Make your own free website on

Who Are We?
Products We Recommend
Topic of the Month
Books on Running
In The News
Past Newsletters

The Beginner's Program

It is great when someone makes the decision to start running. Whatever the reason or goal is for the decision, the time has come to get serious. But what is next? You have gone to a local running store and been fitted for the proper shoes, got the shorts, t-shirt and socks. But have you searched for a beginner's program? Everyone is looking for the perfect program.There are many Learn to Run programs out on the market. What do they share in common?

A number of beginners make the decision to just get out there and get moving. It seems simple, just put one foot in front of the other and start running. But if it were so simple, then why do so many runners pack it up after a few weeks? This article will deal with one key component of starting to run and that is the running program itself.


Almost all Learn to Run programs incorporate some type of a walk component and a run component. This allows the beginner to insert regular walking intervals to allow the body to recover. The body has to learn how to run and endurance has to be built up. This requires sequential planning.

Time or Distance:

Most Learn to Run programs are based on time, meaning that endurance is built up by increasing the time period that you can run. Some Learn to Run programs are distance based, in that you run longer distances each time you run. So which do you choose?

Hard Copy Sources:

In Running, Start to Finish by John Stanton, his Beginner's Condition Program starts with a goal of walking briskly for 30 minutes. Once you can walk for 30 minutes, you can start interspersing easy running into the walking. By doing this over several weeks, a beginner can progress to non-stop running. The Run/Walk training session begins with Week 1 having the beginner run for one minute and then walk for two minutes. This is done six times and ends with a one minute run. The total actual running time for this session is 7 minutes. All running should be done at a conversational pace. This should be done 3-4 times a week. The Running Room program gradually increases the running time until after 10 weeks, you are running 20 minutes non-stop. This is a time based program. John says, "The real secret to staying committed is to make your program gentle enough for your current physical condition and yet challenging enough that you will see some progress."

In The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, she recommends a Learn to Run program by Budd Coates. It takes you from zero to 30 minutes of non-stop running in 10 weeks. Everyone who has followed this program has completed it successfully. It combines walking and running for a total of 30 minutes each session and progresses to 30 minutes of running. Week one begins with running for 2 minutes, walking for 4 minutes and repeating this four times. This is done four times that week.

Marathon, the Ultimate Training Guide, by Hal Higdon, recommends that "If you've never run before, focus your attention on time rather than distance or pace." He has a beginner run/walk for a 15 minute period the first week. "You should be worrying about time, not distance or pace. You can record distance and pace, but if you try to increase either, you're more likely to ge injured."

Ian MacNeill and the Sport Medicine Council of British Columbia in The Beginning Runner's Handbook have a 13-Week Walk/Run Program that begins conservatively with a run for 30 seconds followed with a 4 minute 30 second walk. This is repeated 7 times each session. Gradually the run time is increased while the walk time is reduced. This program has been used successfully by thousands of people to prepare for one of the largest running/walking events, the Vancouver Sun Run.

Galloway's Book on Running, by Bill Rodgers, Dr Kenneth H. Cooper, Frank Shorter, Dr Joan L. Ullyot, Bob Anderson and Dr George Sheehan mention,"Beginners who don't put pressure on themselves seem to have an easier time staying with it. If you simply walk/jog 30-40 minutes every other day, you'll find yourself gently swept along in a pattern of relaxation and good feeling." Galloway's book recommends that when you are comfortable walking briskly, that you insert 3-4 jogs of 100 yards or so into your 30 minute walk. Gradually you increase the running as desired up to 40 minutes three times a week. This was the first source found that mentioned a distance in the program, but Galloway's book was first published in 1945 and the revised edition in August 1984.

In How to Train For and Run Your Best Marathon, by Gordon Bakoulis Bloch, the beginning runner is recommended starting out with walks of 20-30 minutes three or more times a week.

"After two weeks of walking, you can start interspersing one-minute jogs into your walks. Hold yourself to a minute at a time for at least a week, interspersed with walking segments of at least two minutes, for twenty to thirty minutes. After a week or two, you should start lengthening the jogging segments and shortening the walks."

Web sites:

If you are partial to the internet, there are these sources:

1. Jeff Galloway on his website recommends walking breaks for all types of runners.

"If you use the main running muscles in the same way, step after step, they will fatigue quicker. As the distance gets longer, the fatigue and damage to the muscles increases dramatically. If, however, you shift your usage of the forward motion muscles, you'll extend the capacity of each use of the muscle.

* Beginners take jogging breaks in their walks (one-minute jogs, every five minutes of running).

* As beginners get in better shape, they may increase the jogging gradually.

* Fitness runners will take a two-minute walk break after two to three minutes of jogging.

* Average runners take walk breaks every three to eight minutes in long runs.

* Advanced runners take walk breaks or "cruise" breaks: a fast shuffle every mile. "

Jeff Galloway also recommends a time based 5K program.

* Don't wait to take walk breaks. By alternating walking and running from the beginning, you speed recovery without losing any of the endurance effect of the long one. Start with jogging one to two minutes and walking two to three minutes. As your training level increases you can adjust your run/walk ratio to running 5 minutes/walking one minute on your long runs.


2. Wen Seear on the website: Getting started...on jogging and running

"Advice from Windmilers coach Wen Seear

Anyone can run. Anyone who tries can improve.
You do need to walk before you can run, so use the following programme for guidance.

week no. Tuesday Thursday Sunday
1 Walk 10 minutes Walk 10 minutes Walk 10 minutes
2 Walk 12 minutes Walk 10 minutes Walk 12 minutes
3 Walk 10 minutes briskly Walk 15 minutes Walk 12 minutes briskly
4 Walk 15 minutes briskly Walk 12 minutes briskly Walk 15 minutes briskly
5 Walk 20 minutes easy Walk 15 minutes briskly Walk 20 minutes briskly
6 Walk 20 minutes briskly Walk 20 minutes briskly Walk 20 minutes briskly
7 Walk and jog 10 minutes Walk and jog 10 minutes Walk and jog 10 minutes
8 Walk and jog 10 minutes Walk and jog 12 minutes Walk and jog 15 minutes

Repeat the above cycle (Weeks 1 - 8) with a mixture of jogging and walking until you can run three times a week for 20 minutes without walking. Then increase each run as in Weeks 1-8 by 5 minutes. "


3. Hal Higdon's Website has a 30/30 plan for beginners:

Here's a simple 30/30 plan to get you going, featuring 30 minutes of exercise for the first 30 days. It is a routine similar to one that Chuck Cornett, a coach from Orange Park, Florida, uses with beginning runners.

Walk out the door and go 15 minutes in one direction, turn around, and return 15 minutes to where you started: 30 minutes total.

For the first 10 minutes of your workout, it is obligatory that you walk: No running!

For the last 5 minutes of your workout, it is obligatory that you walk: Again, no running!

During the middle 15 minutes of the workout, you are free to jog or run--as long as you do so easily and do not push yourself.

Here's how to run during those middle 15 minutes: Jog for 30 seconds, walk until you are recovered, jog 30 seconds again. Jog, walk. Jog, walk. Jog, walk.

Once comfortable jogging and walking, adapt a 30/30 pattern: jogging 30 seconds, walking 30 seconds, etc.

Follow this 30/30 pattern for 30 days. If you train continuously (every day), you can complete this stage in a month. If you train only every other day, it will take you two months. Do what your body tells you. Everyone is different in their ability to adapt to exercise. When you're beginning, it is better to do too little than too much.

If you continue this 30/30 routine for 30 days, you will finish the month able to cover between one and two miles walking and jogging. You are now ready to progress to the next stage of your training as a beginning runner.

Your next goal is to develop an ability to run continuously for a mile, then two miles, then more if you want. The way to do that is to gradually increase the length of time in the middle of your workout spent jogging and decrease the number of walking breaks. Do 45/30 (45 seconds jogging, 30 seconds walking), then 60/30, then 75/30, or 60/15.

from Hal Higdon's website

4. The Cool Running website features two beginner's programs, one a distance based and the other time based:

a. Cool Running 5K/5 Mile Beginners Training Program Week 1 (distance based)- by Glenn Chaple

GOAL FOR THE WEEK: To be able to jog one mile without stopping. Warm up adequately before each run. Jog at a pace that would allow you to comfortably converse with a running partner. When you begin to feel excessively tired, walk. Continue walking until you're ready to run again. After each run, spend a few minutes doing some "warm down" excercises. Your body will recover more quickly if you do. With each subsequent outing, try to run nonstop a little farther than you did the previous time. Don't panic if you miss a workout because of bad weather or an honest lack of time. Do your best to follow each week's training schedule, using the built-in rest days to squeeze in a regularly scheduled run you may have missed. Remember your goal for the week - a one-mile run nonstop. Go the distance!

Sun. One mile walk-and-or-jog
Mon. One mile walk-and-or-jog. You may feel some soreness from yesterday's effort, but don't let that discourage you. Take your time and enjoy a warm shower afterwards.
Tues. One mile walk-and-or-jog.
Wed. Rest Day. After three straight days, you've earned a break.
Thurs. One mile jog. Can you "go the distance" today without having to stop and walk?
Fri. One mile jog. By now, a one-mile jog should be getting pretty routine. If so, great! It's time to move on to bigger and better things.
Sat. Rest Day. Your first week of training is over, and you've logged a total of five miles on the road. Congratulations! You've earned a break. Watch TV today without feeling guilty.
from the Cool Running Website

b. A Running Program: Making Strides for Sanity and Vanity by Kathrine Switzer

Week 1: Walk 4 minutes, Run 2 minutes - Repeat four more times per workout for a total of 30 minutes of walking and running.

Week 2: Walk 3 minutes, Run 3 minutes -- repeat four more times.

Week 3: Walk 2 1/2 minutes, Run 5 minutes-repeat three more times

Week 4: Walk 3 minutes, Run 7 minutes -- repeat two more times

Week 5: Walk 2 minutes, Run 8 minutes -- repeat two more times

Week 6: Walk 2 minutes, Run 9 minutes- repeat once then run for 8 minutes

Week 7: Walk 1 minute, Run 9 minutes, repeat two more times

Week 8: Walk 2 minutes, Run 13 minutes, repeat once

Week 9: Walk 1 minute, run 14 minutes -- repeat once

Week 10: Run 30 minutes

from website of Kathrine Switzer - Program Director - Avon Running

5. Women in Motion Learn to Run Program:

Keep in mind that this is a sample program. If you are looking at getting in shape by running, this may work for you.

Try running for one minute and then walking for a minute. After one week, move to running for two minutes and walking for a minute.

Increase the running component by one min each week after that, until you are up to twenty minutes of running

Beginner's Running Program

Week - - - - - - - - - - -Run-Walk Ratio (Approximately 20 Minute Total)

- - - - 1 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 21 minutes total.

- - - - 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 20 minutes total.

- - - - 3 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 20 minutes total.

- - - - 4 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 24 minutes total.

- - - - 5 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 21 minutes total.

<- - - - 6 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 7 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 24 minutes total.

- - - - 7 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 8 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 27 minutes total

- - - - 8 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 9 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 20 minutes total

- - - - 9 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 22 minutes total

- - - -10 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 11 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 24 minutes total.

- - - -11 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 12 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 26 minutes total.

- - - -12 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 13 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 28 minutes total.

- - - -13 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 14 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 30 minutes total.

- - - -14 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 15 minutes, walk 1 minute -do this for 16 minutes total.

- - - -15 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 16 minutes.

- - - -16 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 17 minutes.

- - - -17 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 18 minutes.

- - - -18 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 19 minutes.

- - - -19 - - - - - - - - - - - - -Run 20 minutes.

Work at this until you can run 20 minutes non-stop.

from the Women in Motion website.


The vast majority of programs for the beginner that were researched are time based. Women in Motion checked several running clinics in the city. All clinics were consistant in that they all use a time based program because it offers an almost 100% guarantee of success. It was felt that distance based programs cannot offer the same success rate. So as a beginner, which program would you select?

Don't go nuts with mileage. Stay within your fitness level. If someone is doing more mileage than you don't worry. You have to know what works for you. More experienced runners can do more mileage because their bodies have been adapted for it. Bio-mechanics, genetic factors, and quality training all contribute to a runner. Remember there is more to running than just running. Set your own goals. It's more important to try to keep running for as long as you can. If you have to stop running for whatever reasons stay fit. Brisk walking, swimming, just stay in shape. It will pay off in the long run.

Listen to your body, you have to know when to push it, and when to back off. Don't try to force yourself to run in pain. Some people think that if they don't train hard every day they are not giving it their all, that's not true. Rest is very important. Follow the hard-easy principle. After hard days, take an easy rest day (easy run,off day, or aerobic alternative).

Runners stay runners longer if they have someone to motivate them. Try to find a partner or group to run with. Being around friends can really pick your spirit up on those days when you don't feel like running.

Set goals and rewards. You have to have a reason to run. You know what it is, it keeps you coming back for more day after day. When you have achieved a goal reward yourself. Buy something you always wanted, go out to dinner, or a movie, find something to reward yourself.

Be creative, find a new route. Do something unexpected in your run.

Most important: HAVE FUN !

Good Luck and Great Runs

Gord - Women in Motion -Updated April 15.2006