Choosing the beginner programmes
The ‘walk to run’ and 5km beginner programmes will suit you if you have little or no running experience but are generally fit and in good health.
The 10km and above distance programmes are ideal if you want to run a longer event and are in the habit of running at least twice a week. They will suit you if you could complete a 5km run in 30 to 40 minutes, with a mix of walking and running.
Choosing the intermediate programmes
You don’t need to have run the full distance before you follow an intermediate programme. However, we recommend that you’ve been running regularly (two to three times a week) for at least 10 weeks. You regularly run 5km in less than 30 minutes and have probably also run 10km a couple of times in around an hour. Bear in mind that these programmes involve training on at least four days a week with some faster paced running.
All the training programmes have three key elements, which alter as you progress. These are ‘FIT’ which stands for:
- F – frequency (how often)
- I – intensity or pace (how hard)
- T – time (how long)
Exercising regularly and gradually increasing how much you do is key to improving your health and fitness.
As you get fitter, you’ll be able to train more often and for longer in each session. As a beginner, this will mean that gradually you can run more and so need to walk less. At an intermediate level, you should find that you’re able to run distances faster.
It’s hard to define ‘intensity’ (or pace) because it depends on your individual level of fitness, which will increase as your training progresses.
Some of the training programmes involve different types of run – see Types of training for more information. These correspond to your ‘perceived effort scale’. The scale runs from one to 10, where one is standing still, and 10 is your maximum effort, such as running flat out. The table below has more detail.
Perceived effort levels
Activity (approximate, depending on fitness)
Used in cool down
Normal pace - used in warm up/cool down
Brisk walk/light jog
Walking - striding out or jogging a little above march pace; heart rate and breathing increase a little
Easy jog - active but not challenging; breathing is easy and steady
Sustainable steady running - general race pace; breathing and heart rate are raised but not uncomfortable
Brisk - challenging running at increased pace; breathing should be harder
Fast running with arms pumping - used in speed work and 400 to 800m distances
Maximum effort - sustainable for one minute or less
To get the best from the effort scale, listen to your whole body and think about how it feels. So consider your breathing, heart rate and how your arms and legs feel.
All the training programmes involve long runs and easy (recovery) runs, and some also include faster runs (tempo and speed).
These allow your legs to recover from hard effort and prepare you for the next day of training. Take them at an easy pace (effort level of five to six) and no longer than 40 minutes. You should be able to enjoy running without feeling tired.
These should be your longest run of the week. They are for increasing your distance and aim to build up your aerobic fitness, efficiency and endurance. Your long run should be at a steady pace, effort level six to seven, so you can hold a conversation as you run. This will become your race pace.
Constant speed running is sometimes referred to as tempo running. This improves your running pace.
Although the true definition of tempo running varies, aim to run at a constant speed that feels ‘comfortably hard’. This should be about an eight on the effort scale. Stick to about 20 to 30 minutes at this pace and always include at least five minutes of warming up and cooling down.
Speed work, either using intervals or hills, builds your aerobic fitness, strength and speed. Interval training involves running fast, but not sprinting, over a set distance or time at an effort level of 10. Hill running involves keeping your pace roughly constant, but increasing intensity to effort level 10 by changing the gradient that you’re running up. Follow each hard run with an easy one of at least the same length, then repeat. Try using a treadmill to help you get the distances, times or gradients right.
This helps you to keep up your fitness but reduces the strain on the muscles you use for running. Take one session a week to do an activity such as swimming, cycling or using a cross trainer in the gym. This will work your muscle groups in different ways and help to stop you from getting bored of just running.
This programme is designed for you if you’re a beginner runner and would like to train for a 10 mile run. To make the most of the programme, you should be able to run/walk 3 miles (5km) in less than 40 minutes, and you may have completed the beginner 5km programme.
One mile is approximately equivalent to 1.6km. For this training programme, distances in km have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity.
Click on the image to download the full programme.
This programme is for you if you have already done a 5km or 10km race and would like to improve your time or move up to the next distance. It uses long runs so you can cover the distance, plus tempo and speed work to increase your pace.
One mile is equivalent to 1.6km. For this training programme, where distances are specified, we've rounded them to the nearest mile for simplicity.
Click on the image to download the full programme.
This programme is for you if you consider yourself to be an advanced runner. You may have completed 10 mile (16km) races before, or possibly a 10km (6 miles) or half marathon, perhaps following the Bupa beginner and intermediate training programmes.
One mile is equivalent to 1.6km. For this training programme, distances in km have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity.
Click on the image to download the full programme.
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