When you're ready to transform yourself from couch potato to runner, the easiest way to begin is with interval training. Interval training, which uses short bursts of high intensity followed by a longer period of rest, burns more calories than steady paced running, and can keep your metabolism firing all day long. This means that your body will continue to burn calories from your workout, even if you lounge on the couch the rest of the day.
Walk to Jog
For newbie runners, a simple walk-to-jog program is one of the best ways to start training. By combining intervals of walking and running, you build strength and endurance in your legs and lungs. A program such as Mayo Clinic's 5K program begins with a short jog of 15 seconds followed by 45 seconds of walking for a total of 30 minutes. This program slowly builds up endurance throughout the seven weeks; by the end you will be jogging a 5K with no trouble at all.
Walk to Run
Once you are comfortable with jogging, it's time to pick up the pace. Instead of running until you are bent over and out of breath, aim for a certain time. For beginners, start with running 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of speed walking. Complete the intervals 10 times. As your cardiovascular conditioning improves, increase your running time until you can run for two minutes with a one-minute break for a total of 30 minutes.
Once you are comfortable jogging and running for 30 minutes, take your fitness and calorie burning to another level with incline intervals. Incline intervals are perfect for those who use a treadmill. They not only prevent boredom, but also strengthen and tone the legs and the glutes, leading to a backside that will make you the envy of the neighborhood. Beginners should increase the incline to a level difficult for them, but not so difficult that they have to use the handrails. Alternate intervals of speed walking up an incline for one minute with a slower walk on a lower incline for one minute. Continue these intervals for 30 minutes. For runners who don't have access to a treadmill, search out the closest hill and get walking.
High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an intense interval workout that involves going all out for a short period. Once you are comfortable with running, add HIIT intervals into your running routine with sprints. This workout should leave you dripping in sweat and exhausted, so be ready with a dry towel and some serious motivation. Beginners should begin with 20 seconds of sprinting followed by one minute of walking. Do 10 of these intervals for a calorie torching workout.
Kaitlin Condon is a holistic health coach and certified physical fitness/wellness specialist. She is a contributing health writer for the teen magazine "Miabella," as well as several online publications.