Lifestyle Design

7 Tips to Choose a Running Training Program

I started running last year.  Deciding to do a Triathlon BEFORE I was skilled at running was probably not my best choice.  But you only live once right!

Here are some tips to get you started right, fit the training program to your PERSONAL fitness goals and above all avoid injury but training right.

1.  Why are you running? Are you running for better cardiovascular health?  Are you running to lose weight?  Are you competitive and looking to enter a race?  Your reasons for running will help you determine how to begin a running training program.  Your “why” will also be your best motivating factor, make sure you are crystal clear!

2.  How fit are you? If you’re just starting to train right off the couch then your training program will have to take certain things into consideration. Even though I trained last year, since I took time off to recover from an injury, I am starting off with a “couch to 5km” program. Slow and steady improvements that avoid injury is the best strategy. However if you’re simply switching aerobic activities or are integrating running into an already ongoing fitness program then you’ll be a few steps ahead.

3.  Start slow.  Whether you’re new to running and a fitness program or you’ve been training for quite some time and are adding running into your program it’s important to start small.  Rushing out and running ten miles will only result in overuse injuries like muscle tears, sprains, and strains.  I love that I turned 40 this year, but I am definitely noticing the difference in my body, not that I am not capable, but that I have to treat it with respect.   I spent 50% of my training session last year recovering from overuse injury.  This year I am taking more of a “Minimum Effective Dose” strategy, Tim Ferris describes this in his new book, The 4 Hour Body, which says “the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.”  This can be used for exercise and for food.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

4.   Consider a walking/running program if you’re new to running.  Even if you’re training for a marathon, if you’ve never run before you’ll want to begin slowly.  One successful way to accomplish this and still strive for your long term goals is to walk/run.  This program incorporates rotating walking and running.  For example you may walk for ten minutes and run for two and alternate that for a predetermined amount of time or miles.  As your fitness improves you’ll shorten the amount of time you’re walking and run more until you’re eventually running for the full duration.

5.  If you’re training for a race, make finishing your primary objective if you’ve never run before. Races are a great motivator however your competitive nature may cause you to overdue your training which can result in injuries, frustration, and disappointment.  Instead of striving for a win or to attain a specific time, focus on finishing the race feeling strong and healthy.  That means if you’re running a 5K then train to make sure you can finish the 3.1miles comfortably.  Race day adrenaline usually ensures you’ll run faster than normal so you can relax and know you’re going to have a personal best without pushing yourself too hard.

6.   Train for time or speed. When beginning a running training program it’s easy to want to train for both distance and speed.  Focus on one or the other. Training for both is detrimental to your overall fitness and will likely slow down success.  For example, choose to aim for running a 6 minute mile or to run 10 miles, not both.  If you’re training for distance you’ll gradually add distance onto your training runs and if you’re training for speed you’ll incorporate intervals into your training.  I am personally working on speed, I want to complete a 5k race in 30 minutes.

7.   Interval training for speed. Interval training is an approach which results in increasing your speed without overdoing it and risking injuries.  For example, if you regularly run 3 miles and your average running time is 11 minutes, totaling 33 minutes per workout and you want to increase your speed to 9 minute miles then you might run for 5 minutes at your 11 minute pace and then run for two minutes at a 9 minute mile pace.  You’ll do this two or three times per workout.  You can increase the frequency of your sprints and your overall speed will increase.

When beginning a running training program it’s helpful to set a date to reach your goals, keeping in mind that running ten miles overnight isn’t realistic.  Before you set that date, determine what your goals are and why you’re running and then head out for a ‘trial’ workout to set a baseline.  From that baseline you’ll be able to chart a program which is realistic and attainable.

Why don’t you check out our January Mini-Challenge? If you are brand new to running, the program starts with a 30 minute walk and at the end of four weeks you will be running 5-7 minutes.

Photo Credit: by lululemon athletica

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