Becoming a runner is not as easy as it sounds. Instead of embarking where you think you ought to, you should really begin right where you are because taking more than you can handle is neither sustainable nor healthy. With that, here are some general plans from experts that will bring you from where you are to the end goal, where you hopefully become the runner of your dreams.
1. Getting your engine started
If you can get yourself motivated, making running a habit will come naturally to you. That way, running feels less like a chore.
A habit consists firstly of the cues which are things like location, music, or time of the day. Cues awaken your body and let it know that it is time for a run. It is crucial for the cues to remain constant so that your brain learns to recognize them. An example of this is to have a fixed time for your run each day. The second component is a routine for your run. Inject some fun in it by running with a friend or tracking your progress. Lastly, include a reinforcer for yourself after each run. A reinforcer is anything you might enjoy after the exercise. It can be a smoothie, a cold shower, or even some chocolate. This trains your brain to link running with positive activities.
2. Get moving!
Getting into the habit of walking first will prepare your muscles and bones well for your runs. Start by drafting a 7-week brisk-walking plan. The goal after seven weeks is to gradually increase the exercise time from 15 to 60 minutes. Don’t forget to include two to three rest days each week. The best part about this plan is if the duration is too long for a session, you can always split it into two sessions on the same day to accommodate your schedule. Importantly, if your BMI is above 35 or you’re above the age of 60, create this plan over eight to twelve weeks instead.
3. Ready, Set, Run!
The next step is to make another 7-week walk-run plan. Starting with a 30 minutes walk, gradually increase the duration of exercise until you reach 60 minutes with short intervals of 2-minute running and 1-minute walking. The first two weeks should only be walking with increasing durations; only begin including runs in the third week. Again, include two rest days a week, and feel free to adjust the plan as needed. That means you can increase the run/walk interval from 2/1-minute to 4/2-minute but keep the total workout duration the same. Alternatively, you can repeat a week until you are ready to move on.
4. Graduate from the intervals
With at least six weeks of run/walk preparation, you are now ready to start running continuously with a new 7-week plan. Pace yourself by ensuring that you’re not gasping as you run and it is always wise to leave aside five minutes of walk each before and after the interval or run.
Start with a 3-minute run and 2-minute walk intervals for 20 minutes (of course, with five minutes of walking before and after) in the first workout. Then with each workout, increase the running duration while decreasing the walking duration. Slowly work your way to running 3.1 miles (or 5 km) continuously by the end of the seven weeks. Same thing with the rest days and the adjustments. If you do extend the timeline, try pushing yourself to complete the plan in at most 14 weeks.
5. Go the distance
At this stage of the plan, the goal is to get you from 5km running to either 10km running or 5km race. Starting from 2-mile runs, you want to increase the distance you run each week until you complete 6.2 miles of continuous running by week seven. To train your strength for a 5km race, you want to ensure that in at least two runs per week you include a few sets of sprint/run intervals in between a run. For instance, by week five you can do three miles of constant running followed by six sets of 1-minute sprints and 1-minute runs. Although we advise you to take your time training your body, this program should ideally be completed in 14 weeks. Once again, this is totally customizable, especially the number of sets and duration of the sprint/run intervals. So, pace yourself and do repeat weeks if the progress is too fast for you.
6. Speeding up
Once you’ve reached the 6.2-mile milestone and want to run faster, this 8-week plan will boost endurance and enhance leg and lung strength while teaching you how not to go too fast.
In the first week, the distance should increase from two to six miles. By the last week, the distance should increase from three to eight miles. Each week should have the usual two days rest and one day of a 4-mile run consisting of one mile of constant running before and after four sets of 400m runs and four sets of 200m runs. The number of sets and distance is adjustable but the general rule is to slowly increase the pace of the 400 and 200m runs from 10km to 5km pace as the week goes.
If time is limited, you can move the longer runs to the weekends or skip the shortest run of the week for a 4-day workout per week.
Tips to complete this journey
Before even starting anything, you should ideally get your doctor’s approval especially if your family has a history of heart diseases, you’re above 40, or your BMI is 35 and above.
Next, get a shoe that fits and provides enough support so you don’t injure yourself. To prevent blisters, get socks made of fabric that expels the sweat. It can also help greatly to map out running routes for different weathers with as little traffic as possible. Then, find a way to track your running progress; it can be a GPS watch or a simple pen and paper. This will be a constant source of encouragement as you watch the statistics improve. Furthermore, an easy way to monitor the increasing strength of your heart is to measure your heart rate per minute before getting out of bed daily. Your heart rate per minute should get lower as you train your heart for endurance.
Another tip is to take short walks in between the day. Experts have found that you can burn 132kcal in eight hours just by taking 5-minute walks every hour! Additionally, do note that it is just as effective to split your workout up as long as the duration remains the same at the end of the day.
Beginners should always start by building strength and endurance first instead of speed. Go at a comfortable pace that you can sustain for what seems like forever. If you go too fast thinking that that’s what makes you a runner, it will be impossible to run 30 minutes by the time you have to. Remember, speed up later!
To end this off, keep in mind that these changes cannot happen overnight. Your weight and size will not suddenly drop because your muscles need the time to adjust. Trust the process and more importantly, trust yourself to see it to the end. Like I said, running is not as easy as it sounds. However, once you reach your goal, it will all be worth it.