If you’ve got zero running experience, the thought of tackling a 5K or 10K can be pretty nerve-wracking. But even if you haven’t logged a mile since middle school, you can still cross the finish line happy and injury-free. Just try adopting a run-walk training strategy, says Denise Sauriol, owner and founder of Run for Change in Chicago.
Run-walk plans are just what you’d expect: They break down the miles into intervals of walking, followed by running.“[A run-walk plan] is not as intimidating and is more maintainable in the long run,” says Sauriol, who’s run 59 marathons and specializes in coaching newbie runners to their first race. “If you train this way you won’t hurt as muchnear the end of training or as much after the race.”
Plus, by choosing a plan that isn’t too intense, you might make running a habit that actually sticks. “My goal for runners is not just to help them do a 5K but make running part of their lifestyle,” says Sauriol.
How to Run-Walk Your First 5K or 10K
If you’re a newbie, it’s all about easing into your training runs. That’s why you’ll start both your 5K and 10K training plans with nine minutes of walking and one minute of running per interval. Sounds crazy easy, right? That’s the whole point. Someone who doesn’t have a running base can follow this plan comfortably. And building up slowly while increasing the total number of minutes you’re training will boost your confidence, while reducing risk of injury, says Sauriol.
If you’re slightly more experienced or find the 60-second run interval too easy, you can start out with seven minutes of walking and three minutes of running, or five and five. “Runners usually get a sense of excitement that they can run more. That’s your cue that you’re ready to run longer intervals and cut down on walking,” Sauriol says.
You’ll focus on 10-minute intervals because Sauriol finds that longer stretches allow you to get into a nice groove without having to constantly switch back and forth between running and walking. (Besides, they’re easier mathematically and you don’t have to plot out mile markers or wear a GPS watch.)