When I first started running at the age of 10, it was a pretty simple idea. Do what coach tells you to do in practice and then run as fast as you can in the race. Done. I didn’t think about pace, strategy, speed workouts or rest days. I did what I was told and that was that. Well, come to find out, it’s still pretty simple but just not that simple. I’ve heard people say, “I’m just going to run X miles every day and I’ll build mileage that way” when asked about their training strategy. That’s isn’t necessarily a terrible way to go, but I have found another route to be more effective and less painful.
If a novice runner comes to me for advice on how to get started, I provide them with this 3-month Get Started program. Do these runs three days a week for the designated weeks and you will be on your way to your first 5K!
Month One, Week One-Week Two:
-5 minute walking warm-up -1 minute run (at an out-of-breath pace)/2 minute recovery walk-repeat for 21 minutes -4 minute walking cool down (a continuation of your 2 minute walk recovery)
Month One, Week Three-Week Four:
-5 minute walking warm-up -.25 mile run/2 minute recovery walk-repeat 6-8 times -5 minute walking cool down
Month Two, Week One-Week Two:
-5 minute walking warm-up -.5 mile run, 2 minute walking recovery-repeat two-three times -5 minute walking cool down
Month Two, Week Three-Week Four:
-5 minute walking warm-up -1 mile run, 3-4 minute walking recovery-repeat two-three times -3 minute walking cool down
Month Three, Week One-Two:
-5 minute walking warm-up -2 mile run -5 minute walking cool down
Month Three, Week Three:
-5 minute walking warm-up -2.5 mile jog
Month Three, Week Four:
-3 mile jog
Definitions: Run: A pace that doesn’t allow for you to hold a conversation beyond a few words you can spit out between breaths. Walking recovery: A pace that allows you to fully catch your breath before you go into your next run (as slow as you like since this doesn’t add to your mileage) Warm-up: A brisk walk that is almost a run Cool down: A walking pace that first allows you to catch your breath and then becomes a comfortably fast walking pace. Jog: A run at a conversational pace that is meant to be kept consistent throughout the workout.
Here’s the thing, your body was meant to run in a way and at a pace that is specific to you and your gait. That gait is most natural at a faster clip than at a super-slow jog. When your legs have a chance to stretch out over a longer stride, you engage a variety of muscles at different points in your stride, which makes for less strain on one muscle group (I’m looking at you, quadriceps). I’m not saying that you aren’t a good runner if you run 10-12 minute miles, I am saying that you will feel better and run more comfortably at a faster pace for fewer miles at a time (until you can build into the longer miles) than at a slower one. When you run slowly, you run right on top of your hips because your stride is so short. This makes life very difficult for your quadriceps and your hips, but doesn’t let your fabulous hamstrings and glutes get involved. Stride it out, people! You can build mileage this way, too, and avoid those overuse stress injuries so many novice runners experience.
Yesterday, my client Tampa said to me, “I started running my 3 mile runs at 9 minutes per mile (instead of her regular 10 minute pace) and I feel soooooo much better! And it didn’t even feel that different.” I love it when that happens! You go, Tampa!
See? You can do it! You can run
So give it a try. Run faster for shorter distances and build your mileage that way. Now go out and run!