If you are a runner, or have made the decision to run . . . good for you! Having a running routine is a great choice to stay fit, and it offers so many wonderful benefits to go along with it. Just to name a few, it helps improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, endurance, and let’s not forget about the potential for weight loss. If you are a long distance runner, you will find that the calorie burn rate adds up very quickly. The best part is that you don’t need any special equipment but a pair of running shoes, some water, and time.
You can always get the fancy gear as you progress. For now, the goal is to help you get started with a routine and to make adjustments as you go along.
My name is Ryan and I have been a long distance runner for 10 years now. In the fall of 2008, I was just gearing up for my very first Christmas run. Over the years, I have run 5k, 10k, 25k, half marathon, full marathon, and 50k (31 miles) races, on both street and trail courses. I have dealt with many injuries along the way, from rolled ankles, to pulled groin muscles, to sciatica issues, which is what I am currently working through. Even with such issues, you just add them to your running routine to accommodate them.
What to Keep In Mind with a Running Routine
No matter where you are at in your fitness level, you can enjoy this sport, either with a group of people or by yourself. Do not be intimidated; I have seen men, women, and children of all ages and sizes participating.
You must remember . . . you are not competing with everyone else; you are competing against yourself and your personal bests, so the pressure is OFF!
Determine Your Goals
I think it is important to determine why you have decided to run. Do you want to lose weight? If so, how much? How long have you given yourself to lose this weight? Do you want to run socially with friends, or participate in a short walk/run race? The answers to these questions help determine the intensity and distance of your training workouts.
Regardless of your goals, creating a running routine to fit into your busy schedule is important. The times you choose should be easy to stick to, making you more likely to stay on track.
For many runners, running is not something you have to do; it becomes more of a way of life. If you treat your workout time like an important appointment, the better the odds that you will show up.
Running Routine Structure
So, now you know why you want to run, you’ve pick out the time of day, now you just need to pick out the structure of your runs, meaning how many days a week, how far, how long, and workout type like distance training, hill repeats, and speed work. For now, let’s stay with normal running, with very little change in elevation of your route.
When you search the internet, you will find several advanced running routines for varying degrees of fitness and ability. However, I will provide you with a very basic one that I started with, and still use to this day.
This training schedule simply consists of training three days a week.
- Run or walk/run (depending on your fitness level) for 20-30 minutes two days a week
- On the third day, make it a longer one at 45 minutes to an hour.
- In between, I recommend you rest to let your body repair any stress put on it. If you are up to it, you can do some form of light cross-training.
When you first start out, the time you spend on your feet is a better measure for your workout than how many miles you walk/run. You read that right; I did say walk! It’s like the idiom we must learn to walk before we can run.
If you are just starting out and you have not been active for quite a while, here is what a running routine might look like:
- Tuesday – 2 minute run with a 20 minute walk
- Thursday – 2 minute run with a 20 minute walk
- Saturday – 2 minute run / 20 minute walk / 2 minute run / 20 minute walk, totaling 44 minutes
If the 2 minute run is difficult to start with, walk your full workout instead for the first week. Like I mentioned, time on your feet is more important than the miles you are putting on record. You can add the run portion into Week 2. If your fitness will allow it, you can add a higher ratio of running, or make it all running if you want. As you start to build your fitness level, you will adjust to what suits you.
As a seasoned runner, and being in maintenance mode, my schedule looks more like this:
- Tuesday – 3 mile run, right around the 27-28 minute mark
- Thursday – 3 mile run, push to beat 27 minutes
- Saturday – 5 to 6 mile run, trying to stay in the hour mark
You don’t want to push yourself to the max level. A moderate level should do the trick, maybe 60%-70%. If you are talking while running, you should be able to complete your sentences. If not, you’re running too fast. Don’t worry, as you continue to exercise, your fitness level and your recovery time begin to increase, and you will find you can do more with the same amount of effort. Your “time log” will soon change to a “mileage log”.
Train safely! Don’t take on too much too quickly! This is a very common mistake that runners make in the beginning. Follow the 10 percent rule –this is to not increase your weekly mileage or your long-run mileage by more than 10 percent a week. This helps to prevent injuries. I have unfortunately learned the hard way.
Getting Started with the Necessities
- Motivation –I say this from personal experience. The hardest part of a running routine, is lacing up those shoes to get out the door. Or on a treadmill if that is your preference.
- Stretching – I know . . . this is not a fan favorite. But if you want to avoid injury, and help improve performance and stamina, this is the way to go. Ideally, you will want to stretch after your workout when your muscles have been warmed up. If you are under the belief that you should always do it beforehand, my recommendation is that you move around, with maybe a quick walk, so you’re not stretching cold muscles. I have sciatica on both sides, so my routine is to stretch the hamstrings, quads, calves, and all the surrounding muscles before and after.
- Water – Staying hydrated is an absolute necessity and I recommend carrying water with you, unless your route will include drinking fountains along the way. Some recommend only drinking when you’re thirsty. For me, I usually need water every 10-15 minutes. If you are running for less than an hour, don’t worry about the sports drinks. Your body won’t need those nutrients until after 60 minutes. Water is perfectly fine.
- Keep a log – Keeping a log allows you to record your efforts, allows you to improve on them at a safe pace, and celebrate your successes. Although you can find printable versions online, you can also use one directly on a running website. It does the math for you and you can access it anywhere. I am not currently tracking, but mine is on Runner’s World.
As you become a seasoned runner, this list will more than likely turn from “optional” to “necessary”.
- Music –Many people love to run in solitude because it can help clear the mind or help gather thoughts. On the other hand, music can help pump you up mentally to give you that little extra boost you need to make it through your workout. For me, I must have my music! Try it both ways to see what works best for you.
- Good running shoes – I was really surprised at the science behind the shoes when I visited a retail running store. They want to know the biomechanics of the step, with how the foot strikes the ground and if the gait pattern is overpronation or supination. Based on this, the right shoes can be found to help provide better support and prevent injury.
- Support wear – This includes running socks, athletic supporters, sports bras, and compression shorts. Each of these provides additional support and comfort.
- Running watch – These can get pretty fancy with GPS to track your movement and heart rate monitor attachments, but you can really get by with a simple watch that has a stopwatch and maybe a lap settings feature.
- Nutrition – I personally don’t get too in depth with the nutrition unless I am running longer races of 6.2 miles (10k) or longer. Most of the time, your local running store has a pretty good selection to choose from. I might drink a pre-workout, use energy gels during the run, and a recovery drink during and after. Some companies make their products really easy to use by marking Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 right on the labels.
To share a little bit more background on myself, I have suffered from sciatica for the past two years. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the pain that shoots from the lower back, through the buttock area, and down to the back of the knees. It is generated from irritation of the sciatic nerve.
You can see how that might put a kink in the running, so my additional equipment needs are a little bit more than normal; they are also helpful for anyone experiencing similar discomfort. For me, it consists of a compression wrap, anti-inflammatory topical cream, a foam roller for the muscles, and a stretching tool. To learn more about sciatica, the causes, or what you can do about it, visit https://easesciatica.com. I have written product reviews on each of these items.
Following a running routine, whether this one I provided, or from another source will help keep you on track. Just a few things to remember:
- The first is to start out easy and work your way up as you become stronger and faster.
- The second is to stick with it! You may not feel like you are making progress, but you really are; the next time becomes easier, then easier.
- The last thing is to have fun! If you don’t make that effort, your experience is going to be a miserable one, and it will make it too easy to give up. Don’t give up!
I wish you the very best of luck in your journey!