Fitness: Become a runner in eight weeks

Robins, crocuses and rain showers aren’t the only signs that spring has sprung. All of a sudden, runners are everywhere — sparking envy in those who always wanted to run, but …

If you have runner’s envy, there’s no better time of year to pull on a pair of running shoes and get moving. To help you go from a wannabe to a full-fledged runner, watch this space for a weekly series of workouts that will take you from couch to 5K. The program takes eight weeks to complete and requires you carve out time from your busy schedule to complete three workouts a week.

Before you panic, you aren’t being asked to run for 30 minutes right off the bat. In fact, the transition from walker to runner is so gradual, success is guaranteed. Just stick with the program, making sure you don’t try to accelerate an eight-week program into six weeks. Too much, too soon is the reason why so many runners-in-training fail to make running stick.

But that’s not the only reason people struggle while trying to hit their stride. Pounding the pavement three times a week requires not just an investment in time, but also an investment in gear. Runners need shoes designed for running. So if you’re thinking of pulling an old pair of kicks out of the closet for your first tour around the block, it’s a fatal mistake. Instead, head to your local running store and let them fit you with shoes that will keep your feet happy. While you’re there, pick up a couple of pairs of running socks. The cotton models in your sock drawer are likely to cause blisters big enough to derail your workouts, so it pays to shell out $10 or so for socks designed to accommodate active, sweaty feet.

As for the rest of the gear hanging on racks at the local running store, the decision to invest in more than making your feet comfortable is up to you. Just keep in mind that the combination of new shoes and socks will set you back about $150.

Once your feet are well looked after, it’s time to hit the streets. The workouts are designed to let your body gradually adjust to the impact stress of pounding the pavement with short bursts of running interspersed with longer walking intervals. As the weeks progress, the running intervals get longer and the walking intervals shorter. Before you know it, you’re running 30 minutes non-stop. The easiest way to remember the length and number of intervals is to write them on your hand before you head out the door.

You’ll notice that the workouts are measured by time, not distance, so don’t worry about how far or how fast you go. The key is to find a comfortable pace and keep it. Speed is your enemy when it comes to transitioning from a walker to a runner, so pump the brakes and check your ego when you leave the door.

When it comes to form, you don’t need to overthink how you look while on the run because your body generally falls into the stride best suited to you. That said, there are a few habits to get into as you find your running legs.

Fitness reporter Jill Barker runs on a path near Parc Ave. in Montreal in this 2014 file photo.

John Kenney /

Montreal Gazette

First, don’t overstride. The more compact your stride, the easier it is on your knees and hips. As for your upper body, keep it relaxed. Shoulders down, hands soft and eyes looking forward — not down. These tips are especially important as you shows signs of fatigue, which is when the shoulders tend to ride up, the feet start to shuffle and the head droops.

Finally, a word or two about technology. There are no shortages of running apps on the market that measure everything including current pace, average pace, distance and heart rate. But do yourself a favour and try to get through the training program without getting caught up in a pile of statistics. Learning to listen to your body is an important part of being a runner, and that’s tough to do if you have a voice delivering a constant stream of stats via your earbuds.


Music, however, is something else. The right playlist can help motivate you when the going gets tough. Just don’t completely drown out the world around you. Put an earbud in one ear, leaving the other one free to hear your own breath and footfalls.

But perhaps the most important piece of advice is to have fun. Becoming a runner is a process worth enjoying, so get out there and find out why so many people look forward to lacing up their kicks and heading out the door.


This is the start of your endurance base. The object is to complete the recommended training distance and establish a training pattern. Don’t worry about speed. Relax and do the mileage.

Session 1
Walk 10 minutes
Run 30 seconds, then walk for 1 minute x 8
Walk 5 minutes

Session 2
Walk 30 minutes

Session 3
Walk 10 minutes
Run 30 seconds/walk 30 seconds x 10
Walk 5 minutes

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