Things to think about...
For new runners, or runners returning from a hiatus, the walk-run method is recommended. Go to a track (or choose a city block or park loop), do 12 laps, alternating between "conversation pace" running and walking. (Conversation pace is a pace at which you can have a conversation with a friend without breathing difficulty.) Repeat 3 times per week, increasing the proportion of running--according to how your body feels--until you can run the full 3 miles (5 kilometers) continuously. And remember, runners form a supportive community: there's no shame in walking a portion of a race! In fact, I've seen runners beat me to the top of a long climb using a walk/run strategy. And trail runners often downgear to walking when faced with challenging terrain!
Once you can run 3 miles (5 kilometers) at "conversation pace", you're ready to introduce a new skill: strides. A stride is a short burst of speed, lasting 4-8 seconds. You can integrate striding into any training run. After 1 or 2 warm-up miles, alternate between striding and returning to "conversation pace" after each one. Repeat 8 or so times, then continue with your run. More on strides in a future post.
I previously posted about strides. Now that you've practiced this skill, here's how you incorporate it into training runs, and races too! Set your watch to vibrate every 5 minutes, and when it does, do a stride (short bust of speed lasting 4-8 seconds), then return to your previous pace. There are two benefits. 1. If you're feeling sluggish, the stride will energize you. 2. I'll bet you'll land at a slightly faster speed, yet probably not notice. Sounds nuts, but it works!
What are the benefits of running? (1) Physical. Since I started running, I've lost some weight, and then gained some back in muscle, mostly in my legs but some upper body too. (2) Mental. Running is the best stress-reliever that I've ever found, as a result I think that I've mellowed over the years. (3) Social. A chunk of my friends in Albany, Houston, and now Columbus are runners. We might not run the same pace but I see them at the pre-race starting line and the post-race party, and sometimes I surprise myself as I successfully hold a faster runner's speed for a stretch.
What is the optimal running cadence? It will depend on gender, age, body size and shape, but most runners aim for a cadence of 180 foot strikes per minute, as that cadence optimizes oxygen utilization. Many apps, such as Garmin, will report your cadence. Another strategy to internalize this cadence is to run with a metronome app set to 180 beats per minute. Or, create a playlist of 180 bpm songs!
I run all the time, why spend money to enter a race? I hear this all the time, and I agree that running some races has become, it seems, increasingly pricey. So what's the value of a race bib? To me, it's not the t-shirt or the finish line amenities. It's that with every race, I learn something about my running. Usually, it's I didn't know I could run this fast this far, and that influences my approach in future solo or group runs. So join the OutRunners and train for an upcoming race!
When it comes to running advice there aren't that many universal dos, but there are plenty of don'ts. Read the article.
Running is a great way to get fit, feel better and even form new relationships with other runners. Starting a new running habit doesn’t have to be hard—all it takes is a comfortable pair of shoes and a willingness to move a little or a lot, all at your own pace. Read the New York Times starter guide here.
A PR (personal record) is the fastest time you've run a distance. PRs matter, because many runners aim to improve their fitness, and speed is one of the simplest ways to track progress. Whether your PR on the 5k is 17 minutes or 57 minutes, setting a new one is an accomplishment worth acknowledging. But there are other metrics that you may focus on as you develop your fitness: enjoying the sport, or running X times per week, or finishing X races per year. That's why the OutRunners advertise "ALL PACES WELCOME". OutRunners are encouraged to post about PRs and any other aspect of your running development that you're happy about.
Running research mostly advocates specificity: if you want to run a faster race, then run that distance. But that focus on "quantity" of miles doesn't translate if you train for longer distances (like the marathon), several different distances at once (like a 5k and a half), are prone to running injuries, or have competing priorities (work and home commitments, other activities and sports). Then, your strategy must shift towards "quality" of miles: speedwork (intervals), hills training, tempo runs, etc. Running with others make these specialized workouts easier to complete, which is perhaps why running clubs exist! So join the OutRunners for a group run soon!
A recent issue of Runner's World includes "The Minimalist's Survival Plan". Their training essentials: 1. Run 3 Days a Week. A 30-minute easy run, a 60-minute "hard" run (e.g. speedwork, tempo), and a long run. If you can, cross-train on other days, leaving a rest day. 2. Build Slowly. Each week, add no more than 1 mile or 10% to your long run. Every 4 weeks, dial down your long run for that week. 3. Practice Your Plan. Train in the shoes and clothing you plan to wear on race day, and complete part of your training at the same time of day as your race. What would you add as the absolute must-dos for race training?
In a nutshell, 12-week training plans leading up to a race include an easy shorter run (Tuesday Night Fun Run), a harder shorter run (speedwork Wednesdays?), a longer run (many OutRunners do this already on weekends), and a cross-training (XT) activity (gym, spin, yoga, whatever). Lets call this a 3+1 plan. Are you running 3 times a week, and some XT also?
A tapering question: "I'm running a race next weekend. How long should my long run this weekend be?" My rule of thumb is roundup(race_distance/2)+1. So for the quarterM I suggest 5 miles and the halfM, 8 miles. Generally, runners cut their total weekly mileage by 1/3 leading into a longer-distance race. For a halfM, I usually taper for 1 week; most marathon training plans provide for 2 weeks. Retaining your speedwork training during the taper, maintaining the intensity but halving the number of intervals.
This coaching note summarizes a Race Times magazine article entitled "How Social Media Affects Fitness Habits". Posting fitness habits to social media increases motivation: "humans are naturally inclined to positive feedback and when we [...] receive likes and views, we will repeat the behavior." Posts also document your evolution: training runs, races, successes, challenges, and good times with friends. On the flipside, beware of comparing your progress to others': focus on your journey. My hope is that OutRunners provides a supportive community to those wishing to maintain and improve their health and fitness through running!