Training Plans for Beginners and Short Distances
All runners had to start somewhere. While maybe elite runners have been performing a grade above all else since leaving the womb, the rest of us took to running as a new activity for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it began during the Covid-19 Pandemic and the only way to be outside was to start by exercising. Or maybe it was a health-kick way to start to lose weight. Or maybe it was in conjunction with other sports, like tennis or basketball, as a way to stay fit. Or maybe it became a ritual where one could venture out to have alone time and re-energize the mind and body. For whatever reason, where to begin may be the biggest hurdle to get over when starting to run. Here we have provided a quick guide on some training tips for newbie runners who want to accomplish a short distance goal like the popular 5-kilometer distance.
The old saying “practice makes perfect” is most certainly true when initially getting into a new activity and this applies to running, as well. Let's break down the steps on becoming a runner.
1. Talk to your doctor: Before starting an exercise program it's not a bad idea to talk to your doctor especially if you have a family history of heart disease or other co-morbidities. It's best to get the go-ahead from your doctor as a preventative measure to make sure that other serious issues won't arise.
2. Get motivated: The initial idea of wanting to become a runner is a great start. Motivation is a pivotal tool in helping you get out the door and start hitting the pavement. Inspiration and motivation come in many forms, it could be from following your favorite runner on social media, watching a sport documentary, listening to a podcast or just talking with family and friends. Staying motivated is another topic in itself. Music, journaling, treating yourself to small rewards when reaching your initial goals, joining a running forum or reading and educating yourself on running are all great ways to help you start and continue your journey on becoming a runner.
3. Pick your gear: Running is a relatively affordable sport but making good choices in picking the right gear is important in helping to ward off injury while also providing overall comfort.
Shoes: A good pair of shoes is the key ingredient for running. There is no one right brand or style as we are all individuals and it is a good idea to talk to your local running specialty shop to help guide you.
Clothing: Additionally, clothing and sports socks made from technical sweat-wicking fabric are also good investments to help prevent chafing and blisters.
Tracking Devices: Fancy GPS watches are nice and give you plenty of data, but maybe that can be an investment later down the road. There are plenty of free running and tracking applications you can download for your phone to help track and map out your route and keep track of your pace.
4. Start with small activity goals: Running may be the ultimate goal, but your cardiovascular system and muscles may think differently. The vision of running is a great long term goal but starting out running too long or too fast could have consequences and result in injury. The body needs time to adapt to high impact activity. Starting with walking is a great base for becoming a runner. Start with scheduled 15-30 minutes of walking 3 times a week. No really, put it on your calendar and make it a regular occurrence. Build the time of these walks gradually. Then start to incorporate walking with brief intervals of running. Build on the ratio of walking to running so that running times increase and walking times decrease. Ultimately, these small goals will grow and progress towards your long term goal of running without interruption.
Here is an example of a walk-run progression:
Initially try running for 10-30 seconds followed by 1-2 minutes of walking building gradually for 10-30 minutes. Progress from 1-5 minutes of running followed by 1-2 minutes of walking for the duration of your run. As your cardiovascular level improves, push yourself to try running for 6-8 minutes followed by 30 seconds to 1 minute of walking for the duration of your run. Over time you should be able to ultimately start to run continuously.
5. Discover your pace: When you are just starting it is good to remember that not all training runs are a race, well at least not yet, but learning how to pace yourself will help prevent burnout and injury. An easy pace is relative but usually is determined by your how easy you can talk during your run. If you are gasping for breaths and finding it difficult to keep up with an easy conversation, you are probably pushing too hard. Remember, working on your endurance, in the beginning, is more important than the speed at which you do it.
Ok, you are finally out there and starting to log some miles. This is exciting as you are now part of the running community. The next logical goal would be to find a race. Registering, paying, and putting a race on your calendar will work to keep you engaged in reaching the next endeavor of your running journey. An appropriate distance to target for would be a 5-kilometer or 3.1 miles race.
While there are several training programs easily obtainable on the internet, here are some integral factors to consider when choosing the right program for you:
What is your schedule like: You want to have a program where you will be active at least 3 days a week to help build your tolerance and endurance.
Incorporate progression: Each week you will want to build on your distance or length of time being out. A good rule of thumb is to not increase by more than 10% each week.
Respect the rest: A good program will have active recovery days (foam rolling, stretching, yoga, etc), cross-training (bodyweight exercises, cycling, swimming, etc), and rest days (no activity) to counter the additional stress you are putting on the body to help with recovery. Take the days seriously to help prevent injury.
Overall, we recommend trying out this 12-week beginner program from Runner's World created by 4x Olympic Trials Marathoner, Budd Coates. This program provides a gentle progression to running, starting with 30 minutes of walking to the ultimate goal of 30 minutes of running or building to a 5K distance. The idea is to work through 12 stages, so you don't move onto the next stage until your mind and body are ready so the timeframe of 12 weeks is just a guide, it could take a little bit longer or shorter depending on how you feel. The program is ideal in that you can progress at your own pace and comfort level.
We all know running is an easy and great way to improve your health and wellness. Although the initial steps to start running may be overwhelming or feel near to impossible, there are progressive ways to help you get over the initial difficulties. So take hold of your motivation, grab some comfortable trainers, and start by just moving. The progress will take time but the result will be worth it!