6 Simple Steps: Building a Consistent Running Routine

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It can be tricky to build up a running routine, never mind sticking to it, especially when busy life can get in the way. So to help with that, Run in the Dark coach and international endurance athlete John O’Regan, who has over 50 marathons to his name, shared 6 simple steps with us.

1. Setting up a Plan

A ‘one size fits all’ programme might not suit everyone, but are a great place to start, and with a bit of tweaking you should be able to tailor the plan to suit yourself by simply swapping training days with rest days. Try to follow a pattern to prevent bunching all your training days together followed by too many rest days. As a guide, try avoiding having more than three run days together or more than two rest days. This might not always be possible but try that format when you can.

2. Scheduling

Try fitting the training sessions around your life rather than trying to fit your life around the exercise; you’ll find that this will make it less stressful and more enjoyable. Find gaps in your schedule and fill them with exercise.

Use your time wisely, and try to fit in your session at the first available opportunity, as it lessens the chance of something unexpected resulting in a change of plan.

It might take a week or two to work out the times and days that suit you best, and when you find windows of opportunity that fit into your day, then claim them for you. It might even mean sacrificing one of your favourite TV programmes, but you can always record that for later.

3. Rest Days

Remember, there are no set rules for what you do or when you do it, but don’t be tempted to run every day even if you have the available time. An excess of anything can be harmful. Rest is an essential part of the training cycle, and you must include rest days as part of your routine.

4. When to Eat?

Fuelling up right before you head out isn’t as important as refuelling when you return, so don’t focus primarily on eating in advance. Waiting for food to digest can also “eat” into your available time; then there’s the food preparation time. You could have been out and back by the time your food has settled.

5. How much to eat?

Refuelling is relative to your energy expenditure, and for a beginner, you will probably need less than you realise. You might not need anything besides your regular meals, so don’t be tempted to start downing a 500 ml Sports drink or packet of biscuits. Water will probably be enough, or if you feel the need for something more substantial, then try a small glass of chocolate milk.

6. Add-ons

Cross-training and active recovery can fill in the gaps in your routine once it’s anything other than running. Try going for a leisurely walk at an easy pace, cycle, or even a swim, but don’t look for a workout in everything you do. Check out these six yoga poses which complement running [insert hyperlink to 6 yoga poses blog]

It’s advisable to consult with your doctor before starting on any new exercise regime if starting from a base of zero fitness and years of inactivity or returning from illness or injury.

About John O’Regan

John O’Regan is the official running coach for Run in the Dark.

John O’Regan has run over 50 marathons and ultra-marathons on seven continents / 20 countries and represented Ireland on ten occasions at ultra-marathon distance. Follow him on Instagram  and Twitter at @johnoregan777.


Run in the Dark

As darkness sweeps around the globe every November, 25,000 people worldwide get up from their armchairs, slip on their red flashing armbands and pull on their running shoes to complete a 5k or 10k. From Sydney to San Francisco, together, we run for those who dream to walk.

Sign up to Run in the Dark from June each year, or join the waitlist and we’ll let you know when registration opens.