30-Day Running Challenge for Beginners
It’s widely acknowledged that a newbie runner is someone who is below the 30-minute threshold for running endurance. That’s the general rule of thumb, hence, it seems a great idea to conjure up some How to Run Faster and Longer magic. Turn the screw on the 30-minute barrier and replace that with a 30-day running challenge for beginners.
Welcome, dear friend, to our new running course: FASLON30. You’ve been selected as a test pilot – or guinea pig – whichever you prefer, so high five to you. It’s your lucky day. Fitness beckons.
Your first task is to stop yourself from fainting from the sheer brilliance of our marketing wordplay. Yep Faster and Longer just sound better as FASLON, don’t you agree? Well if the Swedish can have Fartlek for speedplay, then surely I can have FASLON as my very own English version. Plus mine has numbers, too, and it sounds more futuristic.
Why not? We live in a world of acronyms, I’m staring at about ten of them now on my shiny new-ish laptop.
That’s not all, though. Oh, no. No doubt,you’ve guessed that once you’ve completed the FASLON30, you’re going to do the 45, 60, 90 and beyond. The future has plenty of miles in it. Not just any miles, but faster miles twinned with longer runs.
You’ve been warned, but take that as encouragement not punishment. Only the brave can join the club. The good news is you get a badge to show how hard you’ve worked.
All I need now is the voice-over man to do me a nice gravely intro. You know the type, when they go on a spaceship in the movies: “You’ve been selected for FASLON training… welcome aboard, space cadet.”
Let the Training Commence
To give you a quick heads up, the course is going to be over 30 days with a view to improving your running speed and endurance so you can go faster for longer, hence the name. I won’t say it again, just yet, but joking aside it’s something that we need to take seriously in order to improve ourselves.
We can then build upon this foundation that we’re preparing for bigger tests further down the line.
Everyone will be starting off from different fitness levels, which is the main reason why I haven’t stuck a distance label to the course, then we can still push ourselves, but improve at our own pace and not feel like there is a rigid goalpost of success or failure. The carrot and the stick have to find a balance – a bit of yin and yang.
I’m only just getting back out on the road myself and believe me, I will say it’s the most I’ve suffered for as long as I can remember, but at 45 years of age and maybe 2 stone overweight, it isn’t surprising really. Due to being fat-skinny, people think I’m slim as a razor, but they don’t realise that I’m actually a skinny fatty. Yes, there is such a thing as a fat thin person.
Well the fat matchstick man is going in the bin. After 30 days of training and education things will hopefully be looking much better.
Educating Ourselves is Vital to Progress
There are lots of running challenges around, but I want this one to be different. It needs to add value by standing out from the crowd and I aim to do that by including more education on off days, rather than simply calling them rest days. That is a time to read about nutrition or stretching off. Learn about how the body works – the information is endless. We can never know too much!
Rest days are super important for many reasons, but as a newbie or a rebooted runner we need to soak up as much information as possible and use it to our advantage. That’s the greatest gift the Internet has given us – knowledge and advice at our fingertips.
This isn’t some get-fit-quick scheme. Neither will it make you an Olympic athlete in 30 days. You won’t lose two stone either so don’t come looking for me with a baseball bat if you don’t look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. He probably starved himself for weeks on end to get that ripped and injected some testosterone, like his mate Sylvester.
For the ladies, I’m sure you have a film star in mind, but I’m not a film buff so sorry, I can’t name any for you.
What FASLON30 will do is give you a base level of fitness and the essential knowledge required to eat properly – which means healthier – train properly, stretch off the right way and just give you a general reboot with your running situation. Most importantly you should be able to do this with a smile on your face and enjoy the whole experience, otherwise what’s the point?
- Monday – education and rest day.
- Tuesday – base run.
- Wednesday – education and rest.
- Thursday – intervals/tempo runs.
- Friday – education and rest.
- Saturday – your day off.
- Sunday – long run.
So for all you mathematicians, that’s only three running sessions per week. It’s not about killing yourself, it’s more about being disciplined in the long term and doing exactly what is necessary at each stage of your running career.
There will be some extra activities spliced in to the programme here and there, but use your initiative and if you need to add in a few extra days and revisit days, then that is absolutely fine. You’re not in a race with anyone; the aim is simply to improve your all-round running skills. However, it will require your total dedication in order to get your best results.
Hard work – dedication. That’s what Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather says and look where it got him!
Warm up and Light Stretching
Seen as the course is for beginners, I don’t want to confuse people and lose people. Hence, my reasons for keeping things as simple as possible, which is the way to go regardless, because it’s not about doing the most, it’s about being effective in what we do and hitting our targets efficiently.
Before we go on any run we need to warm up first of all and then do some light stretching. We can do this in a number of ways but the easiest and most relevant is jogging on the spot…
Each stretch should be between 20 and 30 seconds. Shake off after each one.
- Jog on the spot for between 1 and 2 minutes – shake your arms as well and limber up while you go.
- Reach towards the sky, as if you’re trying to tickle God. (If he’s not in bed, reach for Jesus.) This stretches your full body.
- 10 Squats – place your hands behind your neck. Don’t go too deep. Just a nice bend and feel the light stretch.
- Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3. This should give you five minutes to loosen your body up ready to run.
A couple of tips to think about:
- Warming up and cooling down, while similar, do slightly different jobs. Warming up prepares our body to run without getting injured.
- Light -pre-workout stretching helps prepare us for our run even further. Though the emphasis is on light.
- Cooling down helps return our body to our natural state, by easing back into a slower heart rate and flushing toxins and waste materials from the muscles.
- Deeper stretching helps realign muscle fibres to prevent next-day soreness. It also goes towards preventing future injuries by giving us increased flexibility. When the body is fully loosened up we can stretch harder without the risk of pulling a muscle or rupturing a tendon. We naturally lose flexibility with age, so bear that in mind.
Cool Down and Deep Stretching
When you’ve finished your usual runs, it’s much simpler if you just slow down the pace for the last two minutes or so and then walk for the final 30 seconds. Obviously if you’re timing yourself or doing a tempo run then the timing needs to be precise, therefore you need to concentrate on your timed run then do the cooling-down period as an extra couple of minutes. Either way, it’s no big deal is it?
Once the walking is finished and your body and hear rate have started to settle down and your heart isn’t about to jump out of your chest, then it’s time to get your stretching started.
Even if you are tired, it’s paramount that you concentrate fully while stretching off. Don’t bounce too hard into a stretch, otherwise you could rupture a muscle or tendon. In most likelihood scenario you would probably give yourself a slight pull or strain. That said, there is no doubt some unlucky person who has gone to stretch off and done something extraordinary like pull their cruciate ligament.
In truth, if you do get a severe injury while stretching, it was probably going to happen sooner or later anyway, because it would have to be a really weak section of muscle or tendon to pull stretching off when your body is already thoroughly warmed up and at its most flexible.
Few key points: there’s no point in hammering shot muscles. Cool down intensity should vary according to your workout. If you’ve blasted yourself into the ground, then go a bit easier on your cool down. You don’t want to damage muscles that are already at breaking point.
So to recap, your routine should look something like this:
- 2-minutes Slow running then 30 seconds walking. Ensure body slowed down nicely before stretching off, otherwise get a minute’s breather.
- Knee hugs: bring your knee to your chest and squeeze. While at the same time, stand on your tip toes with the opposite foot. Do 2 or 3 sets. It should be one smooth motion as you bring your knee up then squeeze and press through the toes. Hold for 20 – 3o seconds each leg, then swap sides.
- Quad pulls: usual stuff, 20 – 30 seconds each stretch and 2 or 3 sets, depending on how tired you are.
- Wall lunge: this stretches your calves. Place your hands on the wall, with one leg in front of the other. Thrust your hips towards the wall until you feel it stretching your calves. Adjust feet accordingly until you get the correct feeling.
- Hamstring stretch: place one foot in front of the other, put your hands on your closer leg, then pull back as you bend the knee, which should start the stretching in the opposite leg. 20 – 30 seconds, each time. 2 – 3 sets. So if you did 3 sets you’d do each leg 3 times (3 x 2 = 6 stretches in total.)
Stretching might sound daunting at first, but once you get used to it and train regularly it becomes second nature. There’s nothing to feel threatened with. If you’re stuck and can’t find the resources online then ping me a message or email and I’ll do my best to respond quickly.
Welcome to FASLON30 Running Challenge
30 days isn’t enough to change the world, but we’re confident that regardless of your ability, once you’ve completed FASLON30 you’ll see an improvement in your key areas. Think of this, not as a 30-day running challenge for beginners, but as a sort of Swiss Army knife to cut through the guts of your stale regime, bored mind and tired limbs.
Once FASLON30 has skinned your carcass down to the bone, it will rebuild you into a stronger, fitter, leaner specimen. You’ll be going stronger, harder for longer. You might only see minor gains, but realistically that is still good going in a smidgen over four weeks.
All I can say is that you owe it to yourself, not me or anyone else, to do yourself justice. But firstly you should enjoy the course. Running isn’t about wiping yourself out on a daily basis, it should be as much about putting a spring in your step and a reinvigorated spirit whether you’re walking the house in your slippers or lacing up your sneakers.
Happiness is equally important to fitness. It’s the cornerstone of a tough mental attitude that can see off any challenge, especially pesky little monthlies like this one.
Either way, slippers or sneakers, good luck for the next 30 days.
Few Last Tips Before Starting…
It’s a good idea to keep a diary either electronic, paper or use a proper running app. There are loads to choose from and Nike Run Club or Sports Tracker are brilliant free choices on iOS and Android.
Sports Tracker is my personal favourite and you can follow me on: DJE1973 (David Joseph Elstob) where you can see how lazy I’ve been the last few years. Nobody’s perfect!
If you’re going to show off your newfound running skills before, after and during the challenge, then please include the hashtag #FASLON30 so we can all find one another’s pics and see the results on Instagram.
Righto, then, that’s enough talking, we need more running. ?
For day 1 the most important thing is practising your stretching to make certain that you are familiar with the positions. Don’t go all in, just a dry run to prepare correctly.
You don’t want to be wasting time faffing on tomorrow when your focus should be on your running.
Prepare, then share!
You’ve been itching to get out there, haven’t you? So get warmed up and hit the road. See if you can last 10 – 20 minutes, at a sensible pace, without stopping. No pressure. Enjoy yourself.
The best rust remover is to get the gears oiled and spinning. Your stiff body is a classic car that needs some tender loving care and she’ll be back humming like the old days. 60 smiles per hour.
Read up on Fartlek to acclimatise yourself with Swedish running’s favourite word. The beauty of the format is it’s so versatile that it’s great for beginners, but seasoned pros are equally happy kicking their heels to one.
You can almost guarantee that along with a tempo run, a Fartlek will be in every serious runner’s vocabulary. It’s like an LBD – little black dress – or a Ralph Lauren shirt if you’re a man. Timeless classics that fit with everything.
So today’s Fartlek day and you can put your Swedish know how into practice. You know the drill: run, walk, jog at your leisure. Its’ essentially interval training that isn’t structured, you rely on instinct instead.
Use landmarks to guide you such as lamp posts or fences and gateposts. See if you can do half and hour’s running, but if you’re struggling increase the walking.
Tonight I want you to research nutrition and what and when you should be eating to lose weight and increase performance when running.
The key to a healthy diet is make it balanced: carbs, protein, fat.
Try eating 5 or 6 small meals per day. You can prepare food in advance to save time and use protein shakes, energy bars, plus fruit snacks.
It’s your first rest day, so high five to you for completing six days. Don’t give up, stay strong and use your time to relax, wind down and maybe get a massage from you loved one if you’re lucky, persuasive or both.
Think of a steady route for your long run tomorrow…
Don’t feel like you have to run 100 miles. We want you to slowly build up your distance, but by calling it a long run you’re getting in the right mindset even if you only run 2, 3 or 4 miles initially.
All runs are different, but they all help one another, just like parts on a car all make the car work, some runs burn fat, others increase speed, but together they indirectly help one another increase performance.
Learn About Pace
Your homework for today is to read the article linked below and find a pacing app or website that can plug your numbers in and find your race pace for 5K for beginners and for advanced runners you can check out your half marathon or even marathon pace.
Whatever your base run was last week, try adding 10% distance and if possible a smidgen of speed.
Your goal should always be approximately 10%, but the nearer you get to total fitness then the harder the increases in performance become.
It’s officially education day, but you can do some crunches instead to help tighten your abs and obliques up. There are endless different sit up exercises, but if you’re unsure just lay on your back with bent knees, slowly sliding your hands up your knees as you crunch.
Try 2 x 25 or if you’re really good 4 x 25.
Run for 10 minutes at an easy pace to get properly loosened up. Then do your intervals hard for 1 minutes then easy for 1 minute. Repeat 6 times.
You can do these as you run or on a circuit. It makes no difference really.
Recover with 8 – 10 minutes slow pace to finish.
Day Dream Believer
Working on the mental side of your game is just as important as the physical side. Sometimes the mind has won races when the body has given up.
Visualise yourself running hard, fast, strong. If you’re planning on entering a 5K race or fun run, even just beating your personal best. Strong visual memories can be called upon when the going gets tough.
You’re two weeks into your 30-day challenge now, which is almost halfway. Give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve earned a rest so do whatever you wish, but keep one eye on tomorrow’s long run…
Don’t be getting drunk and spoiling yourself now.
It’s Sunday and your longest run of the week. Long runs are great for encouraging the body to burn fat, because you can use a higher percentage of oxygen when you’re running at a slower pace. This enables your body to utilise that favourable chemical balance to its advantage.
Always keep the pace steady, but aim for a longer run than last week.
You can choose to rest or instead crank some press ups out. Try sets of 10 and if you do 3 x 10 then I’ll be impressed, because they aren’t easy.
If you are struggling, like I do when I am first working out my chest in ages, I start off on my knees then a week or two later I do full press ups.
A strong chest and upper body will help your arm pump when running.
Your regular base run should be your go-to run that you do the most often, but also one you can swap up now and then to keep boredom at bay. Use it as a chance to experiment with different ideas and routes.
Keep your pace slightly quicker than last week. Run for 30 mins. Tweak the distance and time to suit your fitness level plus or minus.
Read our Running Apps for Beginners guide, to keep up to date with the latest apps for smartphones and watches, either iOS or Android.
We’ve also got a detailed history about the Couch to 5K Runner smartphone application, though we haven’t tried the app ourselves it’s immensely popular. Half the running world uses it.
Find a steady incline, nothing too brutal, but a smooth hill that gradually creeps up. If it’s too steep then you’ll only be able to crawl up it even if you are fit. Fell running really is brutal.
Run up the half-mile hill and then jog back down. Repeat this four or five times. You should be shattered when you set off home.
Parkrun is the original community run that has taken off into a worldwide movement. Obviously there have been community runs and other sporting events, but nothing quite like the Parkrun for it’s sheer longevity and fan base.
People take Parkrun seriously. It’s 5K distance is suitable for beginners to professional athletes looking for a tempo run to test their fitness levels.
This is your penultimate LSD – long slow distance run. Make it count and add some extra distance into the equation. As you gradually get fitter, speed obviously is a good marker, but there’s nothing that tells you how well you are doing like a long run that you absolutely crushed.
You know the feeling when you’ve smashed it! That’s what makes it all worthwhile.
Places to Run?
Have a look at all the Places to Run Near Me and see what beautiful places there are in your area where you can see the outdoors and get fit at the same time.
Promise yourself that over the coming months you’ll get out more and visit places that are on your doorstep that you’ve missed out on all these years. You’ll be surprised why you haven’t noticed such places sooner.
This is your last base run so pick up the pace a little, but don’t go berserk. There’s always tomorrow in this game so save your legs for the next one.
Try splitting the run in two and finishing the second half stronger. This will put you in good stead for things like your first 5K race.
Have a long walk and reflect on what you’ve achieved the last three-and-a-half weeks. You’ve done a variety of different things, some you’ve probably done and others that are maybe new to you.
It’s always good to learn and expand our horizons. Take on board what you enjoyed and embrace the more difficult stuff as a mini challenge.
Try a trail run, either in the woods or on the beach if you life near the coast. You needn’t hit Mount Everest to feel the benefit of the woodland air or sear breeze.
Hit this one strongly and put a fast pace and good time. Try and hit between four and five miles.
Stand with hands shoulder width apart with your arms clasped on your chest, drop down into the squat position and explosively jump up into the air as high as you can. This is a plyometric squat.
Push up through the legs, driving through the toes. Do 2 x 10 (20 squats in total.)
Well Deserved Rest
This is your last rest before you’ve completed FASLON30. That’s an awesome achievement. You’ll be well on your way to running both faster and longer.
Save yourself for the last few days hard graft…
Final Long Run
You’ve done four weeks of hard running and the challenge is almost over. What I want from you today is to give this long run everything you’ve got. Go for all the distance you have and take a note of your mileage.
Chest out, chin up you should be proud of yourself.
Similar to the squats, plyometric lunges will give your body explosive power. If you do these types of power building exercises regularly they will help you run faster and give you a burst of speed for overtaking people.
Instead of a regular lunge, left then right, you do the same motion, but explode back and swap legs in mid air. Do 2 x 10 (20 lunges in total.)
This is your last chance to turn on the taps and release the speed. Try and run 5K at your best pace possible.
Really give it everything you’ve got, using your mental tricks and all the other bits you’ve picked up to make you a faster runner. Great work!
Day 31 Celebration Time!
You’ve trained like a pro for 30 days solid. That’s a brilliant achievement and you should definitely be able to run faster and longer.
We’ve laid the foundations to take your running to the next level.
Now it’s time to treat yourself to some new running gear. Asics, anyone? #FASLON30
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Couch to 5K Runner Smartphone App
- 10 Wickedly Simple Running Pace Calculators
- 30 Ways How to Run Faster and Longer
- Treadmill Workout to Burn Fat
- Staying Motivated for Weight Loss
What did You Think of the Course?
Hey, I’d love to hear your feedback from trying out this course. Did it help you? Did you enjoy it?
It would be great to hear you honest answers so just say so if you think there’s something that we’ve missed or you’d like to see included next time and I will update the post accordingly.
It’s important to me that you not only enjoy reading this blog, but that you also feel that you could recommend it to a friend or family member.
The reason I chose to write about running isn’t only because of my deep affection for the sport, but that I genuinely feel it’s good to help other people whenever possible and passing on knowledge is a positive way to do this.
Don’t hold back – say how you really feel. 🙂