If you are starting to think about beginning some sort of workout exercise program then read on to find out the best way to start and build up your fitness.

When you first start with any kind of exercise you need to work on building your base level of fitness. If you want to run 5 km and have not been exercising you cannot just jump straight in and run it without some preparation otherwise you could risk injury.

I always advise combining both cardio and resistance training for a complete program to get the best results, whether the results you are looking for is improved fitness, better performance or weight loss. This article will be looking at improving your cardiovascular system so will concentrate on your cardio workouts, I will also be writing a separate article after this one for the resistance training workouts so look out for that one in the future.

So let us start with your cardiovascular fitness, strengthening your lungs and heart.

There are three elements to any training program, frequency, intensity and duration i.e how often, how hard and how long.

Before I start with the program I just want to go over the intensity element. I will be stating what intensity you need to be working out at and this can be monitored through your heart rate to get the best results you need to work in your optimum training zone. You can do this by using your heart rate.

To find your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) you do the following:

220 – your age = your MHR

Once you have your MHR you can then work out what your heart rate you should be when exercising, you should be looking to exercise at between 70-85% of your MHR.

MHR x % intensity = target heart rate.

If you have a heart rate monitor you can use this to check your heart rate whilst you are working out, alternatively you can stop to take your pulse for 15 seconds, multiply by 4 so that you have your heart rate for 1 minute (bpm). Continue to exercise as soon as you have your 15 second pulse. *

You will soon start to recognise how hard you are working from the way you feel, your breathing, ability to talk etc and can use that as a judge. As you start to become fitter you will notice you need to work harder to get to the recommended intensity. For example if you haven’t done much exercise for some time you may get to your target heart rate by walking fast but as your cardiovascular system improves, you will be improving your body’s ability to take in and use oxygen, you will find that walking at the same pace will not result in the target heart rate and you will have to increase your intensity, either through increasing the speed or incline etc.

The whole program will cover approx 3 months

As this is for your cardiovascular sessions you need to be doing aerobic exercises, so walking/jogging/running, cycling, rowing, swimming, cross trainer etc. Choose the form of exercise that you enjoy and that you will be more likely to stick to, you don’t have to choose one you can mix them up. Run one day, cyle the next etc.

You will need to include a warm up, cool down and stretching into this program. So remeber to include extra time in your schedule, approx 5-10 mins for your warm up and 5-10 minutes for your cool down stretching.

Building Your Base Level of Fitness

Stage 1 – first 3 weeks of program

Workout 3 days per week for 25 minutes per day at approx 70% of your MHR. As you are just starting you may find that walking fast takes you up to your 70% MHR and breaking into a jog makes you increase your heart rate even more, remember the aim is to keep your heart rate at 70% so go at the speed that maintains this heart rate, whether it is a fast walk or  a slow jog or medium jog etc.

Stage 2 – 3 weeks

Increase your workouts to 4 days per week for 25 mins per day and this time you will want to increase the intensity to 75% of your MHR.

3 mins 70% MHR 2 mins 75% MHR

Repeat 5 times

Stage 3  –  2 weeks

3 days per week 30-40mins at 70-80% MHR

1 x 30 mins at 70% MHR 1 x 35 mins at 75% MHR 1 x 40 mins at 80% MHR

Stage 4  – 3 weeks

Workout 3 days per week at 80-85% of your MHR. Length of session = 25 mins.

2 of the days to be intervals:

3 mins at 80% MHR 2 mins at 85% MHR

Repeat 5 times

1 day running 25 mins at 80-85% MHR

You should find that your level of aerobic fitness has improved considerably, now you can either work on maintaining your level of fitness or, if you have other goals in mind, you can start working towards them, ie maybe you want to run a 5k or 10k race so then you can work on increasing your speed. If you are thinking about completing a marathon then you may want to work on endurance.

Remember to include resistance training in your weekly workouts, I will be publishing inthe future a 3 month resistance program which you can follow with this cardio program to enable you to get the best results from your training.


If you haven’t exercised for some time speak to your doctor before starting this or any workout/exercise program.

If you have any medical or heart issues or take any form of medication for your heart speak to your doctor before commencing this or any exercise program.

*Certain medications can affect your heart rate and therfore using a heart rate monitor when exercising may not give a true representaion of how hard you are actually performing, speak to your doctor before starting this or any exercise program.

One Response to “Beginners Running Program”

  1. Emily M.

    Thank you so much for writing this article! My general question is really simple: how do you run?
    Seems, stupid, I know – but I have my reasons for asking!
    1. my father just had his hip replaced due to jogging “wrong” for decades
    2. My friend in cross-country warns me not to start running on my own without proper coaching on my form (where could I even get coaching?)
    3. I am a 20 yr old overweight female so I’m concerned that my extra lbs will increase my chance for injury, long-term or otherwise. Would low-impact cardio (like elliptical) be better?
    Thanks again for your help 🙂 . Maybe this is a good topic for your next article?

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