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Fitness Articles  ›  SparkPeople Workouts

Running Workouts to Build Endurance

Training Programs for Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Runners

-- By Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer & Marathon Runner
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Want to run longer? This program will help increase your endurance. If you're new to running or exercise, start with the Beginner program. As you progress, slowly increase your time and eventually move to the Intermediate and Advanced workouts. Because this is a general program, you may need to adjust the recommended speeds, intensities, and times to suit your fitness level.

If you have access to a treadmill, focus on the pace guidelines (left column), working at your own intensity level. If you run outdoors and do not have access to any tools to measure your pace, then use the intensity guidelines (right column) as a guide for how fast or slow to run. (Find a full explanation of exercise intensity below the workouts.)

Beginner Endurance Program

 What to do  For how long  (Intensity 1-10)
 Warm up at 3.5 mph pace  5 minutes  3.5
 Jog at 5 mph pace  4 minutes  5
 Jog at 6 mph pace  8 minutes  6
 Jog at 5 mph pace  4 minutes  5
 Cool down  5 minutes  3.5
 Total Workout Time:  26 minutes  
Intermediate Endurance Program

 What to do  For how long  Intensity (1-10)
 Warm up at 4 mph pace  5 minutes  3.5
 Jog at 5.5 mph pace  4 minutes  5
 Jog at 5.8 mph pace  8 minutes  6
 Jog at 5.5 mph pace  8 minutes  5
 Jog at 5.8 mph pace  8 minutes  6
 Jog at 5.5 mph pace  4 minutes  5
 Cool down  5 minutes  3.5
 Total Workout Time:  42 minutes  

Advanced Endurance Program

 What to do  For how long  Intensity (1-10)
 Warm up at 5 mph pace  5 minutes  3.5
 Run at 6 mph pace  4 minutes  5
 Run at 6.3 mph pace  8 minutes  6
 Run at 6 mph pace  8 minutes  5
 Run at 6.3 mph pace  8 minutes  6
 Run at 6 mph pace  8 minutes  5
 Run at 6.3 mph pace  8 minutes  6
 Run at 6 mph pace  4 minutes  5
 Cool down  5 minutes  3.5
 Total Workout Time:  58 minutes  

An Explanation of Using the RPE Method to Measure Intensity
Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) may be the most versatile method to measure exercise intensity for all age groups. Using this method is simple, because all you have to do is estimate how hard you feel like you’re exerting yourself during exercise. RPE is a good measure of intensity because it is individualized—it’s based on your current fitness level and overall perception of exercise. The scale ranges from 1 to 10, allowing you to rate how you feel physically and mentally at a given intensity level.
An RPE between 5 and 7 is recommended for most adults. This means that at the height of your workout, you should feel you are working "somewhat hard" to "hard."
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is a certified personal trainer, certified health coach and advanced health & fitness specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

Member Comments

  • I love to walk very fast and do the treadmill. I really work hard at these to. I don't care for running that much. But once in awhile when I am walking I will run just a little. - 8/6/2013 9:59:46 AM
  • I'm going to try this. I use to like running in high school but now I'm scared I'll pass out from exertion. - 4/10/2013 11:07:43 PM
    The RPE is the key, isn't it, I have just begun to run after 20 years of not really being able to and find the concept excellent for judging intensity. I do 1 hr runs on the treadmill, starting slow and increasing my speed every 10 minutes; the intensity for the last 10 minutes on the RPE scale is about 6, maybe 7. I feel that continuing to use this as a gauge will allow me to keep control of my training whilst making the improvements I seek. Currently my average speed for the hour is 7.25kph (approx 4.5 MPH) and my goal is an average speed of 11 kph (about 8 MPH) for an hour, with a maximum of 7 on the RPE, so I have some way to go yet. - 3/27/2013 12:35:12 PM
  • I've always been scared of the 6 mph on the treadmill. Started with the first workout this week and love it!

    Thanks Coach Jenn! - 1/17/2013 7:09:27 AM
    The beginner regime would definitely make me faint. I prefer c25K. This program (free podcast!) builds up your endurance and won't scare you off after your first try. it begins with shorter intervals that lengthen each week. - 1/11/2013 12:03:14 AM
  • I would ignore the speed part and go with intensity on the chart. If you want to run, the point is start wherever you can and gradually try to go longer and get faster. Don't let their definition of "beginner" keep you from starting something if you think you will enjoy trying it. I am not at a beginner general fitness level and can run this fast, but not as an easy, slow run. However, my legs are only 29" long. How much speed pairs with how much intensity is partly based on practice as some have said, but how your body is built has a lot to do with it too. I have cardio endurance and strength, but have never, even in the best shape of my life, been built for running. Just find what you like to do and do it. - 1/10/2013 5:59:06 PM
  • Sounds like a great program...walking is my start.. saving for future reference - 1/10/2013 5:02:47 PM
  • MIMI403640
    Hi everyone, I have been using the threadmill on an off for 3 years now, sometimes doing 6 walks of 50 minutes per week, and there is no way I can do 5, or 6 miles per hour longer then 1 or 2 minutes. Your beginner stage looks much too hard for me, . - 1/10/2013 4:09:53 PM
  • Just to provide some balance.. I'm over 50 and up until recently had knee issues ans was 60 pounds over weight (now gone!).

    I am not a distance runner - I prefer lifting weights and HIIT. But when I do run distance a pace of 6.3 MPH is a very slow pace for me to maintain for even an hour. On a good day I can run 30% faster than this and only be a bit uncomfortable.

    It's all about what you set out to achieve by doing cardio. If you read a book/watch tv on a treadmill in order to burn calories then you are not improving your heart and lungs. In fact your not even burning many calories

    It's only if you increase running intensity..week in..week out, that your heart and lungs improve.

    I would suggest that if you have been using a treadmill or been running for over six months and you're not more than 20 pounds over weight then unless you can do the intermediate routine with ease then reflect on your exercise programme. - 1/10/2013 2:41:57 PM
  • Yikes! After reading this article and everyone's comments, I would be more fearful of having Jen as my personal trainer than I would be of Gillian from Biggest Loser!
    But seriously, folks, it's not that bad. She's not telling people they have to start out running at high speeds... especially if you don't have a treadmill (and how many beginners have that kind of equipment?) you aren't likely to be able to keep track of your speed very well.

    I've been working on intervals to try to become a jogger, if not a runner, and I'm going to have to say that my perceived exertion of 3.5--where beginners warm up--would be a fairly casual walk. If I don't pay attention to the speed (since I don't have a treadmill) then I would be able to follow this beginner program, basing it all on my perceptions. I know that I can jog about a quarter mile, sometimes a little longer, before I need to slow down for a few minutes... and when I do a mile of intervals, it averages out to about 14 minutes per mile. That's faster than 4 MPH!

    That being said, this does mean that I don't keep up the speeds or perceived exertions for the length of time that is suggested here... but that is the sort of thing I'm working toward. - 1/10/2013 2:20:10 PM
  • Sometimes I feel like such a wimp. I am trying to run again after other failed attempts. My method of intervals for now, is to run 30 steps and to walk 60 steps and then to continue that cycle for 20min (after a 10 minute warm up) then a 10 min cool down. I'm not sure when I'll get to 6mph. - 1/10/2013 2:19:39 PM
  • I used the beginner and intermediate programs a year or so ago (with adjustments to the speed). I'm a casual runner and was looking for an interval type of treadmill routine to use on the days I couldn't run outside and just to use for a general cardio activity. From someone who has tried it I can agree with several comments about the stated speeds being too intense for most (especially beginners), but it's all about adjustments. Don't completely rule out the routine!! - 1/10/2013 2:07:33 PM
  • This is crazy, even with all the disclaimers about adjusting to your situation etc. Sets people up with false expectations. Couch to 5 K is a much more realistic plan. - 1/10/2013 1:25:58 PM
  • As the comments indicate, the article may need to better define "beginner." If you have been working out and have become reasonably fit, like being able to walk 2 miles in 30-32 minutes, then I think you are ready to begin running maybe not as fast or as long as the beginner chart indicates, but certainly ready to include running along with your walking. The chart can help you see how to employ the different speed intervals to build endurance. Just adjust the numbers for your present fitness level and work up to "beginner."
    Even "advanced" needs some clarification. If you are able to hold the top speed 6.3 (or 9:30 min/mile), for an entire 5K, your time would be 29:30. That's very good if you're a senior citizen like me, or somewhere along your healthy living journey, but in any 5K race, you would not be considered an "advanced" runner.
    We all compete against ourselves in the end. Use these charts accordingly. - 1/10/2013 1:05:27 PM
  • When I first joined SparkPeople I could barely jog a slow mile. I've gotten a lot better since I've lost some weight, and am looking forward to improving more. I think these guidelines could work for people who are trimmer and only have a relatively small amount of weight to lose, but not for those of us who are still larger. I've experienced it first hand, running is *much* harder when you're heavy! - 1/10/2013 11:11:52 AM
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