5 points: Newborn Runner
You've likely been sedentary for most of your life, and you probably didn't play sports as a kid. That's OK. Everyone starts somewhere. By taking initiative to start running, you've taken an applause-worthy step toward improving your health. Running is a high-impact sport that takes time for the body to adapt to, so take "baby steps" in all that you do when it comes to running. Be forgiving and patient, and seek out inspiration and motivation from those around you. Keep at it; running will get easier.
6 to 14 points: Running Freshman
You'd likely fit in well with a Couch to 5K training group. While you may not have been sedentary your entire life, you've likely exercised sporadically in the past year or so. The idea of running a 3.1-mile race might seem daunting to you right now, but it's important to pick a goal—even if it's not to run a race—so you can give your training a purpose.
If possible, try to schedule your runs at the beginning of your day instead of the end. If you establish a habit of running in the morning before the distractions of work, family, home life, social life etc. have a chance to consume your mind and energy (and provide you with an excuse not to run), you'll be less likely to back out of a run or cross-training.
15 to 21 points: Fit Beginner
You may be new to running, but you're likely not new to exercise. Are (or were) your parents runners or endurance athletes? If you've never run before, and don't currently exercise much, you could be blessed with athletic genes. If you are blessed genetically, try not to take it for granted. Even if running a few miles feels easy for you now, you still need to develop aerobic fitness, and it takes time for your body to adjust to the impact.
If you're a frequent exerciser who is adding running to your regimen, you may need to adjust your other activities to allow for enough recovery time after your runs. While the extra endorphins make you feel good, tiredness from running is often cumulative—meaning, you might be able to add running without taking anything else away from your current workout schedule for a few weeks, but you'll likely experience fatigue and even grouchiness at some point. When this happens, scale it back a bit or take a day or two off to recover.
22 to 31 points: Uber Newbie
You likely have some running experience in your past, or were/are an athlete who plays other sports. You could also be a gym rat or someone who spends time regularly being active with friends or family. Whatever your past exercise experience, it's paying off now. As you probably already know, it takes a high level of commitment and self-motivation to progress as a runner, and you're on the right path. Just beware of doing too much too soon—the 10 percent rule is your friend—and keep up the good work! You'll soon be able to call yourself an intermediate runner.
Why Your Running Level Matters
Why should it matter what level of beginning runner you are? Because it's the first step to learning your strengths and weaknesses, and you can use this information to take charge of your running plan. For example, if you're a newborn runner who hasn't ever exercised intentionally, you can turn your inexperience into a strength by respecting your limits. Take your time evolving into a runner; walk more than you run, and give yourself plenty of time to recover after your runs.
All new and returning runners should keep a detailed record (in a handwritten journal, an Excel spreadsheet, or through an online training tool) of their progress—from what you eat to how you felt during a three-mile run to which shoes gave you blisters—to use as a tool not only to remind you of what works and what doesn't, but also to provide motivation for those days when you're feeling fine but just don't feel like running. Writing in a zero for running mileage, or "nothing" as your activity for several days in a row won't feel good, and it won't get you any closer to becoming a runner.
On the other hand, reading your training log after you do accomplish your first running goal—whether that be to chase your two-year-old around the house without getting winded, run two consecutive miles, or cross the finish line of your first 5K—can be a rewarding experience, and a great place to start planning how you'll accomplish your next running goal.5K.