2. Do you need a run/walk plan or an all-running plan to start? Be honest here. The training plan you select should address your current fitness level, and the first couple of weeks should feel relatively easy and achievable. If you haven't ever run much in your life, are literally starting from the couch, or have health-related issues that require a slower pace (check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program), start with a run/walk plan or a walk plan that progresses into a run/walk plan.
"You need to get acclimated to the higher impact forces of running, which are different than any other sport. For the folks who are coming off the couch and may be overweight, a walking program for 2 to 4 weeks is a great base, then they could follow my Zero to Running Plan," says coach Hadfield.
3. Find a training plan written by a certified, experienced coach. "If you Google training programs these days, there are thousands of free ones out there, and not all of them are safe," cautions Active Expert and certified running coach Jenny Hadfield. Find reputable, certified running coaches through USA Track & Field and Road Runners Club of America.
4. Training plans for beginners should progress slowly. "The first week of the training plan should match your current running regimen," says coach Hadfield. "If it includes more running days, miles or intensity than you've been doing, then it's not the right fit. All programs progress from the starting point, so if you don't have enough of a running base at the start of the plan, burn-out and injury are a greater risk."
5. Individualized training plans are the most successful. "When I create a training plan, I ask my runners to complete a health and exercise history. I'll consider the runner's activity level, current injuries or health issues, life schedule, overall health and weight, history of activity and more," says coach Hadfield. "All training plans are templates from which runners should modify to make their own."
6. If something isn't working, be willing to try something different. "The old saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is true here," says coach Cournane. "If something isn't working or hasn't worked for a runner, the runner should try to understand why, then try a different approach."