A Lasting Transformation

A Lasting Transformation

You can lay the base for a lifelong running habit by following these simple training programmes, writes Lindie Naughton

Irish Runner is setting a challenge to those readers who may have lost their way fitness-wise over the years and to new readers looking for direction on those first steps to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

The good news is that a brisk walk, three times a week, is enough to get you started on a basic fitness programme that will then take you to the starting line of a 10K race in 16 weeks. This programme is based on the principle that you need to get fit to train and that’s why the first 10 weeks are based on a combination of walking and running / jogging.

Phase 1 Your Path to Fitness

Your first priority is to get fit to train. This can be as simple as taking a half hour stroll at least three times a week.

Get used to being on your feet for that length of time; then try to walk a bit faster. If you can walk for half an hour and still feel ready for more, you’re ready to get started on the training schedule outlined here.

Fit4Life and Meet and Train groups will also have beginners’ groups that will start by running or walking hard for maybe 10 minutes, then taking a short break to stretch and then trying another five or 10 minutes. Joining your local group has a lot of advantages. The group leader will be able to assess your level of fitness pretty quickly and will fit you in with others at much the same level.

Even if you feel completely unfit and haven’t done much more than walk to the shop for years, don’t worry.You can do it; it just takes a bit of will and organisation. Don’t forget that getting fit is not just about training regularly; it’s also an attitude of mind. Every bit counts, so why not leave the car at home, walk the children to school one morning a week, go for a swim or pull that rusty old bike from the garage and use it.

Try to live your life as a good animal: get plenty of good food, drink lots of fluids, get a full night’s sleep and use following schedule, start by walking fast and then in week three attempt to run and walk; in other words, run for maybe two minutes, then walk for two minutes until your 15 minutes are up. Try then to run for longer stretches with shorter walking breaks until you can run for the entire 15 minutes. One trick to help you keep running is to aim for something maybe a tree in the distance or a particular car or shop. Remember, it’s never as hard as it seems. By now you should be able to run and walk for half an hour. If you keep running without stopping you are able to train seriously.

Phase 2 Up and Running

The schedule left may appear too gradual to some, but the idea is to give you a taste for running which will last a lifetime. Too much too soon and you will quickly become mentally as well as physically tired. If at any stage you do feel tired, take a few days off or repeat a week. Make allowances for illness, family crisis, holidays, overtime or other extra stresses in your life. Flexibility in training is very important. If a late night has left you exhausted, don’t make matters worse by heading off on an extra-long run. Take a walk instead or do nothing. If at any stage you suffer from breathlessness, dizziness or pains in your chest, stop running and see your doctor immediately.

Phase 3 Getting Race Fit

By now, with a number of half-hour runs under your belt, you can be reasonably confident of finishing any 10K race.You will manage an extra mile or two on the day without too much bother. But why leave it to chance? The six week schedule below is based on coveringtwice the 10K (6.2 miles) distance in a week. In other words, it aims for a weekly mileage of 12 to 14 miles. Depending on your age and state of fitness, it should give you a 10K time of between 50 and 70 minutes.Your aim in your first race is simply to finish. Don’t think about time; just enjoy the experience. Running a race over a shorter distance a few weeks earlier will help dispel start line nerves and get you used to the crowds and the atmosphere. If you’re aiming for the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon, why not sign on for the series of build-up races organised by Meet and Train and Fit4Life groups.


Even if you’re not particularly ambitious about your running, varying your training is good for the body and the mind. It helps ward off staleness. Here are some simple ways of adding variety to your routine:


Head for the local football pitches and start with a 10-minute jog and some stretches, and then run three sides of the pitch at a faster pace than usual. Jog or walk the fourth side and then set off again. Start off by doing this four times, gradually bringing it up to six times. Then cool down with another 10-minute jog. This is a short session that would easily fit into a lunch break.


On the road, why not try a ‘lamp post’ session? After your 10-minute jog to warm up, speed up for the distance between two lamp posts. Then jog for a similar distance. Next time, try three lamp posts and after that four and then six, before coming back down the ‘pyramid’. This is a very adaptable session and as you get fitter, you can reduce your jog times or add more lamp posts.


Find a hill that’s not too steep. Run up the hill for 45 seconds. Note where you ended up, and after walking back to the start, repeat, trying to reach the same spot. This is a highly adaptable session: you can do your repetitions up steps or you can extend your time to a minute or even two minutes. Be warned: this kind of hill training is not for novices.


Fartlek is the Swedish word for ‘speed play’. This essentially involves speeding it up for a minute or so. Next time maybe sprint for 100m. After that try running hard for three minutes. If you run in a group, each member can lead for one of the fast bits. Tempo runs are also a good idea. On these, you warm up for a mile, then increase the pace for the next two, allowing yourself a cooldown mile at the end.