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  • Sarah Russell

Get started in running – Zero to Hero – The first 6 weeks

If you want to start running, but you’re not quite sure where to begin, then this is for you.

Here are my top tips and a ‘quick start’ plan to get going. I call it my ‘Zero to Hero’ plan and it’s for complete beginners who are new to running.

It builds up really gently and easily and after 6 weeks you’ll be able to run for 15 minutes without stopping. Take your time and let your fitness come to you, rather than push it too hard.

Tip #1

I want you to associate running with ‘pleasure’ not discomfort. Keep your pace comfortable and always finish a session feeling like you could have done more. That way you’ll want to keep doing it and your brain won’t associate running with something unpleasant and painful.

Tip #2

The biggest mistake that all new runners make, is to run too fast. Easy and comfortable is the goal. I call it ‘mellow pace’ running – around a 5/10 effort level. If you can’t chat, you’re running too fast.

Tip #3

Before you start any kind of beginner running plan, you need to be regularly walking each week – around 3-4 sessions of 30-45 minutes for at least a month.

Tip #4

Invest in some proper running shoes. Go to a specific running shop where trained staff will be able to help and advise you. Buy a pair 1-1.5 sizes bigger than your normal shoes to allow space for your feet to expand and toes to move. Don’t overthink the technology, instead aim for something that’s comfortable. Try them in the shop before buying.

Tip #5

Always warm up with some simple mobility work. Leg swings, gentle lunges, hip circles, mini squats – x 10 of each before your run. This preps your body to run well with good form and warms you up. No static stretching before running, keep it moving. Then head out of your front door and… walk. Spend 5 minutes walking briskly, before breaking into a nice gentle jog. The pace should feel manageable and controlled.

Tip #6

Find the flattest routes you can to begin with and avoid hills and rough ground as much as possible. Traffic free parks, cricket pitches, cycle network routes and canal paths are all really good places to start. If you run outside, be aware of your personal safety, especially when running alone or at night and wear a reflective bib, carry a personal alarm and phone.

The rules:

  • Only run 2 x per week to start with. Avoid running on consecutive days to allow recovery time. This is to lower the risk of an injury. If you want to do more, go cycling, swimming or do pilates or another activity.

  • The ‘Zero to Hero’ plan is meant to be a guide – you do not have to follow it to the letter. Everyone progresses at different rates. Listen to your body and progress as you feel right for you. If you’re finding it challenging or you have some niggles, then be cautious, see a physio and ease off.

  • If you find it easy, still be cautious. Even if you’re fit in other ways your legs (muscles, tendons and ligaments) need time to get used to the impact of running, so build up slowly to avoid injury. In most people, your ‘muscles and joint’ fitness lags behind your cardiovascular fitness.

  • Start EVERY run with a 5 minute walk, then follow the plan below. Finish off with a 5 minute cool down walk. This adds 10 minutes to each session.

You’ll need to use a stopwatch or the timer on your phone. Please don’t go out and buy a GPS watch. I want you to run to time and effort.

Note: If you hit a hill during a ‘jog’ section, then switch to a walk and pick it back up again when you’re on the flat.

The whole jog/walk session should take no more than 20-25 minutes to begin with. If you want to do more, add more walking time at the end.

So here we go:

Week 1

Session 1

60 second jog/2 min walk x 8-10

Session 2

90 second jog/2 min walk x 4-6

Week 2

Session 1

90 second jog/2 min walk x 5-6

Session 2

2 min jog/2 min walk x 4-5

Week 3

Session 1

3 min jog/2 min walk x 1; then 2 min jog/1 min walk x 4-6

Session 2

5 min jog/2 min walk x 1, then 2 min jog/1 min walk x 5-6

Week 4

Session 1

5 min jog/2 min walk x 1 then 2 min jog/1 min walk x 6-7

Session 2

8 min jog/2 min walk x 1, then 3 min jog/1 min walk x 5-6

Week 5

Session 1

10 min jog/2 min walk x 1 then 2 min jog/1 min walk x 6-7

Session 2

12 min jog/2 min walk x 1, then 3 min jog/1 min walk x 4-5

Week 6

Session 1

13 min jog/2 min walk x 1 then 2 min jog/1 min walk x 4-5

Session 2

15 min jog/3 min walk x 1, then 3 min jog/1 min walk x 4-5

Effort level – how hard should it feel?

On a scale of 1-10, when you’re running you should feel as if your effort level is around 5 or 6 out of 10.

10 = really hard and 1 = very easy.

That's it for now. Just get used to regular running, feeling confident and start to gently build up the length of time you can run for.

How to progress on from 6 weeks will be coming soon... stay posted.

Mellow pace where you can chat easily is what you’re aiming for. Any harder and you’re going too fast.

That's it for now... really simple, really easy and gentle. Well done! Enjoy feeling stronger, fitter and more confident.