Training

Getting started

When you are starting out as a runner, do not make the mistake of thinking that walking is cheating. Every beginner’s running programme starts with walking, and you will have to walk before you can run. Aim to begin by running for just 30 seconds, then walking until you have caught your breath, and then repeating it.

Walk to run

Even seasoned marathon runners throw a walk break into their running now and then, and with good reason. By alternating running with walking, you will give your body a chance to recover from the impact of running, because one of the main differences between running and walking is that in running you ‘jump’ off the ground. In walking, however, you don’t, so there’s much less impact on each foot strike and a reduced chance of injury.

Use your walk breaks to take in what’s going on around you. Look at the view, enjoy the sun on your back or the rain on your face, and feel the ground beneath your feet.

Training benefits

When you start training using a run/walk schedule, not only will you help protect yourself from many common injuries, but you will also make greater improvements because you should be able to train for longer before you tire. If you can only run about 50 yards before becoming out of breath, you should walk for the next 50 yards to recover before starting to run again. Most first-timers who are new to the business of running start off by running too fast and too hard. It might last only a few minutes, but it’s an experience that can put them off running forever. Walking is an easier and gentler introduction to running – it’s more sustainable and will not leave you feeling disillusioned.

Talk test

Throughout your running training, you can also use the talk test to gauge whether you are going too fast. When you’re starting out as a runner this is particularly useful. If you’re too out of breath to chat to a training partner, slow down a little, and walk, until you get your breath back. Then start to jog but a little more slowly. This gentle approach will allow you to improve without denting your enthusiasm.

Easing back into training

Run/walking is a great way for new runners to build up fitness, but it is a strategy that works for experienced runners too. If you are coming back to running after an injury, run/walk is a great way to ease slowly back into training. Start running for one minute, then walking for one, and if everything feels fine, then increase the time you run without extending the walk break. Eventually you will be able to drop the walking entirely.

If you are completely new to running, the following programme will help you to run for 30 minutes in just six weeks. Stick to the schedule and you will be amazed at how quickly you improve.

Week 1
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds. Repeat 20 times.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run one minute, walk one minute. Repeat 10 times.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Run two minutes, walk three minutes. Repeat five times.
Week 2
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run two minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat five times.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run three minutes, walk four minutes. Repeat four times.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Run three minutes, walk three minutes. Repeat four times.
Week 3
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run four minutes, walk four minutes. Repeat four times.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run five minutes, walk five minutes. Repeat four times.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Run five minutes, walk four minutes. Repeat four times.
Week 4
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run seven minutes, walk four minutes. Repeat three times.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run seven minutes, walk three minutes. Repeat three times.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Run seven minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat three times.
Week 5
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run nine minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat twice.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run 10 minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat twice.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Run 12 minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat twice.
Week 6
  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Run 12 minutes, walk two minutes. Repeat twice.
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Run 15 minutes, walk one minute. Repeat twice.
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Run 30 minutes.

Getting ready to run

It’s not enough to jump out of bed and pull your running shoes on: you need a little preparation before the start of every session. Follow these tips to ease effortlessly into a run.

Warming up

You don’t need to stretch before you run – in fact, research suggests that this might cause you more harm than good – but you do need to warm up the muscles that you are going to use. Start off with a brisk walk for five minutes before breaking into a gentle jog for another five minutes. You should start to feel warmer and ready to begin your training run. If warming up outside in winter leaves you cold, you can cheat with a passive warm-up to increase the body’s temperature without physical activity. Try a warm bath or heat packs, then run a little on the spot indoors before braving the outside world.

Cooling down

At the end of your run, do not stop until you have given your body a chance to cool down. Walking for five minutes after your run is an excellent way to deliver dynamic stretches to your muscles. You will find that it will reduce post-exercise stiffness more effectively than static stretching. Walk until you feel that your breathing has returned to normal.

Why stretch?

The jury is still out on whether stretching can offer any benefits for runners, but many people still like to stretch because they believe that it brings greater flexibility and makes them feel good. After a run your heart will be pumping blood and oxygen to your muscles, and a raised metabolic rate will speed up your nerve impulses, allowing for easier movement.

Getting going

One of the easiest mistakes to make when you are starting out as a runner is to run too fast. You remember what it was like to hare down the finishing straight on the athletics track at school and take off at a pace that you’ll struggle to maintain for more than a couple of minutes. It’s much easier to start slow and think about building up your speed when you can comfortably run for at least 30 minutes.