Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Those Who Run ... Plan

One of the things I love about running is it can be highly methodical. As an extremely organized person who gets off on checking to-do lists, I derive great joy in pulling together training plans and reviewing my past Garmin data with a fine-toothed comb.

I have the suspicion that many others may not view running in such a scientific manner. But for those who are looking to coordinate their running calendars and want the spreadsheets - this post is for you.  

Full disclosure: when I started writing this blog, I swore I wouldn't be prescriptive or pretend to know what I was talking about when it came to running. However, if this post comes across as instructional it's only because I've amassed some tips over the years that I find I end up sharing anyway with friends who ask me, "How did you get into running?" or "What do you do to train?"

When I first started running again in 2009, I hadn't run for quite a long time. If you've never run before, or if you've been off running for awhile, it's not safe to just jump right into it. The best thing to do is start gradually and build up.
There are plenty of learn to run plans that can be found online. These gradually introduce a person to running by alternating walking with easy jogging. Most of these plans can get you safely running a distance of 5 km within 10 to 12 weeks. 

After you've learned the basics, the general rule for building a base is to increase your total weekly mileage by no more than 10%. For example, if I ran 20 km last week, my goal for this week should be 22 km. If I ran 35 km, I should be shooting for 38.5 km.

It might be obvious, but choosing a training program should be based on the goals you've set for yourself. Most commonly, many runners decide they want to run a specific distance within a set amount of time. If you want to run a 10 km race and have not managed the distance previously, then the training program you choose should be specifically aimed at completing - you guessed it - 10 km. (Duh, right? It's running ... not rocket science.) The same is true for those wishing to run half marathons, full marathons and beyond.

Sometimes, I find it's necessary to slightly alter some of the training schedules out there based on when my race is scheduled and if I've got other things going on. Let's face it; unless you have the luxury to train full time, life is going to get in the way. By mapping out the races I'd like to do in the next six to 12 months, I'm able to look ahead and work backwards from there.

I'm a big fan of spreadsheets. This particular training program originated from the Running Room Marathon Clinic, but there are plenty of others out there. Find one that is realistic for you, go forth and spreadsheet.

TIP: Print off your training program and post it somewhere where you will always see it. Track your progress by checking off the days you ran and the distance you ran. 

With so many running resources available online and offered through specific races, you shouldn't have any problem finding a program that will work for you. But - if you're not confident about what you're reading on the Internet and would like more direction, there are plenty of helpful sources to choose from.  

Learn to run clinics are offered by community centres, such as your neighbourhood YMCA or YWCA. Running clubs like Forerunners or local shops like The Right Shoe in Vancouver are great for those wanting to get faster in their distance running. National stores like the Running Room cater to the whole spectrum and even provide online training programs if you'd rather run on your own than with a group.

Regardless of what program you choose, make sure to continually monitor how your training is going. Are you following it to the letter? How did you feel that week? Were you short on your mileage? Did you need to change anything? Awareness combined with a little bit of planning will go a long way in helping you stay on track and be successful.

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