only help my unbelief


A running plan for new runners
January 9, 2009, 11:20 am
Filed under: Posts | Tags: ,

Disclaimer: I’m not, in any sense of the word, a fitness expert or a doctor. If you’re overweight, have rarely exercised, or have any potential for injury, see your doctor before you start running. And please don’t sue me for any reason.

Yesterday I wrote about all the different times I’ve started running. I may have given the impression that it’s pretty simple to become a runner, and it is – if you go into it with a plan. If you don’t, then your newfound motivation probably won’t last very long.

There are a lot of plans you can go with. Some people really enjoy Couch-to-5K, and that’s successful for a lot of people. Having started so many times, though, I kind of like to mix it up each time I try to be a runner again.

Because I’m realizing how interesting this is to me, and because I have a really good time at the gym coming up with new and different treadmill workouts, I’m thinking about posting some new ones on Fridays, which will pay homage to my now-defunct Fitness Fridays.

First, though, two principles:

1. Start out slowly
As my experience can show, the biggest mistake I’ve found people make when they start to run is to start out too fast – both long-term and short-term. By long-term I mean they try to run 20 miles the first week. By short-term I mean that when they go out for a run, their pace is far too fast.

In addition to increasing the risk of injury, going to fast on your runs will lead to a lot of disappointment. You may start running, make it to a mile or so, and then feel completely exhausted. There’s no way I can do this again, you might think. And you probably won’t.

My goal, any time I run (since I’m not training for anything), is to always feel like I could have gone farther. That doesn’t mean my runs were easy, but it means I stop short of exhaustion. This gives me motivation to go at it again the next day.

At the beginning, though, it means going slowly.

2. Endurance is more important than speed.
When we would train for cross country in the summer, we didn’t do fast interval workouts until the end of the summer, when some of the guys would have 500 miles or so under their belts. You can run fast for short distances without endurance, but if you want to run several miles at a fairly quick pace, you’ll never do it if you can’t run many more miles at a slower pace. Remember this when you’re tempted to run faster at the beginning.

The Walk-Run Method

Probably the most tried and true method of starting to run is the run-walk method. Sure, you could start out just running for one minute a day, then going back inside, then two minutes a day, etc., but it’s better to pick a length of time – I suggest 30 minutes, but 20 would work as well – and slowly build up to running farther and farther.

Week 1: Run 1 minute, walk 5 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (5 minutes of running)

Week 2: Run 2 minutes, walk 4 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (10 minutes of running)

Week 3: Run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (15 minutes of running)

Week 4: Run 4 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (20 minutes of running)

Week 5: Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 5 times. (25 minutes of running)

At this point, it would seem that you could run 30 minutes straight the next week, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That one minute of walking in between makes a big difference. Instead, move on to lengthier times of running, but keep the 1 minute in between.

Week 6: Run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 4 times, then run 2 minutes. (26 minutes of running)

Week 7: Run 7 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times, then run 6 minutes. (27 minutes of running)

Week 8: Run 8 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times, then run 3 minutes. (27 minutes of running)

Week 9: Run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times. (27 minutes of running)

Week 10: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 2 times, then run 8 minutes. (28 minutes of running)

Week 11: Run 14 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 2 times. (28 minutes of running)

Week 12: Run 30 minutes.

I’ve found this plan to be successful every time I’ve tried it. I would recommend trying to run three or four times a week. If a particular week seems really difficult, just repeat it. Last year, my roommate tried a variation of this, and she ultimately ran a 10K. Before she started training, she had never even run a mile!

If you’re running outside, run at a slow, steady pace. If you’re on a treadmill, I’d suggest starting around 4.8 or 5.0 miles per hour (12-13 minute miles).

Happy running!

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