava has become the app of choice for many runners. I’ve used it a couple of times, but I mostly use Garmin connect because I have a Garmin GPS watch.

I wouldn’t recommend spending hundreds of dollars on a GPS watch until after you’ve been running for a few weeks and are sure you love it. If you decide running isn’t for you, that’s totally okay! There are so many other amazing activities out there like cycling, swimming, zumba, mma … the goal is to just do what you love!

3. Rise – Free trial (then $50/mo)

If you’re happy with your nutrition then you can go ahead and skip this app. However, if you think you could make changes to improve your eating habits Rise is definitely something to consider.

Rise pairs you with a registered dietitian (RD) who reviews your meals and provides suggestions for improvements along with shopping list recommendations, meal ideas, healthy swaps for your favorite comfort foods, etc. Your registered dietitian will also answer any questions you have.

You simply snap a picture, using the app, of each of your meals and snacks. Once or twice a day your RD logs in and leaves you comments on each meal. There’s also a chat feature where you can talk about things unrelated to specific meals.

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If you have an urgent question and your RD isn’t available there is also a CoachLine section where you post a question and another RD will answer within 3 minutes as long as its between 9am and 9pm ET.

When you sign up if you have the option to choose an RD that fits your lifestyle. For instance, when I used Rise I worked with an RD who is a runner. I’ve worked with an in-person dietitian before due to my history with disordered eating, and have found Rise to be pretty comparable but much less expensive.

To get one free week to try Rise use code GR46LR. 

(This is not sponsored, I paid full price for my access to Rise.)

There is no long-term commitment so you can use Rise as needed when you feel like you need guidance and have gotten off track – or if you’re starting a new exercise program (like running or weight lifting) and aren’t sure how to adjust your diet.

4. MyFitnessPal – Free

If you don’t want to pay $50 per month for Rise you can address your nutrition going the self guided route. You can log your meals in MyFitnessPal and at the end of the day the app will show you a breakdown of your macros and of course you’ll be able to see how many calories you ate.

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I don’t use MyFitnessPal because I won’t track calories due to my history, but I know many people like it. I have played around with it before and it’s very easy to use!

5. Charity Miles – Free

Charity Miles is an app that allows you to earn money for your favorite nonprofit organizations just by logging miles.

You turn the app on when you’re ready to run and for each mile you log, a sponsor company like Humana, Johnson & Johnson and Chobani will make a donation to your charity of choice.

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You can choose from organizations like the ASPCA, Wounded Warrior Project, American Diabetes Association, Stand Up to Cancer and many more.

6. Pinterest / Tumblr – Free 

When you’re first getting into running you’re probably going to find that it’s hard work. I know I certainly did!

After a while you’ll build up a base so that you can log “easy miles” which feel great, but it will take some time to get there.

To stay motived I highly suggest spending time on Pinterest and/or Tumblr each day looking at motivating running graphics. I have a board of my favorites on Pinterest, and if you scroll down to the bottom you’ll see the graphics that motivated me the most when I first started running.

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The most important thing here is to look for graphics that motivate you specifically as a runner and an athlete. Find messages that resonate with YOU.

7. Instagram / Snapchat / Facebook – Free 

How do you know someone’s a runner? Don’t worry they’ll tell you! 🙂

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Shout it from the roof tops that you’re running! Getting encouragement from your friends, family or an online community can be very motivating and help keep you on track.

Personally I was embarrassed about running when I first started doing it. I thought people would make fun of me for thinking that I could ever be a runner so I didn’t want them to know. I started a tumblr instead to connect with other beginning runners, and eventually I started this blog so I could connect with a supportive community without having to talk about running with my real life friends and family.

I am happy to say today some of the people I met through blogging have become my real life friends and that’s so cool! Plus. my real life friends and family also obviously know that I’m a runner now too :).

I would definitely start posting on social media that you’ve decided to become a runner. Your friends, family and online community will give you support and encouragement which will help you stay committed.

If you say hi to me on Instagram/SnapChat/twitter (I’m @KristinaRunning on all of them) and let me know you’ve started running I will be your biggest cheerleader!

Getting Started 

I think it’s so cool that you decided to become a runner. You’re probably full of excitement and anxiety. I know I was!

Every Friday for the next few weeks I’ll be posting some of my tips for beginning runners, and I’ll also be interviewing my friends for their tips!

Luckily I know some awesome people like certified running coaches who can provide training advice, certified personal trainers who can provide cross training and injury prevention advice, registered dietitians who can provide nutrition advice and more!

If you have any specific questions please leave them in the comments below and I (and maybe some of the other runners who read here) will answer or point you in the right direction :). You can also email me (runkristina@gmail.com) if you prefer!

If you want to learn about my journey towards becoming a runner you can check out my story and also please subscribe to my blog (bloglovin | feedly) so we can stay in touch!

When did you start running?
What motivated you to want to start running?

18 comments

  1. Lisa @ Mile by Mile

    This is such a great idea! I love the list of apps. I have never heard of Rise but that sounds like a good one!
    Lisa @ Mile by Mile recently posted…Looking Forward to 2017My Profile

    1. Kristina

      Rise is definitely great for learning new insights into the foods you eat, small changes you can make to eat healthier and for accountability! I’m not sure anyone would need to use it every month for the rest of their lives, but it’s great as a booster when starting a new eating plan or if you feel off track or if you just want insights into your current meal plan from an RD!
      Kristina recently posted…Best Apps for Beginner RunnersMy Profile

  2. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    These apps will be helpful for someone who decides to pick up running. Aren’t apps the best?? I am learning Spanish with a freaking app! I love it. I will prob need supplemental material though… When I first started running, I ran 1 mile a day around our town before I got ready for school. I was a senior in HS. I have no idea why I started doing that!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…Friday 5!My Profile

    1. Kristina

      Apps are incredible. The other day I had to drive to a new area for a client meeting — in a big downtown — and I just thought without my Google Maps app it would take me HOURS to find the right address! I also really don’t think I would have stuck with running if it weren’t for the Couch to 5K app. It really helped me feel better about how little I could run. I thought “if this program instructs us to start with small running intervals then it must be normal to only be able to run for seconds instead of minutes or hours!”

      I love that you’re using the language app. Sometimes I listen to language playlists on Spotify. Usually I do it to brush up on my french, which is pretty much long forgotten!

  3. Sam @ grapefruit & granola

    I used some sort of couch to 5k running app when I first started trying to get back into running several years ago and it was really helpful! It’s funny to think back on the times when I couldn’t run for longer than 30 seconds.

    Hope you guys have a nice weekend!
    Sam @ grapefruit & granola recently posted…G & G in 2017My Profile

    1. Kristina

      Thanks Sam! Couch to 5K type beginner runner apps are so helpful. It’s so nice to know that other people must struggle with the same things you’re facing if an app was designed to tackle the problem!

  4. Schlub

    I need to go back to the blog to remember when i started, isn’t that sad lol.

    Never used a couch to 5k app. I started with map my run and Nike. Once I got my Garmin it was all over from there. Now I use Garmin and Strava.

    Anyone who has an ego or likes competition, I would highly recommend Strava. Not only seeing friends but seeing results for segments you run really provides motivation.

    I might try the charity miles app, that is a great idea.
    Schlub recently posted…Help Im in a Rut and Cant Get OutMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      Hahah that’s not sad! It’s been a long time now!

      Every one LOVES strava! I might need to start using it again!
      Kristina recently posted…Best Apps for Beginner RunnersMy Profile

  5. Nathaly Abrahan

    I started running two years ago when I moved away from my country, my family and friends. I thought I wasn’t really sad because of that. But now that I look back I think I used running to distract my mind. My father has been a runner for decades, that also inspired me to do it. It ended up loving the sport so much. I certainly become a better person everyday because of it.
    Nathaly Abrahan recently posted…Friday Favorites.My Profile

    1. Kristina

      Awww Nathaly, that’s so lovely that you are able to share a love for running with your dad now. Running is so therapeutic for many of us. It really is a wonderful way to distract the mind OR a way to provide us uninterrupted time to think about how to tackle an issue.

  6. Angela

    I love Strava but never use the app, just the Garmin syncing bit, Garmin Connect, & the desktop Strava. I like all the data, but I’ve never understood what the Strava app does that my Garmin doesn’t. I’ve had Charity Miles on my phone for ages but never remember to use it!

    I tried doing the nutrition tracking stuff on My Fitness Pal for a while but after a few days it started to feel like an annoying chore. I would find myself avoiding things I really enjoyed because “I have to tell MFP,” & that just made me depressed. But I know it’s worked for some people!
    Angela recently posted…Process Goals & New Year’s ResolutionsMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      I think people like Strava for the competition aspect. You can “race” against other people in your area to try and get the fastest times on certain segments of roads, etc. It’s also a way to compare your stats against other people. I know we can do that with Garmin Connect if other friends have Garmin Connect, but I think with Strava you can compare with friends who use different apps. I would never win a segment in Strava so there is little reason for me to use it LOL!
      Kristina recently posted…Best Apps for Beginner RunnersMy Profile

  7. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    These are great resources! I never used C25k but I can’t recommend it highly enough just based on how my friends have liked it and found success with it. And I used a similar “program” that built up mileage and intervals, so it definitely works 🙂
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…HomecomingMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      It’s the best way to ease into the sport. You do what you can handle and you see progress almost immediately! That combination is what helped me to stick with the sport, instead of giving up after 1 day! 🙂

  8. Susan

    What a great post for beginners. Way to go! I started running when I was 15 just to be active. I have continued on and off but am “on” more times than off. I used to run without music and with only a watch and those were really nice times. Over the years I acquired a very simple garmin and a shuffle (which used to be filled with music and now only podcasts). I do follow some bloggers (only the cool girls, ya know) and a bit on instagram but I honestly just try to “run my own race”. I use galloway method and love it so really have to make sure I don’t compare my paces to my speedier blog friends. I just want to have fun!

    1. Kristina

      I am the same way for sure! I love the Galloway run/walk method. Even though there have been times I’ve deviated away from it (like when I was doing Hansons), I always come back to it. The run/walk method makes me feel so much stronger, and I like that it gives me the freedom to run faster paces. Doing a total run at 14 min miles means I’m jogging 14 min pace steadily, but doing run/walk 14 min pace means my run is in the 11-12min pace range (depending on how long my intervals are) and that’s nice!

  9. Lisa @ TechChick Adventures

    Great post, and great app ideas! Very good idea to include Pinterest. There are so many motivational pins on there. I would not have thought of that (good thinking outside the box!). Instagram is super inspirational stuff too! One of my “must have” apps is a pace calculator. Maybe not a beginner app, but after you get a race or two under your belt it’s a helpful tool to play around with “what if”!
    Lisa @ TechChick Adventures recently posted…Donut Dash Crazy 8 Challenge!My Profile

  10. Messi Albert

    Thanks for sharing great resources. These are really useful for beginners. I would love to try them. Thanks!

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