Beginning Fitness for Walkers and Runners

The Southern Arizona Roadrunners has prepared the following material as a training tool for beginning runners.






1. Start Slowly
Be patient – A fitness program is not like microwave popcorn, you cannot push a button and have results in a couple of minutes. In fact, it often takes months to recognize the benefits of a successful walking or running program, so please be patient with yourself! A novice should plan on spending 20 to 40 minutes, 3-4 times a week doing some combination of walking or walking & jogging.

2. Conversation Pace
Most daily runs are meant to be done at an easy, gentle pace and a low heart rate. You should run slow enough so that you can always hold a casual and easy conversation. The Brady Bunch rule is a good tool for determining conversation pace, if you cannot sing the Brady Bunch TV show theme song “Here’s the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls . . .” while running, you are going too fast and should slow down.

3. Be Consistent
Set aside certain days and times for their fitness activities. Doing so for 3 to 4 weeks will help develop a habit. If there are gaps of more than a week between training sessions, the fitness that was gained will begin to diminish during this time off. Keep a training calendar to help with this. Each day you complete a training session, record the distance, duration, and thoughts on the workout in a training log. Some runners keep track of their diet, the location of their run, the people they run with, the weather, their daily weight, the mileage completed, the time completed, and any injuries or aches and pains.

4. Incorporate the 10% Rule
This time-honored rule for runners is designed to keep the runner from over-extending and getting injured; it holds that you increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent each week. This is true for walkers and novice runners. For instance, the novice may start with as little as 20 to 30 minutes, 3 times per week and maintain that schedule for 3 to 5 weeks. If you can successfully complete 3 to 5 weeks of running 5 miles a week without being hurt or becoming otherwise unhappy, the 10% rule would have you add a half-mile to the normal run (10 percent of 5 miles is half a mile). Over the course of the week, you would run three 5-mile runs for a total of 15 miles. Of course, it is difficult to measure exact half-mile increments, so it is fine if you add 1 or even 2 miles.

5. Heed the Hard/Easy Principle
One of the corner-stones of a training program is the hard/easy principle, which holds that a runner should alternate bouts of effort with bouts of rest. That is, every period of effort should be both preceded and followed by a period of rest. This cycle of work followed by rest minimizes the risk of injury and/or burnout. Rest days should be built into any given week of training. As a rule of thumb a novice should take one day of rest for every day of effort. For instance, the novice runner should run one day, rest the next day, run the following day, rest the next, and so on. However, as you progress, you will get to a point where you can run most every day.

6. Have Fun!
Remember that you are doing this for fun, so enjoy yourself! Do it with friends, join a group, run some local races, celebrate your successes, and laugh even when you’re tired . . .


The walk/run method is designed primarily for those who wish to progress from walking workouts to jogging workouts. The goal with the run/walk method is to increase your fitness level while staying healthy and still enjoying the sport. The idea is to alternate bouts of walking and bouts of running for the duration of the given workout.

If you can handle 30 minutes of sustained walking, but are not fit enough to run 1 mile without stopping, combining walking and running will let you transition gradually from a walking to a running program. (Before we go further, let’s explain that everyone should run at “conversation pace,” which is the cadence that you can run while talking. That is, you should go slow enough that you can talk comfortably while running.)

The general pattern is to alternate walking with running. The variations are endless, but one way for a true novice to do this is to walk for 10 minutes, then run for 30 seconds (if 30 seconds is too easy, then run for 60 seconds). Then walk for 10 minutes, and run for 30-60 seconds. Then walk for 10 minutes, and run for 30-60 seconds. Do 3-5 repetitions of this for 40-50 minutes of exercise.

Repeat this schedule for 2 or 3 weeks. Then try to increase the time spent running. Walk for 10 minutes, then run for 2 minutes. Walk for 10, run for 2, and so on.

You can increase the total duration of the workout, and you can increase the time you spend running.

Sample 6-Week Schedule for Learning to Run — Exercise 4-5 times each week, modify as necessary

Week 1: Walk 9 minutes, run for 1 minute, repeat for a total of 30-40 minutes
Week 2: Walk 8 minutes, run for 2 minutes, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 3: Walk 7 minutes, run for 3 minutes, repeat for a total of 30-40 minutes
Week 4: Walk 6 minutes, run for 4 minutes, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 5: Walk 5 minutes, run for 5 minutes, repeat for a total of 30-40 minutes
Week 6: Run 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
You are now fit enough to complete the 5k race by using the run/walk method.  Be sure to rest the day before Meet Me Downtown!


Unlike other hobbies and fitness activities, walking or running is inexpensive: to properly equip oneself from scratch costs less than $150, including a pair of good training shoes, running shorts, and running top (including sports bras, as needed).

  • Comfortable, well-fitting running shoes
  • Comfortable running shorts
  • Cotton or synthetic t-shirts or tank tops
  • Synthetic or cotton socks
  • Well-fitting sports-bras
  • Running tights or running pants for cold and damp weather
  • High-tech polyester long sleeve and short sleeve shirt with ability to wick moisture away from skin
  • Appropriate all-weather jacket for cold and damp weather
  • Appropriate hat for cold weather and cap for sun protection
  • Fanny-packs or camelbaks for carrying water
  • Sun glasses for bright days
  • Sunscreen
  • Reflective material for night running
  • Running watch to keep track of time spent exercising
  • Daily calendar to log daily and weekly mileage

Miscellaneous suggestions:

  • Fashion should not substitute for comfort!
  • Try on sports-bras before buying
  • Snug-fitting clothes lead to less chafing than baggy clothes
  • Vaseline or a similar product helps prevent chafing and blisters

The Right Shoe
Running shoes are the single most important piece of equipment a runner or walker owns. You need to choose not only the correct size, but the correct type of motion control and the correct purpose for the shoe. We advise shopping at a local running specialty store rather than a large sporting goods store or a chain sneaker shop.

These stores all provide discounts for SAR members: The Running Shop (Campbell, near Glenn), The New Balance Store (on Speedway, near Craycroft), and Performance Footwear (Speedway and Campbell, and the Williams Center).

Our Recommendations:

  • Shop at a reputable running shoe store and bring a pair of your used shoes with you so the salesperson can “read” the wear characteristics.
  • Shop later in the day after you’ve been on your feet a while. Your foot size will be closer to the size it will be during activity.
  • Walkers should wear walking or running shoes.
  • If you wear orthotics, over-the-counter lifts, or other appliances inside your shoes to accommodate your feet, bring the device along so you can try the new shoe with the appliance in place.
  • Always buy shoes a bit larger than snug, generally half or a full size larger than your casual shoes. You want roughly a half-inch of air space in the toebox of your longest toe.
  • When you find a shoe model that is right for you, spend a few bucks and stockpile a few extra pairs.
  • Take care of your shoes, they’ll last longer: don’t leave them in hot cars, for example, and don’t put them in a clothes dryer.
  • Monitor the wear of your shoes to help determine when it’s time for a new pair (generally after 300 or 400 miles of running).


Although running is a safe activity compared with ice hockey and alligator wrestling, some general rules of the road should be followed to prevent accidents or dangerous situations.

Some general rules of the road should be followed to prevent accidents or dangerous situations:

Report to the Police — Report any threatening behavior to the police. If you feel threatened, bothered, or harassed in any way, call 911 and report the incident to the police.

Head for Safety — In the event that you feel threatened, head for the nearest safe space, such as another person, a store, a house, or a crowded intersection. Make noise and be clear about your needs.

Run facing traffic — When running on the road, you are just like a pedestrian: You should run or walk facing traffic and off the street when possible. Be careful of traffic pulling out from side streets, as drivers rarely look right when pulling into the first lane of traffic.

Cross at crosswalks — You have the right of way when you are in a crosswalk, but many drivers are watching automobile traffic and not pedestrians.

Wear White at Night — Wear white or reflective clothing so that drivers, cyclists, and others can see you. Running specialty shops sell reflective armbands with blinking lights that are effective for being seen at night.

Be Aware — Check your surroundings while running. Use your peripheral vision and your ears to know what is going on in the area within 30 to 50 feet of you.

Avoid Headphones — Headphones are dangerous because they block out all local sounds. Resist the urge to wear headphones while doing any running unless it is in a gym or on a treadmill.

Vary Your Routes — Avoid the habit of being at the same place on your run at the same time in any given week. Change the time you run and the course you follow weekly.

Recruit a Running Partner — In addition to there being safety in numbers, having a running buddy will help you to stay focused on your goals and will provide support for your new endeavor.

Run with Your Dog — Running is also great exercise for your true best friend and could make a predator the prey.

Join a Running Group — In addition to being a fun and social way to get into the sport, exercising with a group is the safest way to go.

Wear ID — Wear an identification tag on your shoe or somewhere on your clothing that includes vital information such as name, address, emergency contact info, primary doctor, and insurance information.


The material is excerpted from two books on how to coach runners, “Basic Training for Runners” and “Marathon Training,” co-written by Randy Accetta and Greg Wenneborg (