A training week that suits your running needs is a complex task but when broken down into simple factors it can be a great way to improve you running.
Running is a great way to get into it shape, feel better about yourself and also build relationships (through community running!) that last a lifetime. Getting started isn’t that hard – start off slow, don’t overthink it and get yourself a great pair of shoes!
Determining your optimal training can appear to be a complex task considering the factors involved but keep it simple and focus on 3 fundamental aspects – Duration. Frequency. Intensity.
When you’re new to running, it’s easy to get confused about how long or how far you should train for. Firstly begin by working on the time you spend on your feet and limit this duration to about 30 mins and possibly 40 mins over the weekends with the run/walk training method. Do this by taking regular breaks and run at a conversational pace. The key here is to ease into it and not do too much too soon as this will help in strengthening the muscles and keep you injury-free.
Rule of thumb is that you should not add more than 10% of your current distance each week – for example, if you’re running 8K per week, add 800M the following week, 880M the next and so on. Your target at the end of the month should be that you run 30mins without stopping. Once you have achieved this, move to the next level of completing 5K. If your training is consistent and systematic, you should be able to run a 10K in 3 months. Kavita Reddy, an avid marathoner, couldn’t agree more, “Don’t jump straight into running long distances. Make the process gradual and increase the distances as per the training, fatigue, and recovery of the individual body”.
There are 2 critical aspects, psychological and physical to consider when determining the right running distances. Kannan Sundararajan (aka Coach Kay) coach at KaysFitAcademy, “Before starting a training program the attitude of the runner is examined during the screening time. I regularly come across runners who are very eager to achieve a lot of things in a short duration and are looking for quick results too soon. People falling in this category have a lower survival rate in running ultra-distances and will have to start focusing on short distances like a 5K, 10K, Half marathon. They must progress into Full Marathon after establishing themselves as a confident short distance runner. Most ultra-runners are generally older in age, where their patience levels are higher, come with a higher maturity level and seem to be in better control over everything they do either during training or on race day”.
He goes on to add, “The second aspect being the physical aspect includes age, health history, gender, several aspects of the anatomical elements and muscle composition. A knowledgeable running coach, sports doctor or physio can help in identifying the physical capabilities and limitations supported through an FMS (functional movement screening) which serves as a foundation study to assist them in identifying the type of a runner they are, their individual strength and weakness. This will help them determine to choose the right running distance that suits them”.
Honestly, there’s no hard-and-fast rule on the right running frequency as it depends on your individual capabilities and personal goals. Pramod Deshpande, coach of Jayanagar Jaguars running club has broken this down nicely and he says,
“For a 10K
- Beginner –3 alternate days of running/week with 1 day of strength training
- Experienced (capability and target distance) –4 alternate days of running /week and 2 days at the gym.
For a 21K
- Beginner (recommended to attempt 10k first) who haves run 10k’s – 3 alternate days of running /week and 2 days at the Gym.
- Experienced (depending on capability and target distance)- 4 alternate days of running /week and 2 days at the Gym.
- Competitive runners can train more than 5 days
For a 42K
- A debut Marathoner (should have completed a 10K & 21K earlier) – 4 alternate days of running /week and 2 days at the gym
- Experienced (previously run a marathon and depending on capability and target)- 4-5 alternate days of running /week and 2 days at the gym.
- Competitive runners can train up to 5 days, plus 2 days of Gym”
One of the biggest misconceptions especially beginners have is that you need to run every day. Not true – by doing this, it will only lead to injuries as your body needs active rest days to recover and repair muscles to get stronger.
Once a solid endurance base has been established, slowly begin to incorporate more speed workouts into your training schedule. If you are a new runner, train consistently for a minimum of 12 to 16 weeks before you start building up your speed by adding strides into one session of training every week.
Training at different intensities trains your cardiovascular system and has immense benefits as pointed out by Pramod Deshpande, “It works on different pathways (aerobic and anaerobic) and can recruit and train specific muscle groups. All of these come in handy for ultimate performance. Also, this way a runner can overcome boredom and if the variation in pace is sequenced properly it helps muscle recovery from hard workouts”.
Incorporate speed workouts into your training week only after you have been running consistently for 3-4 months. To begin with add 1 day of speed workout for a beginner and 2 days for an experienced runner. Speed workouts (interval workouts, tempo runs or fartlek) are high-intensity intervals such as running a 200M, 400M or longer repeats at a very fast pace. It’s important that your aerobic capacity and form is good when you do these drills to avoid injury.
Every human has a metabolic threshold that reacts differently to different workouts. A small change in the effort can lead to changes in how your body adapts to the strain. Don’t rush it as you run the risk of fatigue and injury. Coach Kay says, “The most important thing is the cardiovascular system which is the most sensitive part of our body and any damage caused to it is irrevocable. If there is any sign of something abnormal, stop and listen to your body. For example. heavy bleeding, chest pain, sweating profusely more than normal, etc. are warning signs you should not ignore and get yourself checked immediately. Anything that you don’t see of your internal system, pick up those signs and attend to it. On the other hand, niggles in your joint, muscle pain, etc. these are probably early warning signs of a stress injury, ligament tear, tendon snapping, etc. which can become a bigger issue later”.
“Injuries are bound to occur in any sport. We can only try and stay away from injury with mindful training, proper strengthening of the core, stretching well pre and post run and foam rolling to relax the muscles”, says Kavita Reddy.
In closing – before you start training, seek guidance from a coach/mentor who should be able to guide you and help you determine an optimized training regime. Give yourself proper rest and listen to your body during training.