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An 8-week training plan to get you running 3 times a week

Two runners on a sunny sidewalk in a city.
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Like most certified personal trainers and running coaches, I've found that one of the most common obstacles I've faced with new runners is the seemingly simple act of turning exercise into a habit. After all, no workout will do you much good if it isn't consistent. And, for most runners, running three times a week seems to be the sweet spot. That's why we've designed an 8-week training plan to get you set up on a healthy, happy running routine.

Consistent yet flexible

Not only does running three times each week satisfy the American Heart Association's basic guidelines for cardiovascular health, but it provides a flexible template that can easily fit into your schedule. Those three days leave plenty of opportunities for rest and/or cross-training as you need, and also allow us to focus on different aspects of your fitness.

At most, this program will take just one hour on working days, but that's only on the endurance days toward the end of the routine. In general, workouts will be closer to 30 minutes.

How fast or slow?

As mentioned, this workout is intended to improve both your speed and endurance. To properly manage your energy and effort, we'll be using a handy tool called the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Essentially, RPE is a zero to 10 scale, where zero represents the amount of effort it takes to sit on the couch. A 10, however, is your absolute maximum effort.

It is important to remember that your effort can change from day to day, depending on a host of factors. Which is part of what makes the RPE so useful, you can adapt the workout for how you're performing on any given day. For the most part, your efforts will hover around a three to a five. On speed days, though, we'll briefly push things up to an eight or nine.

On the endurance days, the duration of your runs will increase roughly 10% each week. So, while the program ends with you working for 60 minutes on the eighth week, you could easily keep that pattern going beyond the schedule. For example, the ninth week would have you running for 66 minutes.

Speed training

To keep things interesting and keep your training well-rounded, we'll use a few different types of speed workouts. For all speed days, regardless of the exact style workout we use, remember to warm up and cool down with a five-minute easy jog or walk.

On interval days, you'll simply perform eight runs at a six RPE for one minute. Between these reps, walk for one minute as an active recovery.

Fartleks, a workout style that translates roughly to "speed play" in Swedish, are a little more complex. For these workouts, you'll run at an eight RPE for one minute, then drop to a three for two minutes before getting back up to an eight and doing the whole thing again. You'll repeat that pattern seven times, for a total of 21 minutes.

Finally, we have tempo runs. This workout will require you to run at a specific effort for relatively long durations with no rest between the intervals. The goal here is to get you used to working close to your max effort — around a nine RPE. Overall, it looks like this:

  • 5 min @ 4 RPE
  • 4 min @ 6 RPE
  • 3 min @ 7 RPE
  • 2 min @ 9 RPE
  • 1 min @ max effort

As you can see, the effort gradually ramps up until it ends with a bout at your fastest pace. This is a subjective measurement based on how you feel after running for two minutes at your near-maximal effort. Some days, you may be able to move faster than others — and that's OK! Listen to your body throughout this training plan to get the best results.

The get you running 3 times a week plan

Looking ahead

Running three times a week is a simple, effective way to build an enjoyable, sustainable habit of running. As you progress, though, you will be quite literally putting your shoes through their paces, so be sure to use the Brooks Shoe Finder to make sure you have the best footwear possible.

This workout program is a great way to fall in love with the sport of running and build a lasting habit. It's up to you what comes next.

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.

Written By
Jonathan Thompson

Fitness Nerd

Jonathan with a dog in the snow

My interest in fitness started young, primarily as the survival strategy of a scrawny asthmatic. After receiving my certifications as a personal trainer and nutritionist, I started writing fitness articles. At this point, running is a non-negotiable part of my life.