Everything depends on your level of fitness. Lance Armstrong said running a marathon was the hardest thing he ever did, I’m just happy to finish one. His sub 3 hour marathon equate to my 1/2 marathon time give or take some minutes. The Basics of running are simple, efficiency of stride, lactic acid threshold, base training, patience and determination.
Training plan: If you’re just starting out, I would suggest running 3 times a week. I would also run a 3 week cycle. The first week of the cycle you train at a specific level. The second week you increase by 10-20%. The third week you scale back to lower than first week’s level. This gives your body time to recuperate and prevents injuries. The first week of your next cycle should be increased by 10-15%. After 3 cycles, reduce you first week pace by 10%. This will work – you just need to be patient.
For example: Distance of every run in the week.
Cycle 1: wk1:1km – wk2:1.2km – wk3:0.9km
Cycle 2 : wk1:1.2km – wk2:1.4km – wk3:1.1km
Cycle 3 : wk1:1.4km – wk2:1.6km – wk3:1.3km
Cycle 4 : wk1:1.2km – wk2:1.4km – wk3:1.1km
Cycle 5 : wk1:1.4km – wk2:1.6km – wk3:1.3km
Cycle 6 : wk1:1.6km – wk2:1.8km – wk3:1.4km
I think you get the picture.
The best method to ease into running is the run walk method. Your body should adjust to running more easily using this method. The time you spend running and the time you spend walking depends again on your fitness level. If you need to walk longer or are able to run more, just do it. You run for 30-60 seconds, depending , you walk for 30 seconds. You do this for a week. The next week you increment you run by 10 seconds, but keep the walk to 30 seconds. As the weeks progress you should be able to gain substantial increase you capacity of running. The ideal for the run walk method is to get up to 10 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking, but it all depends on how you feel. Once you are able to keep a pace of 10-1 for 30 minutes you can start to increase the 10 minute run by 10-20% every week.
The pace you should be in is a Zone 1 pace. Zones are calculated by the hearth rate that is attained with physical activity. Zone 1 pace is (220 – your age) X 60 or 70% – I’m 36 , (220bpm – 36) X 70% = 130 bpm. This is a foundation building pace. This pace is used on long runs because it enables your body to manage lactic acid. A friendly fuel when absorbed properly lactic acid becomes running enemy when it is out of control. The longer you can run at this pace, the more your body will improve his capability to absorb the acid. This is endurance building, and it is the first step to having a great run.
Lactic Acid Is Not Muscles’ Foe, It’s Fuel !
If you need to do more sports during the week, cross training should be your choice. Gym work to strengthen the abs is a plus. Cycling or spinning also gets your heart going without the impact on your knees.
If you are able to run for 30 minutes, my suggestion to you is to get out there and find a nice friendly 5k. This is a celebration of life , a celebration of your new found passion: Running. Turkey trot your way to the end.
You’ve achieved your first goal and that first 5k is now behind you. You’ve adapted your body to running and now can run 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time and can even push this a bit further.
You now are able to move to the next level. First thing to do is add another running day to your week. This will help you put on the miles and will help you adjust even more to a runner’s regiment. Second thing to do is start mixing up your running workouts. 1 slow long run (zone 1), 2 normal half hour runs (zone 1 maximized- bottom zone 2), and 1 run that is totally different from the other types of runs that your body is accustomed to do. My suggestion is either Hill running or intervals.
Hill running is simple: Find a hill – run it to the top (if you can get up there fine – if not – stop where you’re about to collapse) – once up there – walk back down. Do this 10 times and make sure you keep a pace that you can accomplish it 10 times. If you cannot run it – walk up the hill. This will put pressure on your big leg muscles and should bring your body close to lactic acid threshold, walking back down will help your body manage that load and will push it farther and farther as the workouts progress.
Interval: Warm up with a 15 minute turkey trot. Once you are warmed up – bolt it for 100 meters – as fast as you can without collapsing (85% of your max speed) – just before blowing up – walk for 1 minute. Repeat this for at least 1000 meters (10 X 100 meters). If your body is not too broken, turkey trot your way back home for another 15 minutes … this is great for pushing your lactic acid threshold even farther.
The point of pushing your body this way is to enable you to start picking up speed and finding a way to sustain it. Also – this is a good thing for your running body as it is called upon to adjust and find new ways of coping. Doing the same thing week after week can cause your body to adapt and might hinder your progression.
The goal you might have with these exercises is to improve you PR for your 5K or 10K time, enabling you to get faster and faster. Being faster and enabling your body to cope with it will help you out on your long slow runs. Your lactic acid overload might not be as great as it was before and your threshold of pain and endurance will be heightened.
Once you mastered these techniques and can now run for an hour or more on your slow long runs, a 10K or a half marathon is well within your reach.
Elite runners are a breed on their own. They usually have a running stride that looks like a work of art and also have a cardio that can sustain 15-20 km/hour run tempo. Not everybody can achieve this type of running pace and keep it for 2 hours or more.
If you’re at this level and are reading this, you’ve humoured me enough to keep going and could potentially write an article on this web site about how you go about your training. Since Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi are not here to add some advice, I will risk myself and add my two cents to this level of running fitness.
First thing, and expert runner should be able to run in the zone 1 range all day long, barely breaking a sweat. These athletes are fine tuned running machines and have close to the same body fat as an average model on a cat walk. That said, the muscle mass is fine tuned and the heart is usually as big as a football :0).
I have one friend who’s an ultra fit retired cyclist (retired from all out competition but still competes at the fun level) – I put him on my treadmill with a heart monitor and asked him to start running. When he reached my top speed that I could sustain for more than 5 minutes (11 km/h) – his heart rate was barely beating. He could run at this pace for hours, I could barely do it for 5 minutes.
That’s the difference between joe runner and Meb Keflezighi, the ability to achieve a speed and endurance that boggles the mind, strains the body, and pounds the heart.
These people usually have trained since they were kids and benefit from coaches and proper climate atmospheres (high altitude training) to enable them to reach the next level. They also have a very strict meal regiment and cannot afford to indulge in life’s simple pleasures (Beer – wine – cheese cake …) without paying a hefty price performance wise.