Running 101: How To Start A Running Program

If you're just starting out and have a goal to finish a 5K, take it slow at first and build your fitness gradually. Photo: Competitor.com

Starting a running program is trickier than other forms of exercise. Learn how to do it safely.

So you’ve decided to start running. That’s great! You won’t regret it. If you’re like most beginner runners, you are full of questions. The most basic questions have to do with the running itself: how far, how often, how fast, and so forth. This article will answer some of those questions.

Starting a running program is trickier than starting almost any other type of exercise program. That’s because running is a repetitive high-impact activity. Consequently, it has strong potential to cause overuse injuries, especially in beginners whose bones, joints, and muscles have not yet adapted to the stress of repeated impact. Therefore, it is important to ease gently into running and proceed cautiously. Otherwise you will surely get injured and will have to take a break and start over.

RELATED: A Beginner’s 5K Training Plan

Some new runners can safely run more than others. Age, body weight, starting fitness level, and natural durability are factors that affect how quickly the individual runner can proceed. If you are under age 30, weigh less than 150 pounds, and have a solid base of fitness that you developed through activities other than running, you may be able to run a few miles at a moderate pace every other day right out of the gate without problems. If you are older, heavier, and/or less fit, it may be best to begin with walk/run workouts.

For example, start with a session in which you walk for two minutes and then jog slowly for one minute for a total of 18-21 minutes. From here, gradually increase the duration of the running segments in these workouts and shrink the walking segments until you are able to jog for 20 minutes straight.

It is necessary to exercise almost every day for optimal health, but it’s best for beginners not to run every day at first. Your legs need a good 48 hours between runs in those early days to fully repair themselves and grow stronger. Instead, alternate runs with non-impact alternatives such as cycling. Over a period of a few weeks, you can replace individual non-impact workouts with runs until you are running every day.

Keep the pace slow in all of your runs for the first month, as impact forces increase geometrically with increasing speed. Also, listen to your body and replace planned runs with days off or non-impact workouts whenever pain warns of a developing injury.

The following is a four-week training schedule for new runners who are not ready for straight runs.

M T W T F S S
1 6 x (walk 2 min./jog 1 min.) Walk 20 min. 6 x (walk 2 min./jog 1 min.) Walk 20 min. 6 x (walk 2 min./jog 1 min.) Walk 20 min. Rest
2 6 x (walk 90 sec./jog 90 sec.) Walk 25 min. 6 x (walk 90 sec./jog 90 sec.) Walk 25 min. 6 x (walk 90 sec./jog 90 sec.) Walk 30 min. Rest
3 6 x (walk 1 min./jog 2 min.) Walk 30 min. 7 x (walk 1 min./jog 2 min.) Walk 30 min. 7 x (walk 1 min./jog 3 min.) Walk 30 min. Rest
4 5 x (walk 1 min./jog 4 min.) Walk 30 min. 5 x (walk 1 min./jog 4 min.) Walk 30 min. Jog 20 min. Walk 30 min. Rest

 

The following is a six-week training schedule for new runners who do not feel they need to prepare for straight runs with walk/run workouts.

M T W T F S S
1 Jog 2 miles 20 min. non-impact cardio Jog 2 miles 20 min. non-impact cardio Jog 2 miles 20 min. non-impact cardio Rest
2 Jog 2.5 miles 20 min. non-impact cardio Jog 2.5 miles 20 min. non-impact cardio Jog 2.5 miles 25 min. non-impact cardio Rest
3 Jog 2 miles Jog 2 miles 30 min. non-impact cardio Jog 2.5 miles 20 min. non-impact cardio Jog 2 miles Rest
4 Jog 3 miles Jog 2 miles 30 min. non-impact cardio Jog 3 miles Jog 2 miles 30 min. non-impact cardio Rest
5 Jog 3 miles Jog 3 miles Jog 2 miles 30 min. non-impact cardio Jog 3 miles Jog 3 miles Rest
6 Jog 3 miles Jog 3 miles Jog 2 miles Jog 3 miles Jog 3 miles Jog 3 miles Rest

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