Running is an inexpensive and relatively simple way to increase your cardiovascular fitness level and speed up your metabolism. However, too often people are unable to run long enough to realize these and other health benefits because they run too far or too fast too soon, which leads to injury or burnout. To avoid this, follow a structured training program that increases your training volume slowly and safely.
Training for a 5K
The 5K, or 3.1-mile race, is an entry-level race distance that requires little preparation or race experience. The website Cool Running has four training programs from beginner to expert and those falling somewhere in between. The 5K programs cover 12 weeks with two off days. The beginner program peaks at 20 miles per week. The beginner program is for runners with at least six months of running experience who want to complete the 3.1 miles in approximately 24 minutes.
Training for a 10K
Those running a 10K, or 6.2-mile race, are likely intermediate or experienced runners, although many new to the sport choose this distance as their goal because of the challenge it presents. An endurance race distance, the 10K requires pace awareness skills as well as the use of your fast-twitch muscles for a kick at the end. Cool Running offers a training plan for any level of runner training for the 10K distance, from beginner to competitive. The beginner program spans 12 weeks with two off days and tops out at 25 miles per week.
At 13.1 miles, the half-marathon is more than double the distance of the 10K and is often used by runners working their way up to the full marathon distance. Others stop at the half-marathon distance, sparing their bodies the pounding exacted from the miles needed to complete the 26.2-mile marathon distance. The website Amateur Endurance offers two training programs for the half-marathon -- one lasting 12 weeks, the other lasting 16 weeks. Both programs require three to seven hours of training per week and use minutes rather than miles.
Jeff Galloway offers a marathon-training plan well-suited for first-time marathon runners not overly concerned with their finishing time. His marathon training program uses a run-to-walk ratio making the marathon race manageable. Participants of Galloway's 32-week program run twice during the week for 30 minutes, have one walking day and a long run each Sunday. The long runs range from 2.5 miles to a marathon distance as the program progresses. Galloway is a former Olympian who has coached thousands of runners and authored numerous books about running.