When you're first getting moving, it's important to just focus on getting into the exercise habit. Make your run or walk a regular part of each day, find times and places to exercise that feel convenient and comfortable, and find a way to enjoy it so you keep it up for the long term.
As you're becoming a runner you may start to wonder, how can I get fitter and faster? You can simply add time to your workout as you get stronger, or increase the distance you cover.
Another approach is to add some structured workouts to your routine. These workouts, which involve running specific intervals or time or distance at a specific pace, can help you develop endurance, speed and stronger legs and lungs. But most important, it can keep your exercise regimen from getting stale, says coach and exercise physiologist Susan Paul, author of our For Beginners Only column. And by breaking up the distance into smaller intervals, you can cover more distance overall.
"If you just go out for 30 minutes over and over every day, it can be very boring," says Paul, who is program director for the Orlando Track Shack Foundation. With workouts, "the time goes by much quicker. They engage your mind, and the body goes along with it."
Below find workouts that Paul suggests, whether you're just getting moving, starting to run, or returning to running after taking time off.
Some of these workouts are best done on a track. Yes, tracks can be intimidating. Running on a track doesn't require you to run fast. A track is an ideal setting for a beginner because it's flat, traffic-free, and the distance is measured. Find out everything you need before hitting the track in The Do's and Don'ts of Track Running. If you don't have access to a track, a treadmill or any flat traffic-free stretch of road will work.
Try one of the workouts below each week. When you're ready, increase the time or distance of each of these workouts by 10 to 20 percent. Stay alert for aches and pains (beyond typical muscle soreness) that persist during your run and after you're done.