Updated: January 08, 2014
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Even if you've never considered yourself capable of participating in a 10K race, you'll be ready to go by the end of this program. Created exclusively for SHAPE by competitive marathon runner and sports therapist Phil Wharton, co-author of The Whartons' Cardio-Fitness Book (Three Rivers Press, 2001), The Whartons' Strength Book (Times Books, 1999) and The Whartons' Stretch Book (Times Books, 1996), the 12-week program packs two workouts into one.

Three weekly walk/run plans will build your cardio endurance to ensure a race-ready body. The bonus? You'll boost confidence by setting small goals and progressively achieving them.

With this easy-to-follow program, you'll burn significant calories, see an incredible boost in your energy, reduce your risk for disease and, best of all, feel great about yourself. Keep reading to get in race-ready shape!

The Cardio Workout

Frequency: You'll be walking/running 3 days a week-either outdoors or on a treadmill (for hill/stair reps, try a stair climber). You'll also be doing a stretch/strength workout 2 days a week, and have 1 rest day, so strive to stagger those in between your cardio days.

Pacing: If you're just starting out, walk briskly until you're ready to run. If running feels uncomfortable, slow your gait or power-walk. If your goal is to walk a 10k, just substitute walking during all running sequences.

Warm-up: Before walking/running, perform 3-4 reps of glute and quadriceps stretches, which will increase your circulation. Follow this with 5 minutes of easy walking.

Cool-down: Perform 3-4 reps of glute and quadriceps stretches, adding additional stretches if you have time.

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Next up: See your cardio workout calendar

Your 12-Week Cardio Calendar

Week 1

Day 1: 10 min. easy run

Day 2: 12 min. of intervals, alternating 1 min. easy run with 1 min. moderate run

Day 3: 12 min. easy run

Week 2

Day 1: 12 min. easy run

Day 2: 12 min. of intervals, alternating 1 min. easy run with 1 min. moderate run

Day 3: 15 min. easy run

Week 3

Day 1: 15 min. easy run

Day 2: 15 min. of intervals, alternating 1 min. easy run with 1 min. moderate run

Day 3: 17 min. easy run

Week 4

Day 1: 15 min. of hill/stair reps, alternating 1 min. moderate run up with 1 min. easy run down

Day 2: 17 min. easy run

Day 3: 20 min. easy run

Week 5

Day 1: 17 min. of hill/stair reps, alternating 1 min. moderate run up with 1 min. easy run down

Day 2: 20 min. easy run

Day 3: 25 min. of intervals, alternating 5 min. easy run with 5 min. moderate run

Week 6

Day 1: 25 min. easy run

Day 2: 25 min. of intervals, alternating 30 seconds easy run with 30 seconds moderate run

Day 3: Run a 5k race! (3.1 miles)

Week 7

Day 1: 24 min. moderate run

Day 2: 25 min. of intervals, alternating 1 min. easy run/1 min. moderate run/1 min. fast run

Day 3: 35 min. of intervals, alternating 5 min. easy run with 5 min. moderate run

Week 8

Day 1: 40 min. of intervals, alternating 1 min. moderate run with 1 min. easy run

Day 2: 35 min. of hill/stair reps, alternating 2 min. moderate run up with 2 min. easy run down

Day 3: 40 min. of city-block/telephone-pole intervals: alternate running 1 block (or 1 pole to pole) easy with running 2 blocks (or 2 poles) fast

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Week 9

Day 1: 45 min. moderate run

Day 2: 35 min. of hill/stair reps, alternating 2 min. moderate run up with 2 min. easy run down

Day 3: 45 min. of long intervals, alternating 10 min. moderate run with 5 min. easy run

Week 10

Day 1: 50 min. of city-block/telephone-pole intervals: alternate running 1 block (or pole) easy with 3 blocks (or poles) fast

Day 2: 45 min. of hill/stair reps, alternating 5 min. moderate run up with 5 min. easy run down

Day 3: 50 min. moderate run

Week 11

Day 1: 40 min. of long intervals, alternating 5 min. easy run/20 min. moderate run/5 min. easy run/10 min. moderate run

Day 2: 50 min. of hill/stair reps, alternating 5 min. moderate run up with 5 min. easy run down

Day 3: 50 min. of short intervals, alternating 30 seconds easy run with 30 seconds fast run

Week 12

Day 1: 55 min. moderate run

Day 2: 25 min. of short intervals, alternating 30 seconds easy run with 30 seconds moderate run

Day 3: Run a 10k race! (6.2 miles)

Next up: Final preparation for your race

Make It a Marathon (26.2 miles)

Do the time: You'll need 6 months of progressive training with 6 weeks of mini-goal cycles, building distance. Progress from our 10k program by adding 5 minutes to one run a week. By week 24, you should be doing one 2-hour run every 2 weeks. Don't do more long runs, or you may not get to the starting line healthy.

Push the stretching: Strive to stretch before and after you walk/run, and go for the deepest stretch your body will allow. This will help prevent training injuries and increase performance.

Train on soft stuff: Surfaces like grass, wood chips or asphalt (rather than cement) minimize wear and tear on joints.

Listen to your body: Get lots of rest. Don't be afraid to slow your gait when you get tired. If you feel you're not recovering from your training, back off for a week or two until you're feeling strong again.

Enjoy the process: Focus on race day, but don't forget to relish the daily training.

Fuel up: Eat even more healthfully and drink even more. Sports drinks are ideal for events lasting 60 minutes or longer, providing carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluid. Aim for 4-6 ounces every 15-20 minutes, throughout the race. Be sure to eat the right preworkout foods before the big day.

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