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Context: I am a 50-year-old man, out of shape and somehow overweight (by European standards). I would like to prepare for a µ-baby-family triathlon (300 m / 330 yards swimming + 8 km / 5 mi bike + 2.5 km / 1.5 mi run) because it is a reasonable goal for me to get fitter and overall healthier.
I can swim the 300 m, I irregularly bike 2 x 15 km (10 mi) a day to commute to the office. My overall health is OK-ish, I did a general checkup and a targeted cardio one recently.

My problem: the running part is killing me: I am out of breath after a short distance (no pain or anything, just the sensation of having ran 10x the distance)

My question: to reach these 2.5 km(*) is it better to

  • alternate "harder" runs (not sprints yet) and walk in between
  • or run as slowly as needed, but run continuously
  • or something in between?

One of the answers on a vaguely related question mentions High Intensity Interval Training which would point towards the first approach. The questions I found are however mostly about mid to advanced athletes and not a beginner like myself, thus my introduction at the beginning.


(*) it is just one of the three exercises, I am ultimately aiming at doubling the distance for each of them when done separately to have some reserves

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  • I am sorry for such a basic point but I would simply say do it again and again and again and you will improve. Some approaches might be better than others but in the end the important thing is simply to train regularly. Therefore I would pick a method I like and keep trying
    – LulY
    Mar 28 at 20:36
  • @LulY thanks - this is a perfectly reasonable answer. My concern was with the fact that sometimes if you do not reach a specific "something" (speed, heart rate, time, ...)) it is equivalent to doing almost nothing. Or going the super slow way that discourages a lot of people.
    – WoJ
    Mar 29 at 8:00
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    I would highly recommend the Galloway run/walk method of training. But the main thing is consistency.
    – JohnP
    Apr 2 at 13:24

2 Answers 2

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I'm a bit surprised that noboby has mentioned the Couch to 5k programme yet. Obviously this is building to 5k instead of 2.5k but I think it still applies.

This involves walking breaks in between short runs. The runs portions get longer and the walks shorter until you are running for the whole duration. This is, I think, always time based so you run for x minutes, then walk for y minutes. There is no fixed pace.

This worked very well from me. I went from not being able to run at all without significant pain and difficulty to being able to run long distances (quite slowly).

There are a ton of articles about this but here's one - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/get-running-with-couch-to-5k/

You can get various apps so your phone will tell you when to start running and when to stop.

You might need to supplement this with additional training to deal with problems you have. For example I did some extra work on core strength to deal with back pain I was having while running.

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  • +1 while I didn't use Couch to 5K, I started by jogging once round the track and then walk once round the track, then after a week or so, jog two laps walk one, etc. After a only couple of months I was able to run a 5K without walking. Like @WoJ I was in my 50s, out of shape and overweight, but can now less than two years later I can run a 5k in a good time (for my age group), the key is consistency, run regularly and build up slowly. I don't think it is critical exactly how you go about it but run/walk is a good way to start. May 14 at 8:23
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Since as a beginner it's very hard to find the correct "slower" pace from the beginning, where you can do the whole distance but its not so slow that its very easy, i think the best approach is what could be described as interval training, but it's more like see what you can do, and improve yourself.

Pick a speed that you want to train at, e.g. you want to do 5k in 30minutes, or just start running at a speed that feels right for your legs. Start running an see how far you can go. If you are exhausted and need to stop, start walking. If you feel like you can go again (or pick a heart rate, e.g. as soon as you're under 110 again, you start running again). Repeat until you reached your training distance.

You will improve from session to session if you train frequently enough, and rest & eat well. Even if its 10% Running and 90% Walking in the beginning, these ratios will shift with time, until you can run the whole distance.

It helps if you can do the the training on the same route everytime, since you can notice the landmarks where you stopped running the last time and can mentally force yourself to just push yourself a little bit further.

Other strategies will probably also work, but i think this is the best for beginners, because there is no need to assess your abilities and pick the correct speed to the given distance.

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