Running tips for the beginner runner

By: Karen Kwan

Photography courtesy of Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography courtesy of


Running tips for the beginner runner

By: Karen Kwan
If the only time you run is to catch your commuter train and it leaves you huffing and puffing, know that running continuously is achievable. To get started, all you need is to be able to run for 30 seconds. Running and walking intervals will get you going more steadily before you know it.

Run, but also walk.
That's the lesson from John Stanton, founder of the Running Room. When he started running as an out-of-shape dad in the 1980s, he couldn't go more than a few minutes without stopping. As a result, he came up with a program of one-minute running and walking intervals for newbies (you eventually build the running portion to 10 minutes).

Practise patience. "Be gentle, so you can stay motivated and injury-free," says Stanton. He recommends starting with a 10-week program and increasing your distance or intensity by 10 percent each week. "By that time you'll see some of the payback – whether it's losing weight, meeting new people or getting stronger – and you'll continue to run."

Set a goal. It can be as simple as running 5K in your neighbourhood, but Stanton is a fan of using organized events as goals. "Then you get to experience the excitement and joy of a race. It'll boost your energy to have people cheering."

You're ready to take on this 5K training plan if you can run continuously for 20 minutes. "If you're not at this stage, slowly increase your running time, using one-minute walking breaks if necessary, until you can run 20 minutes continuously," says Lea Amaral, cofounder of Energia Athletics in Toronto.

5K training plan (8 weeks):
Week 1 of 8

Monday: Yoga (any type)
Tuesday: 20-minute variable run*
Wednesday: Strength training
Thursday: 20-minute easy run
Friday: Rest
Saturday:20-minute easy run
Sunday: Rest

Running Regimen
For your variable run,* mix it up from week to week. "Try some fast intervals on a track, a tempo run (a shorter run at a faster pace) or some hill training," says Amara.

Build your endurance by increasing your long run on Saturdays. "Each week, add five minutes. By Week 6 you'll be at 45 minutes," says Amaral. Taper your Saturday run to 30 minutes in Week 7. During weeks 4 to 8, increase your Thursday run to 30 minutes. Week 8 is your goal race!

Jessie Wilson, age 64 (ran 5K as part of the Joe's Team Triathlon)
"Because the 5K run was part of a triathlon, my training was threefold: biking, swimming and running. I've been a strong swimmer all of my life and I bike recreationally, but the run was my biggest worry. I couldn't even run a block, but I figured everyone has to start somewhere. Now that I know 5K is possible, I will work to improve my time. It feels that good! I'm grateful for the chance to know I am more capable than I thought."

Be sure to have the right gear when you start running, with this essential running gear.

This story was originally titled "We'll Get You to the Finish Line" in the September 2013 issue.

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Running tips for the beginner runner