Saturday, August 1, 2015

Running 101: Beginner Plans

Last week, we talked shoes.  That's where all good running begins - with good shoes.

So, now that you have your new kicks, let's talk about plans.  Because if you want to really stick with running, you will need a plan.  Here's why.

There will be mornings when you just don't feel like running.  Your plan will help with that.

There will be times when you're not sure if you're running enough.  Or too much.  Check your plan.

There will be moments when you don't know where to go next with your running.  Should you run longer?  Or faster?  The plan.

Plans are not just for beginners.  Any runner with any real goal in mind will have a plan.  They are the backbone of your running.  Of course, always listen to your body first, but your plan will really help to guide you as you begin running.

What is a plan?  Usually, it's some type of a calendar that shows you how far to run and/or walk each day.  Starting out, most plans will only have you out there 3 or 4 days a week.  You'll want to start slow and then build up to reduce your risk of injury.  

So, I can hear you asking, "Where do I find my plan?"

As with most things, you have options.  I'll share some of them, and then I'll give you my favorite.

  1. Make your own plan.  This is what I did when I first started running, because I didn't know any better.  So, I got a portable radio (does that tell you how long ago that's been?), and I decided I'd run a song and then walk a song, and repeat until I made it 1 mile.  Then I worked up to 2 miles and then 3.  Once I'd gotten to 3 miles, I upped the amount of time I was running.  I started running 2 songs and walking 1.  Then running 3 songs and walking 1.  And I kept doing that until I was running a solid 3 miles.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was actually a pretty good plan.  I was losing weight (my purpose for running at the time), and so that was motivation to keep going.
  2. Runner's World.  Go there, swim around in the site for a bit, and then check out their plans.  They have several, and they can be customized to what you are wanting to do.  Lose weight?  Build cardio endurance?  It's all there.  (In fact, go ahead and bookmark that site.  You'll go back to it a lot.)
  3. Couch Potato to 5K.  I like this one because I'm a firm believe in setting a time-dependent goal.  Start this program, sign up for a local 5K, and then do it.  Knowing you've got that race coming up may get you out the door.  If this is your first race, don't be intimidated.  A 5K is 3.1 miles, and there are about 100 on any given Saturday within a 3 mile radius of you.  They're fun.  The people are fun.  The energy is fun.  And people are super supportive.  Most people say, "Oh, I don't want to do a 5K, because I'll come in last."  Well, it's really likely that you won't.  I mean, out of 500 people, what's the likelihood that you'll really be last?  But, let's say that you are.  That just means that you actually got your behind out of bed to do something that only about 2% of the US population did.  And, the very best cheering on the whole course will come for those who are at the back of the pack!
  4. Jeff Galloway.  This guy invented the run-walk method (the one I did without even really knowing it).  It's been proven with hundreds of thousands of people to work.
Now, here's my favorite place for running plans:  Hal Higdon

This is an example of his 5K novice plan.  I like that his plans are clear, doable, and effective.  They WORK!  Anytime I've attempted a new race distance, or wanted to really reduce my times for a certain distance, I've turned to his plans, and they have never let me down.  I also like that he has an interactive option for his plans, so you can get daily e-mails telling you how far to run, what your effort should feel like, and more.

Now, I would suggest first going to a doctor to make sure it's okay for you to start one of these programs.  Then I'd sit down and look at each one and choose the one that seems right for you.  You may not know for sure which one is right now, since you're just starting out, but see which ones seem easy to follow, clear, and that make you feel comfortable with what you're about to do.

Personally, I like to print out a training plan and put it on my refrigerator.  (As a bonus, if weight loss is one of your goals, that reminder can help keep you out of the fridge.)  Each day that I complete my training, I mark it off with a big X.  That means that everyone who walks by the fridge will see if I've skipped a day.  And I don't know about your family, but mine will make sure I know that they've noticed.  It also gives me a big sense of accomplishment, marking it off and knowing that I'm one step closer to my goal.

One more quick tip.  If you do skip a few days for whatever reason, do NOT try to go back and make up your missed days.  It just doesn't work that way - you'll get physically hurt and mentally frustrated.  The best thing to do is to pick up where you should be and just go from there.  Those days are lost, so let them go and move on.

So, you have shoes.  You have plans.  It's time to hit the road!  Next week we'll talk music.   


  1. I love, love Hal Higdons's running plan, and am using his marathon plan for this spring. Thanks for a great post!

    1. Peaches and cream, Batman!! Catherine Reed stopped by my blog!!! And liked my post! I am a HUGE fan of yours, so this is like a celebrity run-in for me. :)

      Now that the squealing has stopped - I love Hal Higdon's plans, too. If I really stick with it, I can always get a sub 4 hour marathon following his intermediate plan. But I have to REALLY follow the plan religiously. Where are you running this spring? I love spring races. Winter training not so much.

      Oh, and I got a pound of dice in the mail from Amazon on Thursday. Love. :)