A Quick-Start Guide to Running for Busy Moms [Printable Running Plans]

Running is a great sport for busy moms.  It can be done virtually anywhere, nearly any time of day, and packs a big “punch” in terms of fitness gained per minute of activity spent.
All the equipment you need is:
  • A good pair of running shoes.  My personal favorite are Brooks Adrenaline.  They’re perfect for my flat feet and tendency to pronate (rotate inward), but your perfect pair may be different. Plenty of sports stores in the city will offer you a complimentary running gait analysis and shoe recommendation.  I’ll admit to making most of my purchases on Amazon these days, but this is one purchase worth making an in-person visit to Sports Basement, Fleet Feet or A Runner’s Mind for.

  • A running stroller, if you’re running with little one(s) in tow.  I’ve logged many miles with my Mountain Buggy Urban Jungle, but there are many great stroller options out there.  Just be sure to run with a stroller specifically designed for running, and only run once your child is old enough to be safely secured inside, usually around six months.

My 25+ years of running have included not only dozens of marathons, half-marathons and shorter distances, but also many returns from injury, and two returns from pregnancies.  During these times I was reminded of what it’s like to be a first-time runner again.  Below are two 4-week running plans for new moms, based on this experience.  If you’re looking for organized training runs, coaching expertise, and the camaraderie of a group, the San Francisco Road Runners Club (SFRRC) is a wonderful club in the city with coaches who specialize in “Running 101.”  I’ve run with SFRRC for over ten years and can’t recommend them highly enough!

Now, on to the training plans.  If you’re a somewhat experienced runner who’s maybe taken a bit of time off and just need some help getting back into the swing of things, try Plan #2.  If you’re a brand new runner, try Plan #1.

Plan #1

Goal: Run/walk 3 days per week for 30-45 minutes each

Basic principles:

Use a combination of running and walking. Popularized by Olympian Jeff Galloway, the “run-walk-run” method involves running for a set number of minutes, followed by walking for a set number of minutes, and repeating for the duration of your run.  As your fitness level improves, gradually decrease the number of walking minutes and increase the number of running minutes.  For example, you may start by running 1 minute and walking 10 minutes (1:10), then gradually shifting to 2:10  then 2:9, then 2:8, etc.  The goal is not to eliminate walking entirely, rather it’s to enable you to run further and faster by giving your leg muscles a brief respite in between periods of running.

SFRRC Running 101 Coach, Katy McMahon, who is also a mom to twin 20 month old girls, offers this encouragement for new runners:

Can you only run for one minute and you walk the next twenty-nine? That’s great! Next time, try running for two minutes, then three and so on.

Your “rest” days in Plan #1 can be complete rest, or you can incorporate some light yoga (I love YogaGlo), stretching or core work.

Running Plan #1 (click plan to print)

running plans

At the end of the 4 weeks, you have a few options:

  • Maintain this fitness level by continuing Week 4’s workouts indefinitely

  • Increase your fitness level by adding minutes to the 3 run/walks per week, aiming to get to 3 x 60-minute run/walks per week

  • Increase your fitness level by adding a day or two of run/walking each week, such that you’re run/walking 4-5 days each week

  • Increase your fitness level by continuing to increase your running time and decrease your walking time for each of your run/walk sessions
  • You might even consider signing up for a 5-K run!  5K = 3.1 miles.  If you’re running 45+ minutes at a time, you’re most likely covering this distance every time you run.

If you ran pre-pregnancy and are working to regain some of this fitness, Plan #2 may work best for you. Coach Katy McMahon suggests moms returning to running do so gradually, paying attention to your body’s signals and being accepting of what your body can do now, even though it may be different from what you could do pre-pregnancy.

Listen to your body. After being pregnant, you know the difference between sore and pain. If it is muscle soreness, take it easy for a day or so but then get back at it. If it’s pain, take a break for a while and maybe try again in a week or so. Don’t think about what you “can’t do” or what you “could do before”, focus on what you can do now. Look at what your body just did! You carried a baby for nine months and then gave birth to that baby. You are caring for your baby night and day. Look at the great example you are already setting for your child by getting out and running! You are a mom and you are amazing!

Plan #2

Goal: Run 3-4 days per week for 45-60 minutes each

Basic principles:

Run one or two runs per week at a steady, comfortable pace.  One of your weekly runs will push your pace a bit, over an extended period of time, and one of your weekly runs will challenge you with short sprints or hill repeats.  Do not be afraid.  I’m not talking about Usain Bolt-level speed work, nor hill repeats at a 45-degree incline.  But living in San Francisco does offer a big advantage for us runners in that we have some wonderful hills here for training!

Your “rest” days can be complete rest, or you could incorporate some light yoga, stretching or core work.

Running Plan #2 (click plan to print)

running plans
Good luck!  I’d love to hear how your running goes, or if you have any questions along the way.  You can reach me at @runningjen.  Happy running!



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