Why is it difficult to begin running on a daily basis? Why is it harder to sustain it? There is no doubt that starting and sticking to a physical routine is getting harder and harder. And the more time you spend being sedentary, the more difficult it becomes to start an exercise routine.

Get set, go!Shorter strides with feet low to the ground help conserve energy and allow you to run faster.

Week 1

Day 1 Here’s the golden rule of running: “Time on feet" is far more important than speed or distance. Focus only on the time spent walking/running and not on speed or distance. Go for an easy 20- to 30-minute stroll.

Day 2 Easy run for 30 minutes, alternating between 5 minutes of walking and a 1-minute jog, repeated five times. The walk should allow you to recover completely from the run. Irrespective of speed, take controlled long breaths.

Day 3 Four minutes running at a pace where you can say out only three-four words at a time, not full sentences. Rest for 2 minutes to catch your breath. Repeat four-five times.

Day 4 Repeat Day 2 plan. Add side-to-side drill. Stand upright and move sideways, on your toes, for 1 minute to your left. Now move towards your right in the same way to get back to your starting position.

Day 5 Get yourself to the gym, and begin a balanced training programme that will address strength, stability and flexibility.

Day 6 Repeat Day 2. Add calf stretches: Stand on a stair only on your toes. Raise your heels up over a 4-second period. Hold at the top, toes fully extended, for 2 seconds, then bring the heels down below stair level over 4 seconds. Repeat 25 times.

Day 7 Repeat sets of 1-minute jog and 5-minute walk for 45 minutes. I repeat, don’t worry about the speed.

Week 2

Day 1 Rest day. The most fundamental rule of running is to “keep miling and smiling". If you aren’t, you are doing something wrong. Reassess and put that smile on. Now, go run behind the children.

Day 2 Sets of 4-minute walk and 2-minute jog for 30 minutes. Myth: While running, drink as much water as you can. Fact: Drink according to thirst. Have water mixed with electrolytes, it’s better than plain water.

Day 3 1km time-trial: a slow run for a kilometre to warm up. Increase the pace for the next 200m. Rest a few minutes to recover completely. Now run a well-paced 1km—as fast as you can, but not so fast that you can’t finish the whole kilometre.

Day 4 Repeat Week 2, Day 2. Add the grapevine drill. Walk sideways by crossing your right leg over the front of your left leg. Then move left with your left leg. Move for 30m. Now come back to the starting point by reversing the direction.

Day 5 Quad strengthening: With your back flat against a wall, go down into a squat position, till your knees are right above the toes. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat three times. Slowly increase the time.

Day 6 Sets of 4-minute walk and 2-minute jog for 30 minutes. Stretch of the week: The Iliotibial band (ITB) stretch. Lie on your back. Bend both knees with feet firmly on the floor. Pick up your left foot and place it on your right knee. Hold the left knee with the right hand. Pull the left knee down. Hold for 10 seconds.

Day 7 Four-minute walk, 2-minute jog for 45-50 minutes. Imagine holding a fragile papad between the thumbs and index fingers of both hands during the walk-run. It’ll help you relax and ease out your strides. This does actually work.

Week 3

Day 1 Rest day. Rule of 10%: Never increase your cumulative weekly mileage or longest weekly run by more than 10%.

Day 2 Three-minute walk, 3-minute run for 35 minutes. Listen to your body: Don’t attempt to run through pain. Rest if necessary.

Day 3 Three-minute walk, 3-minute run for 35 minutes where you can at the most utter one sentence at a time, and get breathless if you attempt more.

Day 4 Easy 3-minute walk, 3-minute run for 45 minutes. Marching drill: Walk forward slowly on the balls of the toes only. Progressively raise knees higher up to hip level with each stride. Walk for 30m. Repeat five times.

Day 5 Easy 3-minute walk, 3-minute run for 30-35 minutes. Hamstring strengthening: Lie face down. Bend the right knee up 90 degrees. Tie one end of a light resistance band to the right ankle and the other end to a sturdy object at ankle level. Pull the heel towards the buttock. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.

Day 6 Rest. Piriformis stretch: Lie on your back. Bring the left knee to the abdomen. Hold the left knee with the left hand. Hold the left foot with the right hand and gently pull the left leg towards the right shoulder till you feel a stretch just below your left buttock. Hold 10 seconds, switch legs.

Day 7 Easy 3-minute walk, 3-minute run for 50 minutes. Myth: Long strides help you run longer and faster. Fact: Shorter strides with feet low to the ground help conserve energy and allow you to run faster. Try this today.

Week 4

Day 1 Rest day. Rule of 1: Only increase one component at any one time, i.e. distance, speed or duration, else you’ll get injured. The first thing to increase should be the duration spent on feet.

Day 2 Easy 2-minute walk, 4-minute run for 40 minutes. Don’t worry about speed.

Day 3 Two-minute walk, 4-minute run for 35 minutes, during which you can at the most utter one sentence, getting breathless if you attempt more.

Day 4 Easy 2-minute walk, 4-minute run for 45 minutes. High knee drill: For 30 seconds, drive each knee up as close to the chest as possible, landing only on the balls of the feet.

Day 5 Strengthening and stretching at the gym.

Day 6 Easy 2-minute walk, 4-minute run for 40 minutes. Quadratus lumborum stretch: Sit on a chair. Hold the left elbow with your right hand behind your head. Gently pull the left elbow down towards the right till you feel the stretch in your shoulders and upper back. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat on the other side.

Day 7 Easy 2-minute walk, 4-minute run for 60 minutes. While running, your footsteps are the best sound to listen to. If they’re too loud, make them softer. That’ll help reduce the pressure on your knees.

Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and CEO of Back 2 Fitness. If the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is your target, don’t forget to look out for his column next month.

Write to Rajat at treadmill@livemint.com

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