How to Start (Or Get Back to) Consistent Running

Photo: Kevin Thompson

What you need to know to start—or get back to—consistent running for your first race.

Whether you’re just getting into running or returning after a hiatus, it’s important to take a smart, gradual approach to gaining fitness.

“Remember that not only do you need time to build your aerobic fitness, you also need time for your muscles, tendons, bones and connective tissues to adapt,” says Andrew Dollar of Nashville, Tenn.-based FTP Coaching. “It’s very easy to get injured simply from ramping up too fast.”

Train this way

– If you’re starting from scratch, use the run/walk method rather than trying to run a few miles at once, which could quickly lead to injury (and discouragement). For the first week, start out with three days of running separated by at least one rest day in between. Always do a five-minute warm-up and cool-down walk. Your progression could look something like this:

Workout 1:
10×1 min run/1 min walk

Workout 2:
12×1 min run/1 min walk

Workout 3:
4×2 min run/1 min walk, 5×1 min run/1 min walk

If this is too easy, start with more minutes at a time, but still include a walk break. Add up your total running minutes for the week and increase by 10 percent per week. Once you work up to running three miles at once, “frequency is your friend,” Dollar says. “Running 10–15 miles a week split into 4–5 runs is safer and more beneficial than running 10–15 miles split into only two runs.”

Coach Bethany Rutledge, the Atlanta Triathlon Club coaching director, is also an advocate of high frequency to increase volume and uses this approach with her athletes to improve running strength in the winter: “The goal is to build to 5–7 days of running a week,” Rutledge says. “In order to accomplish this, you need to slightly alter how you define a run. Frequency is simply trying to run more often. But that means some runs need to be short—as short as 10 minutes for beginners.”

If you do three 10-minute runs and three 20-minute runs per week, you’ll accumulate 90 total minutes of running, which is much easier on the body than three 30-minute runs.

RELATED: Cycling Advice For Beginner Triathletes