Starting a running program can be an intimidating experience for anyone who’s possibly tried a few times and found it to be less than fun or rewarding. These four programs are designed to change that. They will help you get started with as little discomfort as possible and progress well within your body’s ability.
The four-week 5 KM program is for anyone starting with no previous running experience. The 10-week 10 KM program starts with the four weeks from the 5 KM schedule to get you going. The 18-week half-marathon and 26-week full marathon programs are for those who are already comfortable with running and are looking at improving their respective times.
If you’re starting from zero, let your body tell you when you’re running comfortably with a couple methods. First, use the ‘talk’ test. If you’re able to carry on a coherent conversation while running, then you’re going at a pace your body can handle.
Second, if you’re hearing footsteps more than breathing, then your pace is good. If you’ve gone too fast and you’re out of breath or can only reply with one word answers, slow to a walk, catch your breath and start running again, but more slowly than before.
All of the training plans are built around three days of running per week with the addition of an easy walk or optional days. Keeping the training plan to three days ensures most people can fit it into their already busy schedules.
The 5 KM and 10 KM programs are designed not to be too daunting while establishing the new running habit. With the half and full marathon programs, the optional days are for those who feel they have to do more running. But be warned, these optional days are meant to be easy 20 minute runs to help put the body and mind through the motion only, while saving yourself for the longer or faster workouts!
Hills, fartlek, intervals? What are these and why? In the half and full marathon programs I have suggested these ‘quality’ workouts to help with a couple things. Hills develop strength and power to make a transition for improving your running speed. Fartlek is a Swedish term meaning ‘speed play’ and is a great way to ease into faster running without the stress of pre-measured precision or recovery times. Lastly, intervals are pre-measured distances (400 m and/or 800 m) for running at a predetermined pace and recovering for a prescribed time then repeating.
When doing any of these workouts, plan for a 10 minute easy warm-up prior to and a cooldown following the workout.
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A dynamic warm up prior to workouts helps with getting the joints moving and acts as a gentle warning to the cardiovascular system saying ‘awesome we’re going for a workout!’
Don’t try to be Perfect
Remember to follow the 80/20 rule – 80 percent of the time be good about following the program and 20 percent of the time don’t worry. You’re human, you’ll miss the occasional workout. Consistency 80 percent of the time will easily accommodate the occasional change in plans. Just don’t make the 20 percent always fall on the long run day!
Join a group or have a training buddy. This helps on the questionable body, mind or weather days when that little voice says ‘Perhaps I can use my 20 percent pass today!’ Knowing you have training partners will change the message of that little voice to ‘they’ll be expecting me’ or ‘I really enjoy having someone to run with.’
Stretching comfortably and gently following a workout can help with a greater range of muscle movement and help diminish tightness of the running-specific muscle groups.