Thinking about starting a running plan, but not sure where to start?

Or has an injury, a new job, or adverse weather conditions disrupted your training program, taking you back to square one? You might be left feeling as though all your efforts were for not, but there is no need to fear. While I am not suggesting that you jump back in right where you left off, this guide will assist you in creating a plan for starting out or returning to running.

Walk it out

When starting out, or returning to running after a layoff, do not try to do too much too soon. Begin by walking if necessary. Then employ run/walk intervals until your body can adapt to the added stress. Work up to 30 minutes of continuous effort, alternating between segments of running and walking. The last thing you want to do is take on more than your body is prepared to handle. Beginners are likely to become demoralized and individuals recovering from injury may experience a setback.

Step it up

After re-acclimating by way of walk/run workouts, it is time to increase the duration of your runs. At this point, intensity is not the main focus. Instead, begin to implement longer aerobic runs conducted at a conversational pace. Over time, if you do not experience fatigue or re-injury, your goal should be to increase your weekly mileage by 10% each week. If you are running 15 miles per week, it is reasonable to implement an increase of 1-2 miles or 10% each week.

Run for it

Now that you have established a sound cardiovascular base, it is time to devise a plan to achieve peak performance. A successful plan to improve running performance should include elements of interval training, tempo runs, long steady efforts, track-based workouts, and hill climbs. However, it is important to note that these techniques do not have to be forced into every week. As a matter of fact, it’s better to develop a running plan that features different workouts during different phases. This way, you can avoid plateaus and keep your training interesting by varying work intensity, duration, and technique.

Since the groundwork has been laid, it is time to schedule speed and tempo workouts that are conducted at a higher intensity. Keep up your stamina with long steady runs, but once a week log an up-tempo run that feels like an 8, in terms of difficulty, on a scale of 1-10. You will also want to complete a mid-distance run over rolling hills or steep hill repeats to strengthen your legs and improve conditioning. Continue training in this manner for 3-4 weeks.

Make it last

Having successfully recovered from injury, built a base, and picked up the pace, it is time that you take your training to new heights. Ramp up your speed workouts with short intervals like 8-10, 400 meter repeats with a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Long intervals, like 1200-1600 meter repeats can be used as a second speed session during the week. Running time trials at maximum effort for 5K, 10K or half-marathon distances can be used to take you beyond your comfort zone, while establishing benchmarks that can be used to track progress over time. Finally, consider taking your workouts off-road, onto trails to add an element of fun and adventure to your training program.