**This post is a small excerpt from my book “Run: A Complete Beginners Guide” available now on Amazon Kindle for $2.99. **
Have you ever seen someone jogging down the street, and thought, “If only I could do that, I could be healthier/skinnier?”
The truth is that you can, and more than likely, the person running down the street started out just like you, a non-runner. In this post I will introduce you to a 6 week plan to get you off the couch and into running shape!
Many people start running to lose weight and some begin running to improve their health. I know I started for those reasons myself. Many people want to learn how to run, but the problem is that many people don’t quit know HOW to start running. In this post, my goal is to help you get out the door and START RUNNING for the very first time.
So once you’ve made the decision to become a runner, what is the best way to start? Now, don’t stop reading this post yet, but the answer is extremely simple. GO RUN! Seriously, save your spot on this page, go put on the closest thing you can find to running shoes, head out onto the sidewalk or to the nearest park, and jog at a brisk pace until you are out of breath and need to stop. Don’t worry about distance or pace just yet, just do what feels comfortable right now. Continue walking until you catch your breath. Once you are feeling a bit better, go ahead and start jogging again until you are out of breath. The most important thing about this exercise is not time, or distance, it is simply that you get outside and see what kind of shape you are in. You may be able to run a half-mile, a quarter-mile, or maybe just a few hundred feet.
Go try it. Now!
Congratulations, you just took your first “run”! I know it didn’t feel good while your were running. I know it probably didn’t “energize” you or make you feel better afterwards either like you hear many people say that running makes them “feel” better. I’ll be honest with you now, “learning” how to run is not particularly easy, and its not always fun. However, it’s just like anything else in life, in that you have to practice at it before you can become good at it. You have to become good at it, before it becomes fun. Think of your training like learning a craft, or a musical instrument. No one would expect you to be good at it the first time you try, or even the first few months. Learning to run is exactly the same. You have to practice often to become, and stay good at it. If you stick with it, I promise eventually it will become fun, and it will energize you and make you feel better. Trust me on this. It just takes time.
One thing that I noticed was lacking in many training plans was the period in between being a non-runner, and training for a race like a 5K. The simple fact is that jumping directly into a 5K training plan is simply too much too soon for many people. Therefore below I have outlined a 6 week plan to becoming a runner. The point of this plan is to ease you into running without worrying so much about the distance you run, or how fast you run. Instead, we will set some basic outlines for running a set amount of minutes. One of the most effective ways to begin running is to mix both running and walking in succession. You start out with about a 50/50 walking to running ratio, and simply increase the running, and decrease the walking as the weeks progress. This allows your body to become used to running, while allowing you to take a break to catch your breath and rest your legs before running another short distance.
In addition to building up a tolerance in your muscles, this also serves to build up a level of confidence as you learn to run. Below is the overall outline of your first 6 weeks as a runner. We’ll go through each activity in detail after reviewing the outline:
6-Week Pre-Running Plan
Let me first go over the structure of the pre-running plan above. As I mentioned before, this plan is not about distance, or speed. It is about taking your body from sedentary and “waking it up” to become a runner. The great thing about this plan is that it is applicable to almost anyone of any ability, or age. It is intended to be a very loose outline that you should adjust to your own schedule. If you need to swap a rest day for a running day, you should do so. You should also listen to your body. If your legs are extremely sore, or you just feel like you shouldn’t run one day, then feel free to skip a workout. The key to this is to listen to your BODY, not your MIND, since your mind will often tell you it would be easier to sit on the couch and push it off until later! With that in mind, here are some of the details of the chart explained in detail.
The freestyle run means that I want you to run at the effort that you feel most comfortable. This comes under the “listen to your body” rule. If you feel like it is a 50% effort day, then go for it. If you feel great and want to give it 75%, that’s great! If you are worn out, and need a 25% day, then that is also fine as long as you are covering the rest with a brisk walk. The point of these runs is to be active but be flexible enough to do what is best for your body that day.
As you can see in the chart above, there are times listed along with percentages. The goal here is to be in motion for the entire time listed, while running the portion highlighted by the percentage. For instance, a 10-min/50% workout should be 5 minutes of running at a comfortable pace (able to carry a short conversation) with 5 minutes of brisk walking while you catch your breath. Brisk walking is the key here. Keep your heart rate elevated the entire time to achieve the best results. Eventually you build up to runs of 100% effort, which means you should be running 100% of the time at a comfortable pace. In these runs, keep in mind that you may need to run a bit slower during the entire duration to cover that time. Shorter runs can be run at a slightly faster pace.
Cross-Training is day in which you need to be active, but not necessarily running. You should always aim for at least 20-30 minutes of activity to elevate your heart rate. Cross training should be something you enjoy, and can include activities like basketball, swimming, biking, or even simply walking.
The key to any training program is building up to a new weekly “long run” each week. This long run is the culmination of your weeks training and should be your maximum amount of effort each week. In fact, you will see the same type of long run on 5k, 10k, and even marathon training plans! The long run taxes your body and muscles, which then repair and rebuild themselves during rest periods to be better prepared for that type of workout in the future. These runs are not to be skipped if at all possible. You can always adjust them to the day of the week that suits your schedule, but never put them off if you can help it!
Believe it or not, rest is an extremely key part of a training plan. Rest days allow your muscles to regenerate themselves and become stronger for the harder workouts ahead. Running too many days in a row can wear you down and actually lead to worse performance due to tired muscles. Rest days can be a good time to stretch, or work on other body parts such as abs or arms if you are focusing on those areas as well.
Every activity should begin and end with a warm-up and cool-down period. This is usually 5-10 minutes of leisurely walking, along with 5-10 minutes of stretching. Therefore, even a “10 minute” run on the chart above should take around 30 minutes or slightly longer for the full workout. The chart times are just your “active” times, so don’t forget to add your warm-up/cool-down and stretching after each workout!