Someone who is busier than you is running right now (Nike)

Running is an excellent form of aerobic exercise, and when done on a regular a basis can have enormous health benefits.  Some of you reading this may already be regular runners, while others are not. Many people have never even considered running as an option and are even terrified by the thought. If the latter is you, start with walking short distances. Start small, but just start. It is time to re-evaluate running or a combination of walking and running as a regular form of exercise.

If you are not a regular runner, have you ever considered building your endurance to run 5 km? See the ‘How to Run 5 km in 6 weeks’. If you are a regular runner do you have goals to lower your time?  Below are some helpful hints and on how to keep running (even on those days you don’t feel like it!)!

In the words of Ronald Rook, “I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days.”


Be a consistent and confident runner

1. Have a goal!  Training toward a target such as a 5km run or a personal-best time will keep you focused and running. Your goal could be a community charity run or a series of races. Alternatively, your goal could be just to run/walk a certain distance without stopping!  One goal that several of my friends and family have adopted is to join the ‘sub 30-minute 5km run club’!  That club is harder to join (and maintain membership!) as you get older: the reason for that will be the focus of a future blog.

An earlier blog provides a program to build to running or walking 5 km in 6 weeks [The 5km Challenge].

2. Be strategic with your training. Plan your week by scheduling your run/walk sessions each week to help you keep moving toward your goal. Start small if you are a beginner or if you have had a substantial hiatus from running.  Even a 15-minute intense run on the busy days will do wonders for your progress. It is much better than skipping it and will keep you in the habit of exercising. You will be very glad you made the effort.

3. Build variety into your running schedule. While there can be comfort and predictability with a consistent route, running can be monotonous if you keep pounding out the same routine each training day. Variety in intensity, distance and route will not only keep it interesting but also effective in stressing different metabolic systems in your leg muscles that will help you run faster. However, ensure you build your volume and intensity gradually.

Sessions you may consider each week include:

a.  Interval session. Intense short bursts of running interspersed with rest periods or less intense running or walking. These intervals can be done periodically during a longer run, on a track (e.g. 200 m, 400 m or 800 m repeats), or as repeats on a section of road or sidewalk.  The shorter the distance the faster you should try to run.  Take 1 to 2 minutes break between repeats. You could also try ‘repeats’ on a gradual hill so that each run interval is about 30 seconds to several minutes. Start with 4 to 6 interval runs and build over the weeks in time, distance, or number of repeats.

b.  Tempo run. This is a run that incorporates a moderate to high-intensity pace that you can maintain for about 20 minutes. It should feel hard but controlled. If you are a beginner you may want to build to that 20 minutes over the course of a few weeks or months.  Depending on your goals you could build to running longer than 20 minutes.

A tempo run session could look like the following:  Start with a 10-minute easy and comfortable pace. Then accelerate to a pace that is slightly uncomfortable but that you can maintain and control for about 20 minutes. Slow down over 5-10 minutes to finish up your session. The 20 minutes of tempo-pace running will typically be just a bit slower or near what you would do during a 5km race.

c.  Long-distance steady run. A moderate-paced run for a longer distance. The distance will depend on your goal and your fitness level. A steady run will help you build your lower limb endurance and aerobic fitness.

4. Strengthening and stretching exercises. Incorporate into your week some strengthening and stretching exercises that target your core, glutes and leg muscles. These exercises can be very effective in preventing injuries as you build your running program. A previous blog [Challenge 8] incorporates a mix of running and exercises. Other very effective exercises to help your running are found in the other Simpli Move Health challenges published in the last year (Challenge 1, Challenge 2, Challenge 5, Challenge 7).

5. Recovery between sessions. Ensure you have enough recovery time between running sessions. Poor recovery times can often lead to declining performance. If your muscles or joints are feeling sore then take another day to recover.  You could try walking or some gentle cycling instead to allow your legs to recover and adjust.

6. Run with a friend or a group. Running or walking with a friend or group will help keep you motivated. They can also provide the much-needed accountability we all need when we don’t feel like running or exercising.

A structured training regime will ensure you don’t overreach and help you keep on track. No matter what stage you find yourself, focus on small incremental increases in running or walking time and intensity. Small achievable steps will allow your body time to adapt to the increased physical demands. Moreover, it will encourage you to make time for exercise in your schedule. Sign up to learn about six steps that help you maintain a consistent exercise habit. There is no better time than now to run for your life!