Regardless of your fitness level, you can easily start from zero to running 20 minutes continuously in 10 weeks. The program below, adapted from the New York Road Runners Club, does exactly that and is an example of an ten-week run/walk strategy, aimed at beginners in good health. You can do it. All it requires on your part is the commitment to go out and run 3, preferably 5 times, a week. Depending on how often you are running, try to allow for a day of recovery between runs. For example, if you are running 4 times a week, avoid running 4 consecutive days.
Warm up before you start with a 5 – 10 minute fast walk and cool down with 5 – 10 minutes of slow walking. Run at a moderate pace, at 60 – 70% maximum heart rate and walk briskly for the walking phases. You should be able to pass the “talk test.”
If you run flat out, you will be too exhausted to repeat the intervals and will probably vow to never run again. The walking breaks are important too. Walking intervals allows you to recover and means that you can run for longer. Remember, you are running for endurance, not sprinting. It also breaks your run into manageable parts, decreases the likelihood of aches, pain and injury. You feel great afterwards, not overwhelmingly fatigued and completely exhausted. You can for long distances, which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
BEGINNERS RUNNING PROGRAM
1 min run, 2 min walk (7x)
2 min run, 2 min walk (5x)
3 min run, 2 min walk (4x)
5 min run, 2 min walk (3x)
6 min run, 90 sec walk (3x)
8 min run, 90 sec walk (2x)
10 min run, 90 sec walk (2x)
12 min run, 1 min walk, 8 min run
15 min run, 1 min walk, 5 min run
Run 20 minutes continuously
This program should suit most nonactive beginners. Therefore, if you can, follow the program exactly. However, if you are very overweight, older or have been very inactive, it will probably take longer. Do not exceed what you can do, listen to your body. Stay at the level you can handle until you feel able to move to the next stage. It doesn’t matter if it takes you twenty weeks. The goal is to get there. On the other hand, if you have been somewhat active before, you may find the program too easy and progress quickly. In that case, simply move forward to the next level. Once you hit 20 minutes nonstop running, move on to the advanced beginners program. You may be able to complete 30 minutes of continuous running at the end of 10 weeks. Still, take it easy. The goal of this running program is to get there uninjured and it is better to veer on the side of caution. For some tips on running form check out the running form infographic.
Remember to clear any exercise program with your doctor before starting, especially if you have any medical condition.
Once you have completed this program you can continue your improvements by moving on to the next 10-week plan for advanced beginners.