It’s often said that you have to walk before you can run, but for many newcomers to our sport, a programme that combines the two is the starting point. It’s a great way to get started with your running because it allows you to gradually build your ability and confidence. After a while, though, you’ll be looking for a new challenge: continuous running.
The easiest way to do this without putting undue pressure on yourself is to plan how you can gradually reduce the time spent walking and increase your running time. First off, be clear about what distance or uninterrupted run time you’re aiming for. Then note down how long you currently spend running, how much walking you do as part of each workout and the length of your workouts.
Next, set out a schedule that will enable you to reduce the time spent walking and increase your run time by a manageable amount each week. The most effective method is to alternate between workouts in which you add running time, and sessions in which you reduce walking recovering time.
Down to business
Let’s say you presently follow a 30-minute programme of run/walking, with intervals of two to three minutes’ running, and one to two minutes’ walking recovery in between. You can replace this routine with two new workouts. For the first workout, aim to add 20-30 seconds of running for each interval and keep the walking recovery times the same. For the second workout, continue running for two to three minutes per interval but reduce your walking recovery time by 10-20 seconds.
If you work out three or four times per week, it will take only a few weeks before you should be capable of running continuously for around five minutes per interval, with a maximum of one minute of recovery time between each running interval. You should be able to keep this up for around 30 minutes.
Out with the old
The next step is to eliminate the walking breaks completely. This may seem daunting at first, particularly if you always walk as part of your training. Walk breaks become a kind of safety net and it can seem like a big step to learn to live without them, but ditching them will be easier than you imagine, once you put your mind to it.
Prepare yourself by acknowledging that if you’ve been able to start running and then build up to five minutes without stopping, there’s no reason why you can’t continue to stretch your run time.
Remember, too, that there’s no rush. Add running time gradually, as this is the most effective way to boost your stamina without risking injury. Continue to follow the strategy of increasing your run intervals by 20-30 seconds per workout, maintaining 20-40 seconds of recovery walking between each interval. You can always take a walk break if you really need to, but with a progressive increase in your run times, you’re more likely to run for longer without stopping than to grab an unscheduled walk break.
Keep notes on your progress to reassure yourself that you’re doing well and that any setback will be minor and temporary.
When you’re aiming to keep running for longer, it’s also a good idea to have a goal in mind, so it may be worth entering a 5K run with friends (or do it for a charity). This will spur you on if things ever feel tough.
Once you can run for 10 minutes without taking a break, you can aim to increase run time by 30 seconds to one minute per workout, while restricting walk recoveries to 30 seconds. The theory goes that once you can run for 20 minutes without stopping you’ll be capable of any distance given the right training. You are now a runner!
Top tips to boost your ability to run for longer
- Make a plan that specifies how long or how far you’d like to be able to run.
- Set a deadline to achieve your goal
- Work back from your deadline to devise a schedule that allows you to progressively increase run time and decrease walk time.
- Revise your plan where necessary. You’ll get there in the end. It’s better to take a little more time and stay free from injury than to push yourself to get a quick result – and suffer.
- Keep track of your progress, as it will be the thing that motivates you most along the way.
This piece was written by Jeff Archer for Women’s Running magazine (UK). Find more training advice, motivation and gear reviews every issue – subscribe today!