I started running in 2004 and ran competitively through college for just about 10 years racking up thousands of miles in that time. After college I found I no longer had the motivation to run and took several years off. Eventually I realized that I had to get back in shape, I was no longer who I wanted to be mentally or physically. I suited up in my short shorts full of motivation only to find that I could no longer run more than a mile or two without having to stop and suck some air; I was disheartened and I went through a few years of on again off again running struggling to maintain long term motivation. There had to be a reason I was failing to re-create this habit that I had once enjoyed for 10+ years.
Long story short I realized that failing to develop a running habit always boiled down to 1 of 2 things. 1. Pushing too hard too soon; your body cant keep up and you burnout mentally and/or physically and you begin to make excuses to avoid it. 2. Not seeing measurable progress towards long term goals (weight loss, time goals, distance goals etc.). I've created this training plan for the absolute beginner in order to avoid these 2 major pitfalls. I can adjust it for more experienced athletes if there is interest. Running is about patience and long term consistency. Progress may be slow at the beginning but over time you will begin to notice you are growing stronger mentally and physically if you stick to it. I promise it is worth it to feel that sweet runners high after a run or a race. I've never been involved with a group of people (runners) that are more genuine or happy all the time.
I am now enjoying running consistently and feel whole again (mind and body) and want to share my experience to help others reach their goals.
Step 1: Prime (4 Weeks)
The goal of this phase ("Prime") is to Establish the habit of running on a regular basis. A Each week there will be "mini" goals based on time, number of workouts, etc., to help you focus on short term goals rather than getting discouraged if you aren't noticing progress towards your long term goals.
All of these runs will be at an "easy" intensity to allow your body to adapt to the new stresses you are going to be putting on it with your new and improved lifestyle. Easy intensity means you should be able to speak a full sentence without gasping for air. If running continuously leaves you gasping for air, try running for 30 seconds then walking for 30seconds for the duration of the run. You will be able to run farther and farther as time goes on.
Just remember, less is more right now, your motivation is going to be extremely high because you are excited to reach your long term goals, whatever they may be. Just try to remember this is a long term lifestyle change, whats the rush? It takes time to form a new habit and time to become proficient at a new skill. Killing yourself every workout may seem like the best way to get into shape and to get better at running but training too much too soon will only lead to burn out. Burnout is your enemy! You'll start to lose interest, procrastinate, make excuses, get injured or eventually stop running all together if you do too much too soon. Learn to check in with your body day-to-day to monitor how you are feeling (normal soreness vs. burnout). Are you moody? Does your knee hurt? Have you been sore for more than a few days? Are you feeling run down? All of these may mean you should take an extra rest day to let your body recover. As with anything patience and consistency are key.
Step 2: Base (6 Weeks)
The goal of the next phase ("Base") is to slowly build your endurance so you're body can adapt to working out longer. Similar to "Prime", each week will incorporate "mini" goals based on time, number of workouts, etc., however, this phase will also incorporate continuous running goals for each workout to help you focus building endurance.
Most of these runs will be at an "easy" intensity but we will also incorporate 1 higher intensity workout each week to start to build a bit of speed and strength. For now it'll be intervals 2 minutes at a hard intensity and 1 minute at an easy recovery intensity (walk if necessary). These should not be performed at an all out sprint but at a pace you could maintain 5 to 10 minutes before having to stop to walk.
By now your body has adapted to the stresses of running and its okay to push yourself harder than normal during the high intensity runs. Just make sure that you are taking your easy days easy so that you can push yourself harder on your hard days.
Step 3: Fork in the Road
At this point, you've invested a few months into becoming a runner. Your body has started to physiologically adapt and hopefully you are feeling good about becoming a runner. Many of you will be okay with continuing to run just to improve your fitness and others will want to compete in races to push improve your personal best times. Either is perfectly okay as long as it's what YOU want to do.
If you are an absolute beginner I would suggest following the Base phase for several more months in order to let your body apapt more. If you still aren't able to run for the entire duration of the workouts try slowly increasing your time spent running during each workout. Once you are running for the entirety of your workouts try increasing the duration of each run by 5 to 10% week over week to improve your endurance.
If you are looking for some guidance to hit your personal best times, I will be creating an Intermediate instructable with more specific workouts for different race distances. Feel free to comment if you have a specific goal you need help with!