If you're looking for a book that will help you start running in a sustainable way, look no further than Alberto Salazar's Guide to Running. Don't expect any shortcuts on the road to developing yourself into a runner.
Salazar, one of the world's most famous marathoners, advocates a year-long process that will help you run 20 minutes. No, that's not a typo; in Chapter 2, Salazar discusses his one-year training program for building up to 20-minute workouts.
While that may seem funny coming from Salazar, who ran 2:08:13 in the New York marathon in 1981 and was known for his high mileage, he writes, "Not that I'm the poster child for practicing what I am now preaching. In my racing days, I measured 'fitness' by the number of miles I logged a week, and I felt 'unfit' if it was less than 100 to 110. To some degree, that's necessary to perform at the elite level. But my career, as long as it was, might have lasted longer if I had been less driven about logging mileage for the sake of mileage."
Salazar explains that it's important for beginners to slowly build up to running "because you need to train two different bodily systems; cardiovascular and musculoskeletal. The two systems progress at different rates, with different training needs. Your cardiovascular system (and your muscles) progress rapidly, but bones, tendons, and ligaments need time to adjust to the jarring impact of sustained running and shouldn't be subjected to lenghty outings until you're ready - a process that takes several months."
He recommends that you begin with six-minute workouts, of which you can spend a total of three minutes running by alternating minutes of walking and slow running. "That will probably feel so easy you'll almost think it's a waste of time, and you'll be tempted to leap ahead to running 10, 12, or even 15 minutes an outing. Remember, that's the fast track to injury. Remind yourself that even if your heart, lungs, and muscles can handle the sterss, your bones and tendons probably can't; if you keep it up, something will eventually break down."
Salazar recommends a couple of weeks of these six-minute outings (on at least 3 but no more than 5 days per week). Then you can try adding 1 minute of running and 1 minute of walking, for a total of 8 minutes a workout - "an increment that should still feel absurdly easy."
Salazar's book provides full schedules and is easy to read. If you're thinking of taking up running to make it a manageable, fun and sustainably healthy part of your lifestyle, please pick up a copy of this book.