Jogging strengthens your heart and lungs, tones your entire body, and even strengthens your bones and connective tissues. Even if you have never jogged before, you can be ready to finish a 5K race in as few as 12 weeks. Bonus: jogging sure makes your butt look good.
A warm-up increases your heart rate and raises your body temperature, which increases flexibility in your muscles and tendons. It increases your respiration, lubricates your joints and transports fuel to your running muscles in preparation for your run. In addition, a warm-up convinces your mind that you are actually about to go for a jog, and sometimes minds need a lot of convincing. All you need is five minutes, suggests running coach Jenny Hadfield, during which you walk progressively faster for the first four, and then do a dynamic aerobic exercise, like marching in place, jumping jacks, jumping rope or jogging in place.
The First Month
If you're new to jogging, this first month will be a period of adaptation and learning how your body responds. You should try to perform this workout at least three times per week, but you can do it safely up to five times per week if you can carve out the time. After your warm-up, walk briskly for four minutes and then jog for one minute. Do this interval five times for a total of 25 minutes, followed by a cool-down. Each week, replace one walk-minute with a jog-minute. By the end of the month, you should be able to jog for four minutes at a time with one minute walking intervals in between. You'll be getting stronger and leaner, and your cardiovascular system will be in better shape. You may notice that you feel more relaxed and have more confidence.
The Second Month
During month two, you will build on the intervals that you did during the first month. Since you'll be doing longer intervals during this phase, you will only be repeating the intervals four times. As with the first month, you only need to do these workouts three times per week, but can do them up to five if you're feeling particularly ambitious. Remember to warm up before each workout. During the first week, walk for three minutes and jog for five. You are jogging for longer at a time, but your walking intervals are longer to allow your body to adapt. Each week, reduce your walking interval by one minute and increase your jogging interval by one minute. By the end of the second month, you should be able to jog for 32 minutes continuously without stopping.
From Time to Miles
According to the author of a similar training program that was published in "Running Times" magazine, after eight weeks of consistent training like this you will have made considerable fitness gains to your connective tissues and your skeletal and cardiovascular systems. Now you can start training by miles instead of time. If you have been jogging your intervals at around a 12-minute mile pace, you have already built up to jogging more than 2 1/2 miles at a time. That's nearly an entire 5K.
The Third Month
For the first week, jog 2 1/2 miles -- about 30 minutes at a 12-minute mile pace -- and then walk for two minutes. Jog another 1/2 mile, and then cool down. Do this workout three times on nonconsecutive days. This is the last workout that incorporates walking breaks. If you are not comfortable with your progress so far, feel free to incorporate your own walk breaks into the schedule, or drop back to an earlier training week. If you are ready to continue, then during the second week of the month warm up, then jog for 3 miles for one workout, 3 1/2 miles for one workout and 2 miles for one workout. The following week, jog for 3 1/2 miles, then 2 miles, then 3 miles. By the end of the 11th week, you will already be running farther in your workouts than you would in a 5K race.
Ready for a 5K?
If you plan on running a 5K at the end of the third month, use the last week of the month as a "taper." Start the week with a 3-mile jog, then jog 1 mile midweek, and rest or walk for the rest of the week before your race. That way you'll be well-rested and fresh at the starting line. Even if you're not signed up for a 5K, you can end the week with a 3.1-mile run at maximum effort to test your fitness level.
- TheWeek.com: Explained: Why Going for a Run Reduces Stress
- FitDay.com: The Importance of Doing Warm Up Exercises Before Working Out
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: How to Warm Up and Cool Down
- Jenny Hadfield: What Is the Best Way to Warm Up and Cool Down for Running Workouts?
- Runner's World: Training Program -- 5K Beginner
- Runner's World: Tapering for Optimal Race Performance
Ari Reid has a bachelor's degree in biology (behavior) and a master's in wildlife ecology. When Reid is not training to run marathons, she is operating a non-profit animal rescue organization. Reid has been writing web content for science, health and fitness blogs since 2008.