3 Running Programs for Any Level

Running is as great for your heart as it is for your waistline, but for many folks it seems like an inaccessible activity. It doesn’t have to be!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m doing a marathon training program with a friend who’s getting ready for the Chicago marathon in October. When I mention marathon training to folks, they’re often amazed by the distances that we’re running,  saying things like, “I could never run X miles!” Unless there’s a specific health problem stopping you, though, I’m a firm believer that anyone can accomplish these distances. It’s all about training!

When Bill (my running partner) and I first started running together, we were going for one or two miles at a time. Three miles was a feat, and we did a lot of walking during our workouts. A good training schedule is the thing that pushed us to where we are now.

Are you interested in running? Whether you’re a total couch potato or an experienced runner, there are training programs out there to help you improve your endurance and your speed. Here are three excellent training programs to up your game.

>>Next: Couch to 5K

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by lululemon athletica

couch to 5k

1. Couch to 5K

You can use this program to train for your first 5K (three mile) race or just to get yourself into running shape.

If you’ve never run before in your life, Couch to 5K is the program to jumpstart your workout! It uses interval training to help you walk less and run more on your routes. To start, you alternate 90 seconds of walking with 60 seconds of jogging, and by the end of the nine-week program, you’re running three miles straight!

Already running but want to push it to a half or a full marathon? Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Program can get you there.

>>Next: Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Ed Yourdon

running a marathon

2. Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training

If you’re already an avid runner and are looking to train for a half or a full marathon, this program can get you there. Higdon breaks down training schedules into a few different categories:

  • Half Marathon - A 12 week program.
  • Marathon – There are several 18 week programs, so you can pick the one that you’re most comfortable with. We’re doing the Novice 1.
  • Marathoning for Seniors – A modified program, this one has a little bit less running each week but will still get you marathon-ready.

I also highly recommend looking at his tips for preparing to run your marathon and his post-marathon guide. Treating your body right is the key to avoiding injury when you start something as strenuous as marathon training.

If you’re more into speed than distance, a good speed training program can make a huge difference. Check out a great one on the next page!

>>Next: Speed Training

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by froutes


3. Speed Training

Training for a race? Just looking to shave some minutes off of each mile? Speed training is key!

This is something Bill and I are planning to work on once we recover from the marathon training. Right now we’re going for distance and not worrying about speed, but speed training is great for heart health and for keeping fit without running such long distances. Active.com has a nice 12 week speed training program that looks great. It mixes up walking, jogging, and sprinting to gradually up your speed.

If you’re going to try out this program, there are a couple of running terms that you need to know:

  • Tempo Pace – This refers to pushing yourself a bit faster, but not running at a sprint. You should still be able to talk with your running buddy, but it won’t be as easy as when you’re just jogging.
  • Fartlek – My inner 7-year-old wants to make a joke about this one, and maybe Bill and I have been calling this a “fart leg.” Fartlek refers to interval training where you all-out sprint for a very short period, then walk or jog to recover. Your sprints shouldn’t be more than 15 seconds at a time, but you should be running as fast as possible.

The Active.com program combines Tempo Pace, Fartlek, and hill and interval training to up your speed over time. The recommendations are for a treadmill, but you could just as easily do this training outdoors.

Are any of you guys doing a running training program that you like? I’d love to hear what’s working for you in the comments!

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by lululemon athletica

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Peter L.
Peter L.3 years ago

I love running since I started a few months ago. Now all my family runs with me and besides being a great family activity keeps us healthy and fit!

I've started by using the materials on http://www.starting-to-run.com and it made me going very well without any injuries so far!

I'm running the half marathon in 3 weeks and can't wait to get to the end!

Susan T.
Susan T.4 years ago

I've always wanted to be able to run. I tried for a few weeks last summer and gave up. Maybe I'll try again...

Darla G.
Darla G.4 years ago

Thanks been thinking of... and almost starting for a while... this will help. Already walk a lot, so 90 60 seems easy enought to do:-)

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Deepti P.
Deepti Patil4 years ago


Leah C.
Leah C.4 years ago

Just so everyone knows, if you have and iPhone, guess what... THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT! Hahah. The Couch to 5k and everything is on there and it keeps track of everything and has a "trainer" that you can here as you run. I used it and it actually works just to here a voice telling you that you can do it and to keep going. I just ran in the Merrell Down & Dirty National Mud Series run and got third for my age division. It actually works!!!!

Nur O.
nur o.4 years ago

Thank you

Becky Striepe
Becky Striepe4 years ago

So many great tips and ideas. Thanks, you guys, and keep 'em coming!

Dawn M.
Dawn M.4 years ago

I'm not a high-mileage (or fast) runner, but this "training plan" has got me through 17 half-marathons:

M, F run 3 miles on lunch break
W run 3 miles with pickups on lunch break
Add long runs on Saturdays counting back 11 weeks from race day; start with 3 miles and add one mile every week

Last year I PR'd at 2:02, but this year I find myself a stubborn 5 pounds heavier, and I'm struggling to get the speed I had then.

My goal is to run a half marathon in half the states. I'm almost halfway there.

Annie C.
Annie C.4 years ago

I use to like running, but the waking up at the crack of dawn for marathons really put me off. Not a morning person!!