Even if you've never run a step in your life, the training schedule in Table 5-1 will enable you to become a runner in a matter of a few short weeks. Where you choose to begin this schedule depends on your current fitness level.
If you're just getting into a cardiovascular exercise program, start at the beginning of Week 1 with brisk walking and proceed through the schedule as indicated. For individuals who currently are quite active (who, at a minimum, can easily walk at a brisk pace and/or jog nonstop for 2 minutes), begin following the schedule at Week 7.
To minimize your chance of incurring an injury, be patient and stick to the schedule. By all means, avoid the urge to do more than is specified. During the early weeks of the schedule, feel free to break up the cumulative minutes indicated for running into smaller segments if you feel it necessary.
There's no problem in modifying the schedule to fit into your busy lifestyle so long as you keep the sequence of runs the same. For example, if Sunday is not a good day for you to run, the time and/or mileage goal indicated on that day can be shifted to another day of the week so long as the sequence for the remainder of runs during the week is also shifted.
Even if your goal is to run, don't ever be ashamed to walk. In fact, the first sections of the beginner schedule feature a mixture of walking and running. If you are unable to run the specified time and/or mileage goal on the schedule at the present time, then by all means walk the distance.
The pace of your running should be at an aerobic level (meaning the ability to breathe easily without pushing yourself). In other words, you should be running very relaxed and comfortably. You should be able to talk in complete sentences without gasping for air. In the beginning the key to success and evaluation of your progress should be based on the cumulative minutes you are able to run without stopping rather than on the pace at which you run.
With consistent training over a period of weeks, your running form will become more refined and efficient. This in itself often translates into a faster pace without the need to overload your present musculoskeletal system.
The purpose of light weeks (also referred to as step-back weeks by some coaches) is to facilitate rest and recovery from systematic increases in time and distance the previous weeks. Contrary to what you might think, light weeks enable you to gather strength for the next progression upward.
▼ TABLE 5-1: BEGINNER RUN/WALK SCHEDULE