When you hear "running workout," you might visualize an elite runner in track spikes, pacing around the track getting ready for their Olympic trial debut. For someone just getting into the sport, a running workout may seem daunting and far off — you'd rather just run around the neighborhood at your own pace. In truth, running workouts are totally realistic for any runner as long as you scale the workout to your abilities. Here are three workouts to try yourself.
Structured workouts can help you develop stronger legs and lungs as well as practice maintaining speed over a sustained period of time, just like a race. Also, importantly, incorporating workouts into your regular neighborhood running routine will keep things new and challenging. Variety is the spice of happy runs.
Below we'll cover three 30-minute workouts, all suitable for a beginner runner but varying in their degree of simplicity. If you're just starting out, remember your personal speed and distance records can wait. For now, just focus on good form and completing the full workout, even if you need to slow things down to do so.
3 beginner running workouts to try
Before jumping in, an important note about warming up and cooling down: No matter the workout, it's always good to warm up with dynamic stretches before, and cool down with light activity and stretches after.
A simple warmup could include a light jog or walk of about 10–15 minutes and some light plyometric drills, such as lunges or squats (two sets of 10 is ideal). On the other side of the run, you might cool down with a light jog or walk followed by some light stretching to improve recovery and flexibility. Areas of stretching to focus on are your calves, hamstrings, quads, and lower back.
1. Lamp post workout
The lamp post method is one of the most simple, yet effective ways to mix a workout into your run or walk and can be done without the need for gear or gadgets. If you live in a residential neighborhood, you can set the goal of sprinting to a lamp post, walking from that lamp post to the next, and then sprinting again to the next. You can use any consistent object in your neighborhood as your goal, such as fire hydrants, driveways, mailboxes, etc. Set a goal of 10 sprints your first time out and increase that number by 10–15% every week.
If you prefer to run on a track, you can run the straights and walk or jog the curves of the track, or vice versa.
2. Timed intervals
This workout will require a watch with a chronograph (i.e., a stopwatch). An interval workout is a set timed run followed by a timed recovery. A great beginner interval workout is five 30-second intervals with a one-minute recovery jog in between. What does this mean? You'll run at 85% of your max effort for 30 seconds, then you'll slow down to a light jog or walk for the next 60 seconds. Once that minute is up, you'll run at 85% effort again for 30 seconds, and so on.
3. Keeping pace
This workout will also require a watch and is best suited for a track or other consistent distance. Run at your average mile pace to start off until you feel comfortable with pacing on a track. For this example, we'll use a nine-minute per-mile pace. Run three times around the track without stopping. The goal of this workout is to hit within five seconds of each 400-meter lap. For example, if your first loop around the track is 2:15, for your second and final lap of the workout you'll want to maintain between 2:10–2:20 per lap. This will be a great workout to get you comfortable and accustomed to pacing on your run, a vital skill as you progress.
Structured running workouts are an awesome way to gain strength and speed while breaking up the repetition of daily, routine runs. Once you've mastered these 30-minute running workouts, you can gradually build on this foundation by increasing your workout duration and/or intensity, tracking your progress as you go.
Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.