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Run Into Shape: 30-Day Running Challenge

We all know how to run (you can thank your fight-or-flight hormones for that). But the great part about running for exercise—besides these 11 Science-Backed Reasons Running Is Really Good for You—is that you can always get better at it, whether you're naturally skilled at pounding the pavement or someone who runs, well, only when someone's chasing you. 

Looking to run faster? Want to increase your endurance? Just want to get out there and start running? We teamed up with Jess Underhill, a running coach and the owner of Race Pace Wellness, to develop a 30-day #RunIntoShape challenge that will help you become a better runner in just one month. Seriously.

We've got quick warm-up moves you'll actually do, cooldown stretches that will make you feel amazing, and an easy-to-follow weekly calendar, including your running workouts, cross-training session, and rest days (because those are important too!).

Whatever your running goal, follow along for the tips and tricks you need to keep moving forward. In 30 days, you'll be able to outrun anything—especially any self-doubt. 

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#RunIntoShape 30-Day Challenge

Here's How It Works

Check it out: Underhill devised this easy-to-follow, weekly schedule to help you become a faster, stronger runner. The good news? That doesn't mean you need to hit the pavement every day! This mix of running, strength training, and—of course—recovery will keep your body primed to move all month long.

Mondays: Steady State Easy Run
Tuesdays: Speed Run + Interval Training
Wednesdays: Strength Training
Thursdays: Tempo Run
Fridays: Upper Body + Core Strength
Saturdays: Long Run
Sundays: Rest + Recover

Photo: Peter Ardito

Warm-up Exercises

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Repeat 1-2 times.

Walking Lunge with Rotation: Start in a standing position. Extend both arms out in front of body at shoulder height. Bringing palms to touch, take a big step forward with right leg and bend both knees while rotating torso and arms over the right leg. Return to standing position and repeat on left side.

High Knees: Run quickly in place, exaggerating form by bringing knees up toward chest. Be sure to keep elbows close to body when pumping arms and make sure to land on toes.

Lateral Lunge with Side Stretch: From standing position, take a wide lateral step with right leg, bending right knee while keeping toes pointed forward and left leg straight. Reach right arm up overhead towards the straight left leg for an inner thigh and side body stretch.

Butt Kicks: Run quickly in place and lean slightly forward, exaggerating form by trying to kick butt with heels. Keep core engaged and swing arms as if running.

Runner’s Lunge: Start in a high plank position. Step right foot to the outside of right hand and lift right hand up toward sky, rotating torso and gazing at right hand. Return right hand to ground, step right foot back to meet the left and repeat on the other side.

Photo: Peter Ardito

Cooldown Exercises

Perform 10 reps of each stretch on each side of the body.

Kneeling Hip Stretch: From a kneeling position, step right foot out in front of body to form a 90-degree angle at the knee. Lift arms straight up overhead, shifting hips forward so that knee goes past foot while tucking hips under. Return hips to starting position and repeat. 

Calf Stretch: From downward dog, reach both heels towards the ground. Bend and straighten right knee 10 times, then switch and do the same thing on the left side.

Glute Stretch: From a standing position, shift weight to left leg, cross right ankle over left knee, and bend left knee deeply as if doing a squat. Come back up to stand and repeat 10 times, then repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Stretch: From a standing position, step right leg out in front of body. Keeping right leg straight, take a small bend in the left leg, bring hands to hips, and hinge forward at the hips while reaching chest toward the the straight front right leg. Stop when you feel a stretch in the hamstring and return to standing. Complete 10 reps on the right side, then switch to the left leg.

Quad Stretch: From a standing position, bend right knee, bringing heel toward butt. Reach back with right hand to grab right foot or ankle to stretch the quads. Take a little bend in the left leg, hinging forward over left leg while reaching toward the ground (you do not have to touch the ground). Slowly come back up to stand while still holding the quad stretch. Repeat 10 times before switching to the left side.

Day 1

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Photo: Shutterstock

Calculate Your Pace

Calculate your 5K, 10K, and marathon paces. First, see how long it takes you to run a mile. Then, ask yourself, how much faster would you want to run? That's your goal pace. Plug that info into a pace calculator—the most well-known and most widely used calculator is the McMillian Calculator—and voilà! They do the math for you.

Day 2

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Photo: New Balance

Go for Your First Long Run

Go for your first long run at an easy pace—shoot for a total run time of about 40 minutes. You should easily be able to carry on a conversation with a running partner. If you have to speak in choppy sentences or can’t speak at all, you are running too fast. (Training for something specific? We've got training plans that cover everything from the Beginner's Guide to Running a 5K to a 12-Week Marathon Training Plan.)

Day 3

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Photo: Shutterstock

Roll It Out

Spend 10 minutes foam rolling today. Not sure what to do? Here are 5 Hot Spots to Roll Out Before Every Workout. Foam rolling should not be painful or cause bruising—a little discomfort is OK, but if an area is particularly tight or tender, consider booking an appointment with a physical therapist.

Day 4

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Build Your Base

Extend your easy-paced run by five minutes.

Day 5

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Go for an Interval Run

Total Run Time = 40 minutes

Run for 20 minutes at an easy pace, then run 1:00 hard/1:00 easy. Repeat 6 times. After you’ve completed your intervals, cool down by running at an easy pace for eight minutes. 

Day 6

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Strength Train

Challenge yourself to complete 3-5 extra reps of each exercise in today’s 20-minute, total-body strength training session. If you do this routine before a run, it will activate all the muscles your body calls into play while running and primes you do move more efficiently, which will help you run farther and faster. If you don't activate the right muscles, you can still run—it'll just feel a lot harder. Do this workout on your non-running days, and it will help build up all the muscles you'll use next time you hit the ground running.

Day 7

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Photo: New Balance

Go for a Tempo Run

Total Run Distance = 5 miles

Run two miles at an easy pace, then run three miles at your 10K pace. 

Day 8

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A
B

Do Plank Up Downs

This move works on core stabilization. When you run, the first thing that happens is your core wraps around the spine (to protect it) and your abs engage (that's where your power comes from). To run with good form (which will help you run farther and faster), you need to have a strong and stable core.

A.

Start in a plank position with hands and feet shoulder-width apart and abs engaged.

B.

Quickly bend left arm and lower down onto left forearm. Repeat with right arm. Immediately place left hand under shoulder and straighten left arm, pressing body up. Repeat with right arm to return to plank position. That's one rep.

Day 9

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Photo: New Balance

Go for a Long Run

If your goal is to run farther by the end of the month, run for 10 minutes longer than you did during last week’s long run. If your goal is to go faster, run one more mile. 

Day 10

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Photo: Corbis Images

Foam Roll

Foam roll for 10 minutes, focusing on your glutes and hamstrings.

Day 11

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Go for an Easy Run

Run for 35-45 minutes at an easy pace. At the end of your run, perform a cadence check: Count each time your right foot hits the ground over the course of 60 seconds. Multiply that number by two. That's your stride rate.

An ideal stride rate per minute is between 170 and 190. Generally speaking, a higher stride rate or foot turnover is more desirable than a lower stride rate—a fast turnover will help reduce over-striding, decrease skeletal impact, and allow for faster accelerations.

To improve your stride rate, keep your feet directly underneath you as much as possible while running, lean slightly forward at the ankles, and do not allow your feet to reach out in front of your body, even when running downhill.

Day 12

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Photo: New Balance

Run Hill Repeats

Total Run Distance = 4 miles

Run for one mile at an easy pace, then run up hill for 1/4 of a mile at a fast pace. Run back down the hill at a slow enough pace that you can catch your breath. Repeat three times for a total of four hill repeats. After you’ve completed four hill repeats, run one mile at an easy pace to cool down. Focus on uphill and downhill running form.

Day 13

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Strengthen Your Glutes

The glutes help stabilize the pelvis and propel us forward while running. Most of us sit all day, which can lead to tight hip flexors, which can be an actual pain in the butt for runners. So if we don’t strengthen our glutes and teach them to continuously fire while we run, they can shut down all together. Glutes that don’t fire properly are the source of common running injuries such as illiotibial band syndrome, shin-splints, and runner’s knee. For today's workout, try 7 Glute Exercises to Combat Dead Butt Syndrome.

Day 14

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Photo: New Balance

Go for a Tempo Run

Total Run Distance = 5 miles 

As you speed up or slow down, your stride changes. Today’s tempo run will have you varying your paces. Take notice of any form or stride changes that take place.

Run one mile at an easy pace, 1/2 mile at 10K pace, 1/2 mile at 5K pace, 1/2 mile at below 10K pace, 1/2 mile at a recovery pace, 1/2 mile at below 5K pace, 1/2 mile at 5K pace, and 1/2 mile at 10K pace. Run 1/2 mile at an easy pace to recover.

Day 15

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A
B

Do Side Planks with Knee Drives

This is another move that works on core stabilization. When you're working on speed or running hills, you pump your arms more than you would on a flat road/easy run. That pumping engages your obliques and involves a little rotation in your core, so you need to have those muscles trained and strong so they can help you power through. (It has a cyclical effect: The more you pump your arms, the more engaged your abs are—and the more you engage your abs, the more you can pump your arms.)

A.

Start laying on side with body propped up on left elbow and forearm, feet stacked. Raise hips so body forms a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Lift right leg so it hovers an inch or so off bottom leg. 

B.

Bend right arm so hand is behind right ear, then bend right knee toward elbow, crunching inward until elbow touches knee. That's one rep.

Day 16

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Go for a Long Run

Today’s goal is to nail even splits—running each mile at the same pace—during your long run. Relax your shoulders and focus on your breath to maintain an even pace. Your breath rate will tell you when you’ve increased your speed or when you’ve slowed down. 

If your goal is to go farther by the end of the month, run for 10 minutes longer than you did during last week’s long run. If your goal is to go faster, run one more mile.

Day 17

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Photo: Corbis Images

Chill Out

Visualize yourself achieving your goal. Lie down in savasana for five minutes and envision every moment of your run.

Day 18

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Go for an Easy Run

Total Run Distance: 4 miles

Run the hilliest course you can find. Running hills is a natural way to build leg strength. 

Day 19

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Go for an Interval Run

Total Run Time: 48 minutes

Run for 10 minutes at an easy pace to warm up, then run faster than a 5K pace for five minutes, recover for two minutes. Repeat three times for a total of four intervals. After completing the intervals, run for 10 minutes at an easy pace to cool down.

Day 20

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B
C

Do Plyometric Lunges

At the end of today’s strength-training workout, perform two sets of 10 plyometric lunges. Plyometric movements build your explosive power, which is going to make any kind of running feel a little easier by bringing your body to its anaerobic threshold, which trains you to work at your max intensity and to be more efficient with oxygen so moderate exercise will feel easy in comparison.

 

 

A.

Begin in lunge position with right foot in front, arms clasped in front of chest. 

B.

Using power from your legs, jump up and switch legs in the air. 

C.

Land in lunge with left foot in front.

Day 21

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Photo: New Balance

Do a Classic Tempo Run

Total Run Distance: 5 miles

Run for two miles at an easy pace then run for three miles at 10K pace. 

Day 22

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A
B

Do Single-Arm Planks

A strong, stable core is key for runners. And planks are one of the best ways to challenge all the muscles in your core, not just your abdominals. Up the ante with single-arm planks, which add a balance challenge to the classic exercise, making it that much more likely to deliver results.

A.

Start in a plank position with feet hip-width apart. 

B.

Begin to raise right arm while keeping left hand grounded, hips stable and square. Hold this position as long as possible while maintaining form, then return to start. Repeat on the other side.

Day 23

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Photo: New Balance

Go for a Long Run

Run the second half of your run faster than the first half—that's called a negative split. Running a negative split race takes practice, patience, and mental toughness. When you reach the halfway point of today’s long run, drop your pace by :20-:30 seconds per mile. 

If your goal is to go longer by the end of the month, run for 10 minutes longer than you did during last week’s long run. If your goal is to go faster, run one more mile.

Day 24

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Foam Roll

Foam roll for 10 minutes, focusing on your quads and calves.

Day 25

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Photo: New Balance

Run Fast

Total Run Time: 40-50 minutes

At the end of today’s easy-paced run, do five striders—short accelerations over a short period of time often done at the end of a run. Start off running slow, gradually building speed until you reach an almost maximum pace. Hold on to that fast pace for five to 10 seconds, then slow down.

The point of striders is to work on foot turnover, help with form (form changes naturally when you're running fast), and to help create muscle memory for the body to be able to move quickly after running at a steady pace. 

Day 26

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Go for an Interval Run

After warming up by running one mile at an easy pace, run 1/4 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow. Repeat that six times. Run one more mile to cool down.

Day 27

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A
B

Do Plyometric Squats

A.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands clasped in front of chest, and descend into a squat position.

B.

Explosively push upward, jumping as high as you can. Make sure to drive through heels and not toes. Upon landing, immediately squat down. That's one rep.

 

Day 28

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Photo: New Balance

Go for a Progressive Tempo Run

Take things up a notch this week with a progressive tempo run.

Run two miles at 10K pace, one mile at 5K pace, and one mile at faster than 5K pace.

Day 29

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A

Do Reverse Planks

Reverse planks strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and shoulders. Going into a plank in a different way surprises your body, calling in new muscles and new stabilizers.

A.

Sit on the floor, legs extended out straight in front of body. Place palms on the floor slightly behind hips and press off ground, lifting hips and torso toward the ceiling. Look up, point toes, and keep arms and legs straight, forming a straight line from head to heels. 

Day 30

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Photo: New Balance

Finish Your Long Run Fast

Run the last mile of your long run as fast as you can.

If your goal is to go longer by the end of the month, run for 10 minutes longer than you did during last week’s long run. If your goal is to go faster, run one more mile.

Keep Up the Good Work!

Write down a word or phrase that motivates you to keep going when you want to quit. While resting with your legs up the wall, close your eyes and repeat the word or phrase over and over again for one minute. Acknowledge how far you've come, then thing about what's next: Are you ready to train for your first 5K? Think you could run a half marathon? Want to start training for a full marathon? Whatever your goal, you got this!

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