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Which Training Plan Is The Right One For You?

We break down five popular training programs to find out what may work for you.

It can be intimidating to start running, especially if you’re not sure which training program to choose. These five plans offer something different to each runner. Here’s what you need to know.

Couch to 5K

This beginner program promises to take the non-runner from 0 to 3.1 miles in just nine weeks. The program calls for three workouts per week for about 20-30 minutes each.

By starting slow and not building too fast, this training program tries to strike the right balance between motivation and progress. It cautions against skipping ahead if you feel the workouts are too easy. You can also choose to measure your workouts by either time or distance.

The first workout calls for repeats of 60 seconds of jogging, followed by 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes, not including a warmup walk. By the end of week five, you’re running for 2 miles or 20 minutes without walking.

An accompanying mobile app ($3 on iTunes and Google Play) keeps track of your workouts using your phone’s GPS and includes voice commands to tell you when to walk or run.

RELATED: Couch-To-5K Apps To Get You Up And Running

Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk

This program flips the switch on the idea that runners are only meant to run. Instead it provides a walk break ratio for all runners—from beginners to advanced. The idea is taking strategic walk breaks provides quicker recovery, better control over fatigue, reduced injury risk and improved finish times.

Galloway’s website says shifting from non-stop running to strategic walk breaks results in an average of a 7-minute faster half marathon and 13-minute faster marathon. The site includes training programs for every race from a 5K to a full marathon, with lots of tips along the way.

A calculator on the site helps you figure out your own personal walk-break ratio. It also helps define where your training and race paces would be based on a one-mile trial run.

There are a number of training apps under Galloway’s name for various distances run. They cost anywhere from $4 to $20 in the App Store. Galloway also offers individual training programs for all distances at a cost of $397 for new registrants or $277 for alumni of the training program.

RELATED: Jeff Galloway’s Race Recovery Tips

McMillan Training

Enter a recent time of a race or even just a fast mile and McMillan’s calculator will spit out predictions for other distances, as well as training paces for everything from easy runs to long runs and tempos to intervals. It also provides heart rate targets if that’s something you keep track of.

That’s all free. For an additional fee starting at $80, you can purchase a customized program for various race distances. The site also offers personal coaching for the cost of $199 per month for 12 months.

80/20 Rule

Based on accompanying book by Matt Fitzgerald, the idea of this training plan is that most runners do too many workouts in the moderate-to-intense range without even realizing it.

Instead, 80/20 calls for you to slow down so about 80 percent of your runs are at an easy pace. Meanwhile 20 percent of runs are faster, moderate-to-high intensity rate. Using evidence from studies and elite runners, Fitzgerald says running 80 percent of your runs at a slower pace will make you faster come race day.

So how do you determine what pace you should run with this program? You have to go based on heart rate or perceived exertion, which you can figure out based on your breathing.

The program calls for up to six or even seven runs a week. Moderate or high-intensity runs never falling on back to back days.

Hansons Marathon Method

Hansons Marathon Method does not believe in long runs over 20 miles or high-mileage weekends. Instead, they encourage runners to gradually build up to the moderate-high mileage required for marathon success, spreading those miles more sensibly throughout the week. Easy days are mixed with speed, strength, and tempo workouts.

Whether you’re training for your first or 50th marathon, this book has a training plan for every runner. The new edition features a “Just Finish” training plan for those who want to complete 26.2 but don’t have a strict time goal. There are also detailed training schedules for experienced and advanced marathoners.

RELATED: Are You Making These Marathon Training Mistakes