I think one of the most difficult lessons I’ve had to learn over the course of my #Runtober training is that, in order to be an efficient, healthy and – most importantly – injury-free runner, I can’t run every day.
That’s right. To train for a race, an “extreme” distance (translating to above 3-4ish miles a day), you cannot run every day. And, if you run on days that are back to back? You shouldn’t be running on the same kind of terrain, the same amount of mileage, or at the same pace or intensity.
There’s a science to it, though:
1) Running correctly can work almost every muscle in your body, consistently and for a very long time. The biomechanics of running says that you lift your body up from the ground by the ball of your foot, elevate into the air, come back crashing down into the Earth and your muscles help sustain you and prevent you from collapsing into the ground when you do, in fact, crash into the Earth and come back down, landing on your alternate foot. The body needs to be able to rest and heal from that.
2) If your body doesn’t heal properly from its most previous run, you’re flirting with the risk of injury. Sore joints directly affect the behavior of the muscles surrounding it – if you hurt your left ankle, you can expect your foot and your calf to behave differently to avoid further pain – which then overworks those muscles, prevents them from operating fully and then invites even more injury.
3) Running makes you hungrier than you could possibly ever imagine. Your metabolism goes bat sh-t crazy, because your body is so used to you running like there’s a zombie behind you all day, that it feels more comfy burning calories faster. (No, really – I accidentally burned 5400 calories in a 24-hour time period last week.) You try to run ten miles a day, every day? Rest assured… you’ll be not only eating all day, but sleeping when you’re not eating, because the carb loading would quickly trigger post-prandial somnolence… also known as “the ‘itis.”
4) Running the same way, on the same kind of track, at the same pace every day almost entirely ensures that you’ll never become a better runner and, almost always ensures injury. If better is defined as “quicker, stronger, able to adapt” then varying your training grounds are the only way to make that happen.
So… what are the key components of a good training program?
1) Running, of course. And… lots of it.
2) Strength training. Running requires a ton of muscle, and in some cases can actually burn off valuable muscle when the body isn’t properly fueled. Giving the body the opportunity to rebuild that is essential. Not to mention, a stronger body translates to afaster body, and targeted strength training can help make that happen.
3) Variations of intensity. You can’t go hard in the paint seven days a week. You’ll never give your body the opportunity to rebuild the appropriate stores of energy, and can actually gain weight if you’re not careful. You’d always be tired. You’d always be sore. You might could even go six days a week, but at least three of those days would have to be super duper easy, and super duper low-mileage.
4) Increasing mileage… and variations in the increase. Only one day each week should be the day where you’re pushing yourself to test whether or not you can handle the full distance of your race. Especially for the every day person with a job or other responsibilities besides running, it’s simply far too much of a burden on your body to go that kind of distance on a consistent basis. One day has to be light, a couple of days have to make you step up to the plate, but there should only be one day when you aim to hit it out of the park and round all the bases to bring it home.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Baseball.
So, to put it into context, your first week in training for a 10-miler might look like four days of running, with a strength training day, followed by a 3.5 mile slow day, where you push yourself, followed by a 2-mile easy day, followed by a day of strength training (who wants to do lifting after a hard day on the pavement?), followed by a 3.5-mile day where you push yourself on speed, followed by a rest day to gear up for your tough day, where you go the distance with 5 miles.
The following week, you might bump everything up anywhere from .5 of a mile to a full mile. It looks better when you write it out… so I wrote it out.
No training program is perfect for everyone, but there is one that comes close. Hal Higdon, writer for Runner’s World and author of the very awesome Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide has a website full of training schedules for every race, starting from the novice 5k to the advanced 5k all the way up to the novice, intermediate and advanced marathon. Considering the guidelines I’ve shared here for things to consider in creating your training program, any person could take his training schedule and modify it to fit their individual needs. I’m definitely holding fast to my copy of the 15k training program, and will soon be enjoying my taper down to the day of my race!
What tips can you share about how to build an effective training program? How did you create your training program?
Good post! I started following Hal Higdon’s intermediate marathon training plan for my first marathon. (Note: This was a mistake. It was my FIRST marathon. But my pride as a 17+ year runner didn’t want to do a “novice” program.) I got injured by running 5 days/week, so I changed up my plan. I started following the FIRST (running 3 days/week) about 8 weeks before that first marathon. It’s based on the principles in the book Run Less, Run Faster. I had secretly hoped to break 4 hours, even though everyone tells you not to have a time goal for the first marathon. “Just finish,” they say. But any competitor knows that just finishing might not be (probably won’t be) satisfying enough. Well, I managed to finish the race injury-free and just under 3:50. I’m now training for my 2nd marathon (Marine Corps Marathon), again following the plan in Run Less, Run Faster. I run 3x/week (maybe 4), with an interval workout, a tempo workout, and a long run each week. If I run on a 4th day, it’s just for fun, with no target paces/times. And it’s working! I’m aiming to finish this 2nd marathon in less than 3:40. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s definitely making me a faster runner. I just finished an interval workout earlier this week that showed vast improvements. I ran 6.7 miles in 50:00, which is a 7:30 pace. My 10K (6.2 miles) PR was done this summer at a 7:45 pace. So I’m definitely getting faster! (And more fit!)
You may also want to try Yoga as well. Yoga helps you with endurance, muscle strength, balance and your breathing. It helped me get the 3-3 breathing method down when I first started running.
I am trying damn hard to run outside. It is extremely difficult to find a path in a large metropolitan area (the Bronx, New York ) without worrying about crazy ass people trying to rob you for an Ipod 5 phone (that you do not own) or crazies yelling at you from their cars. No, my family/friends are not interested in running with me, especially now that its getting cold outside. I guess I have to find a running group in my neck of the woods. I’m trying to get my 5k on and hopefully a half marathon in 2013. Erika, how are you training in Brooklyn? Do you run in a running group? Any suggestions for running novices is greatly appreciated. I’ve been working out for a few years but trying to step up my game and trying running (slowly and injury free). Thanks!
I think it depends… where are you? How advantageous is it for you to get to Prospect Park?
Hey Erika if you are looking for a running group try BGR (black girls run) they have groups every where. It is much safer to run in a group if can plus it helps your run to run with others who may be better than you.
I had the same worries so I’m now running with Black Girls Run and they have groups that meet almost everyday of the week in the Bronx. Check out the website and join the NYC Facebook page.
Im doing a C25K “couch to 5k” program and its giving me a lot of confidence. Im mid-week4. I’ve never ran before in my life.
Thanks so much for the helpful information! I’ve been working out for many years. I’m up to jogging/ walking 11 miles at least once a week- twice when I can. I also spend three days per week in the gym doing strength and conditioning workouts thanks to a former trainer. Ladies going it alone- sometimes, you just have go it alone as it seems impossible to convince friends and family to participate. For the first time this year I have someone going with me when our schedules sync. Looking forward to signing up for my first 5k spring ’13- woohoo!
Don’t forget to work on flexibility. When I don’t feel like stretching after a hard workout I remind myself that if I can add an inch to my stride by becoming more flexible, that is easily an extra FOOT covered in a race for every 12 strides. No extra effort required!!
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