Your First Run: Starting Slowly but Surely
Whether you're taking the first run of your life, returning to the sport after a long layoff, or coming back from an injury, a great way to get into running and quickly build your mileage is to start with a combination run/walk. The idea is fairly simple: After you put on yourrunning clothes, shoes, hat, watch, sunscreen, or whatever else you may need, head out the door and do the following:
1. Run at a comfortable pace until you begin to feel fatigued.
The amount of time this takes varies greatly from person to person, but just run until you're pretty tired but not exhausted. That may be 5 minutes or 15 or even more, depending on your current fitness level.
Keep in mind that, eventually, you want your training runs to consist of all running (and no walking), so the farther you can run each of your first few weeks (instead of walking), the more quickly you'll get into the meat of your training.
- For now, don't focus too much on how good — or how poor — your running technique is. Getting out the door and starting to run is what's most important.
2. Slow down and start walking — briskly.
Don't stop and take a breather between the running phase and the walking phase. In order to build your endurance, you have to keep your heart rate up during the entire run/walk.
The amount of time you walk — like the time that you run — varies, based on your fitness and ability. You may need to walk only a minute or two, or you may walk just as long (or even longer) than you run.
3. When you feel like you can begin running again, start running.
Again, don't rest between the walk and the run. Simply speed up your walk and begin running.
4. Repeat as needed.
Don't worry about the ratio of running to walking; instead, think about the total time you're out there training. Try starting with a total of 15 to 30 minutes per day for 4 days of the first week, taking 3 days off but not 3 days in a row. (You may decide never to start back up again!) If 30 minutes seems long now, keep in mind that a marathon is 26.2 miles and will likely take you from 3 to 5 hours to complete!
Be sure that, while running, you keep your pace consistent. Don't start off each running phase running much faster than you can maintain and then slowing down as you begin to get tired. Keep in mind that your training prepares you for your racing, and the key to success in marathon racing is running a consistent, even pace, regardless of how good or how tired you feel.
The beauty of a run/walk is that it allows your first few runs to be fairly long — say, 20 to 30 minutes — without putting excess stress on your body the first time out. If you started out with just a run (no walking allowed), you probably wouldn't be able to last more than about 10 minutes, unless you have amazing natural ability.
Your first week of training is your honeymoon. Just get out there and do what you can. In the next few weeks, work on gradually increasing the percentage of time you spend running instead of walking and your speed.