Up and Run­ning

Even if the last time you hit the track was circa ninth-grade gym class, this 12-week plan can help you find your stride.

Oxygen - - Contents - By Je­nessa Con­nor, CPT

This 12-week 5K train­ing pro­gram is per­fect for run­ners of every level.


run­ning can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, even for fit women. Just the idea of lac­ing up may trig­ger feel­ings of in­fe­ri­or­ity. (Raise your hand if you still re­mem­ber the very spe­cific trauma of strug­gling through the timed mile in phys ed.) But devo­tees at­test that no other form of ex­er­cise is as phys­i­cally and men­tally sat­is­fy­ing, and ad­mit­tedly the rush of en­dor­phins, aka “run­ner’s high,” can’t be beat. Nei­ther can the calo­rie burn: The aver­age woman blasts through more than 600 calo­ries an hour when run­ning at a 10-minute-per-mile pace. But be­fore you burst out of the gates like Se­abis­cuit, there are a few things to know to help you progress and pre­vent in­jury.

Walk Be­fore You Run

If you’re just start­ing out, you may be in­clined to run like the wind, be­cause af­ter all, you al­ready know how to run, right? And yeah, the calo­rie burn. How­ever, it be­hooves you to be pa­tient with your progress be­cause go­ing like gang­busters could do more harm than good.

“Like a car, your en­gine (your heart and lungs) is go­ing to im­prove and get stronger quicker than your chas­sis — your soft tis­sues like your mus­cles, lig­a­ments and ten­dons,” ex­plains Danny Mackey, head coach of the Seat­tle-based Brooks Beasts Track Club. “What hap­pens to a lot of peo­ple just get­ting into run­ning is they get an overuse in­jury.” Com­mon of­fend­ers in­clude Achilles ten­donitis (the in­flam­ma­tion of the ten­don that con­nects the calf mus­cles to the heel bone), plan­tar fasci­itis, which man­i­fests as sharp heel pain, and “run­ner’s knee,” pain in your patel­lar area. While you should ex­pect some sore­ness — since you’re lit­er­ally building new mus­cle mass when you run — sud­den or steadily in­creas­ing pain is your body’s way of telling you to back off. Rest un­til you’re feel­ing bet­ter, and ad­just your train­ing to in­cor­po­rate fewer miles and more re­cov­ery time. If your symp­toms per­sist or quickly reap­pear, get your­self eval­u­ated by a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional.

Jason Karp, Ph.D., cre­ator of the Revo₂lu­tion Run­ning cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, en­cour­ages rook­ies to do what they can, us­ing a walk/run ap­proach, if nec­es­sary. “Run for 30 sec­onds, then walk for five min­utes with in­ten­tion, as though you are late to catch a flight,” he says. “Re­peat that run-walk-run pat­tern un­til 30 min­utes have passed.” Over time, he ex­plains, your body will adapt, and you’ll spend more of that half-hour run­ning than walk­ing.

No mat­ter what your level, the best way to im­prove your run­ning — and avoid time warm­ing the bench — is to adopt a care­fully cu­rated train­ing plan that ex­hibits th­ese hall­marks:

A grad­ual pro­gres­sion of vol­ume and/or in­ten­sity of no more than a 10 per­cent in­crease in mileage per week. So if you ran a to­tal of 10 miles in week one, your mileage for week two should be no more than 11 miles.

Vari­abil­ity in in­ten­sity from day to day. In ad­di­tion to pre­scrib­ing dis­tances to run, your train­ing pro­gram also should spec­ify what kind of speed or ef­fort you should ap­ply.

In­clu­sion of rest and cross-train­ing days. Re­cov­ery is cru­cial for run­ners of all lev­els, and hav­ing the op­tion to cross-train or take a day off will help you avoid over­train­ing.

Form for Func­tion

If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about, it’s achiev­ing per­fect form. “There’s not a right way to run — for any­body,” Mackey says. “We all have dif­fer­ent mo­bil­ity and ranges of mo­tion, and op­ti­mal stride is unique to each per­son.”

How­ever, you do need to con­sider a few gen­eral guide­lines: Keep your chest up and your shoul­ders back to avoid slouch­ing; swing your arms in a straight line for­ward and back, not across your mid­line; and with each step, aim to place your foot on the ground di­rectly un­der­neath your hips. “Run­ning is about mov­ing from one bal­ance point to an­other, so your body must be prop­erly aligned when the foot lands on the ground to cre­ate that base of sup­port,” Karp says.

Again, Faster

When it comes to mo­ti­va­tion, noth­ing beats a spe­cific goal such as com­plet­ing a lo­cal 5K race, and in the be­gin­ning sim­ply cross­ing the fin­ish line is an ad­mirable goal. But af­ter a few events, you may want to bet­ter your time. Plus, revving your heart rate at high-in­ten­sity lev­els leads to ex­cess post-ex­er­cise oxy­gen con­sump­tion, aka “af­ter­burn,” which means your body is still cash­ing in calo­ries long af­ter your shower and post-run smoothie.

Shav­ing min­utes off your time is a great goal, but you’ll need to ad­just your pro­gram­ming to in­clude more speed- and ef­fort-based drills such as th­ese below, ac­cord­ing to Karp and Mackey:

Add “strides” to the end of a long(er) run by run­ning at a fast (but not all-out sprint) pace for 20 sec­onds, then walk­ing back to your start­ing point. Re­peat for eight in­ter­vals.

In the mid­dle of your long­est run of the week, add six one-minute in­ter­vals run­ning at a hard pace fol­lowed by run­ning two min­utes at an easy pace.

Find a long hill (or crank up the in­cline on your tread­mill) and sprint up it as fast as you can for 20 to 30 sec­onds. Jog back to your start­ing point and re­peat for six in­ter­vals.

Up­ping the Ante

Al­ready crush­ing 5Ks or ready to tackle longer dis­tances? The 10 per­cent rule still ap­plies. “A run­ner’s legs should be given a chance to fully ab­sorb, adapt and ha­bit­u­ate to the cur­rent work­load be­fore in­creas­ing that work­load,” Karp says. And re­sist the urge to scrap all train­ing va­ri­ety in fa­vor of long runs. Keep in­cor­po­rat­ing hill sprints, in­ter­val work­outs and fartleks (“speed play”) runs into your ro­ta­tion. Vari­abil­ity not only helps pre­vent in­juries and over­train­ing but also bol­sters your race-day per­for­mance. Run­ning shorter dis­tances can help you un­der­stand your pac­ing, which is clutch in longer races like half marathons and marathons. And train­ing at dif­fer­ent speeds and in­ten­si­ties will de­velop your slow- and fast-twitch fibers — both of which you’ll need to sail across the fin­ish line.

As your dis­tances get longer and your body spends more time un­der ten­sion, you will need to ad­just your fuel­ing strategy. If your runs are about an hour, your body should have plenty of stored car­bo­hy­drates to give you the en­ergy to sus­tain, and hav­ing a post-run snack or drink that com­bines car­bo­hy­drates and pro­tein should be suf­fi­cient, ac­cord­ing to Mackey. But if your work­out is ap­proach­ing the 90-minute mark, con­sider con­sum­ing some midrun calo­ries in the form of drinks, bars, gum­mies or gels to re­plen­ish en­ergy stores and pre­vent the break­down of mus­cle tis­sue for fuel. Ex­per­i­ment to find a prod­uct that goes down easy and doesn’t up­set your stom­ach.

Lastly, don’t ig­nore in­juries. “Any sort of prob­lem that you have in a 5K or 10K is just go­ing to get mag­ni­fied in a marathon,” Mackey says. Have any per­sis­tent pains, twinges and aches checked by a med­i­cal pro­fes­sional or move­ment spe­cial­ist. Chances are, your is­sue is be­cause of a mus­cu­lar weak­ness or me­chan­i­cal lim­i­ta­tion, which can be ad­dressed with strength train­ing, stretch­ing and mo­bil­ity drills.

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