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15-K Training Guide - Novice Program

Hal Higdon's training programs are available in an interactive format


HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED TO TRAIN to be able to run your first 15-K race? Some individuals who possess a reasonably high level of fitness (because they bicycle or swim or participate in other sports) could probably go out and run 9.3 miles on very little training. They might be sore the week after the race, but they still could finish.

But if you've made the decision to run a 15-K (or 10-mile) race, you might as well do it right. Here is a ten-week training schedule to help get you to the finish line. It assumes that you have no major health problems, are in reasonably good shape, and have done at least some jogging or walking. If running 2 miles for your first workout seems too difficult, you might want to begin by walking, rather than running. Or, if you have more than ten weeks before the 15-K race, switch to either my 5-K or 10-K schedules to build an endurance base before preceding.

10-Mile Training: The difference between 15-K (9.3 miles) and 10 miles is minimal. You can use these same 15-K programs to train for a 10-mile race.

The terms used in the training schedule are somewhat obvious, but let me explain what I mean anyway. Further information and explanations are included in my Virtual Training Programs available through TrainingPeaks, where I send you daily emails telling you what to run and how to train. This link will take you to the Novice 15-K program.

Stretch & Strength: Mondays are the days in which I advise you to do some stretching along with some strength training. This is actually a day of rest following your weekend long run. Do some easy stretching of your running muscles. This is good advice for any day, particularly after you finish your run, but spend a bit more time stretching on Mondays. Strength training could consist of push-ups, pull-ups, use of free weights or working out with various machines at a Health Club. Runners generally benefit if they combine light weights with a high number of repetitions, rather than pumping very heavy iron. I also suggest that you do some strength training following your Thursday workouts, however you can schedule strength training on any two days that are convenient for your business and personal schedule.

Running workouts: Put one foot in front of the other and run. It sounds pretty simple, and it is. Don't worry about how fast you run; just cover the distance--or approximately the distance suggested. Ideally, you should be able to run at a pace that allows you to converse comfortably while you run. This isn't always easy for beginners, so don't push too hard or too fast. Under this workout plan, you run three days of the week: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Saturdays being a longer run. (See below.)

Cross-Training: On the schedule, this is identified simply as "cross." What form of cross-training works best for runners preparing for a 15-K race? It could be swimming, or cycling, walking, other forms of aerobic training or some combination that could include strength training if you choose to do it on Wednesdays and Saturdays instead of as indicated on the schedule. And feel free to throw in some jogging as well if you're feeling good. What cross-training you select depends on your personal preference. But don't make the mistake of cross-training too vigorously. Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week.

Rest: The most important day in any running program is rest. Rest days are as important as training days. They give your muscles time to recover so you can run again. Actually, your muscles will build in strength as you rest. Without recovery days, you will not improve. In this program, Friday is always scheduled as a day of rest to compliment the also easy workouts on Mondays.

Long Runs: The longest runs of the 10-week schedule are planned for Saturdays, since you probably have more time to do them on the weekends. If Saturday isn't a convenient day for your long runs, feel free to do them on Sunday--or any other day of the week for that matter. Don't run these long runs too hard. Keep them at a "conversational" pace; meaning, at a pace slow enough that you can converse with a running companion without getting too much out of breath.

Walking: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. I don't specify walking workouts, but feel free to walk during your running workouts any time you feel tired or need a break. In the 15-K or 10-miler you choose, nobody cares whether you run every step of the way; they're more concerned that you finish. If this means walking every step in practice and in the race, do it!

Stepback Weeks: You will notice that the weekly mileage does not progress upwards in a straight line. In Week 4 and Week 7, you run somewhat less than the weeks before. This is the "stepback" approach that I first began using in my marathon training programs: giving runners a brief break every third week so that they could gather strength before pushing up to the next level. It works for marathoners; it works for 15-K runners too.

The 15-K training schedule is only a guide. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule. Also, consider signing up for the Virtual Program available from TrainingPeaks for more detailed information on what to run each day and tips for your training.

Training for your first 15-K

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the Novice schedule.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Stretch & strengthen 2 m run 30 min cross 2 m run + strength Rest 2 m run 30 min cross
2 Stretch & strengthen 3 m run 30 min cross 2 m run + strength Rest 3 m run 30 min cross
3 Stretch & strengthen 3 m run 35 min cross 2 m run + strength Rest 4 m run 30 min cross
4 Stretch & strengthen 2 m run 35 min cross 2 m run + strength Rest 2 m run 40 min cross
5 Stretch & strengthen 4 m run 40 min cross 3 m run + strength Rest 5 m run 40 min cross
6 Stretch & strengthen 4 m run 40 min cross 3 m run + strength Rest 6 m run 50 min cross
7 Stretch & strengthen 3 m run 45 min cross 3 m run + strength Rest 4 m run 50 min cross
8 Stretch & strengthen 5 m run 45 min cross 3 m run + strength Rest 7 m run 60 min cross
9 Stretch & strengthen 5 m run 45 min cross 3 m run + strength Rest 8 m run 60 min cross
10 Stretch & strengthen 3 m run 30 min cross 2 m run + strength 2 m run or rest Rest 15-K Race

15-K Training: Novice | Intermediate | Advanced


Click here for the TrainingPeaks interactive 15-K program