This 30-Day Challenge Will Teach You How To Be A Runner

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
The thing that runners never like to talk about is that at some point, everyone has experienced the chest-burning, legs-aching, please-don't-make-me-go-another-step feeling that makes so many people want to give up running altogether. Becoming a runner takes patience; if you go out too hard, you can blow your progress and the entire running experience becomes miserable.
"A big part of why people think, Oh my god, running is so hard, is because they associate it with being chased by someone, or getting across the street," explains Melanie Kann, a RRCA-certified running coach with New York Road Runners. "Actually, when you're running for a sustained period of time, it's a lot less stressful on your cardiovascular system, because you're taking that intensity down."
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Getting to a point where you can run for a sustained period of time takes preparation and planning, which is why Kann created this beginner plan to run for 30 minutes in 30 days. That might sound intimidating, but the daily workouts are designed with short intervals of running and walking mixed in (you can use a stopwatch or a running app to time out the segments). By the end, you should be able to run continuously at a conversational pace, meaning you can still say the Pledge of Allegiance, Kann says.
If you're brand new to exercise in general, then being on your feet for 20 to 30 minutes at a time might be a lot to handle, let alone running for that long. There are walking recovery days built into the program, but it's also a good idea to get enough rest, sleep for eight hours, and stretch or foam roll to give your body a chance to adapt to the increased activity, Kann says. And if you have to walk when you're "supposed to" run, that's perfectly fine. "A mantra that I share with my runners is, As long as you keep moving forward, you're achieving your goals," she says.
To that point, you have to "listen to your body every step of the way," Kann says. "We don't live our life in 30-day challenges, so this is designed for that slice of time, but know that as you're forming an exercise habit for life, you should always listen to your body." So, if you feel sore or hurting, or if you find your running form is faltering, be mindful and take a break, she says. By the end of this program, you should be in a good position to start targeting certain mileage and distances, she says. And hopefully you'll also develop a newfound love of running. "It's a really great starting point or gateway to running," she says.
Click here to download a PDF version of this plan to print out or keep on your phone.
Illustrated by Richard Chance.
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