Friday, May 25, 2012

So You Want to Run

Disclaimer: I am not a running expert, coach or personal trainer.  I am just sharing with you what works for me.  I'll be happy to go into more detail and answer any questions if you e-mail me at  

In honor of National Running Month and some questions I've gotten regarding running, I thought I'd do a series of posts related to running.  Today's post will cover why I run, my thoughts on becoming a runner/better runner, and the way I train.  On Tuesday, we'll talk about my favorite running gear.  I'll wrap up this series Thursday with a post on other exercise, nutrition, and my advice (I guess this is all technically my advice, but I'll share some things that inspire and encourage me!).

Why Run?
I run because I love it.  I love being outside, the way I feel after a run, and I love that this is something I can do to stay in shape/be healthy.  Running is a high-impact cardio activity that torches calories faster than other exercises and I like that.  I'm all for working out/running at a higher intensity for a shorter amount of time.  I also like chocolate and Mexican food and don't feel at all guilty indulging because I run!

Become a Runner/Better Runner
I'm a firm believer that we can do anything we set our minds to do.  I get that from my parents.  They always made sure I knew that they believed that I could accomplish anything I set out to do.  This is a mindset I want to make sure our boys have because the encouragement/discouragement you get from your parents at an early age makes all the difference I think.  I also believe that there is room for improvement in all areas of our lives and that includes running.  So whether you're a seasoned marathoner or you just want to get out and jog around your neighborhood, there's always something you can learn.

So you want to be a runner.  Now what?
You've decided you want to start running.  You may want to run down your street, run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, or more, but how do you start?  This one is easy.  You run!

If you're just starting out, I encourage you to just lace up your shoes (we'll talk about my favorite shoes next week) and go out and start moving.  You don't need to be concerned with speed, time, or distance, you just need to run.  See how it feels to have the ground beneath your feet and see how your body feels while you do it.  You may be able to run for five minutes without stopping, but you may only be able to go 30 seconds without feeling winded.  Whatever you do, remember this: you ran!

There are lots of different programs out there for runners.  One of the more popular programs, Couch to 5K, gets you running a 5K (3.1 miles) in nine weeks.  I know there's an iPhone app for this, too, so if it's a 5K you're interested in and you're just starting out, this could be something you want to check out.  I've known of a few people who have done this program and have succeeded.

Another thing I'd suggest is joining a running club.  I'll throw this out there as a statement based on my own experience and that of running friends of mine, when you run with others, especially someone who's a little better than you, you'll find that you can run faster and longer.  While I don't have any experience as a member of a running club, I know that there are lots of these out there and people love them.  My local running club has three different levels with a pacer at each level.  There are those who aren't runners but want to be (more walk-jog-runners), those who can run longer, but don't necessarily have the speed, and then those who run hard and fast.  Joining a group like this ensures you that you'll have someone with you and to cheer you on.

Finally, if you're just starting out, I'd encourage you to give yourself a goal.  It may be to run 3 minutes without stopping or to run half a mile every other day.  Whatever it is, document it.  I'm going to use a personal example on this one.  My mom is not a runner, but she wants to get in shape.  I've encouraged her to get out and run for one minute then walk 2 minutes and repeat 5 times giving her a total of 15 minutes of exercise with 5 minutes of running.  When you think about it, you're running 33% of your total cardio session.  This gets your heart rate up (burn more calories) and your body working towards being able to run for longer stretches at a time.

Want to be a better runner?  Me too!
Currently, I want to work on cutting off about 3 minutes on my 10K time.  In order to do so, I have to prepare.  I can't just go out there and run a 10K in slightly over 43 minutes.  I've got to put a plan in place to become faster and stronger and it's not going to happen by chance.  The decisions I make everyday about what I put into my body, how I workout, and how I recover are crucial in this plan.

You may want to run a mile in 10 minutes or you may want to run one in 6.  The things I'm about to share with you regarding training (remember, nutrition and other exercise is next week) are the things I'm doing to increase my time and will help you, too, no matter your goal.

  • Intervals - Intervals are amazing!  Not only do they allow you to finish faster (literally), they also cause you to burn more calories.  Plus, you can do them anywhere, on the road or the treadmill.  I've been doing quarter mile splits the last few weeks.  Essentially, I'm running as fast as I can for .25 miles and then resting for .1-.15 miles and repeating this until I've run at least one mile of these quarter mile splits. 
  • Increasing Speed on Later Miles - Another thing I've found that's helping me is increasing my speed on my later miles.  For example, when I start off in a race, I normally run my first mile at about a 6:20 pace (more on the gear that tells me this next Tuesday) and the average of my first three miles in a 10K is around 6:50.  My problems happen later.  I psych myself out (I'll tell you how I'm overcoming this next Thursday), think I have to stop, and slow down.  We're talking slowing down to an 8 - 8:15 pace!  For me to decrease my pace to my desired 6:59/mile from the 7:29/mile I'm currently running in a 10K, I have to work on keeping my pace constant throughout the race and not bursting at the beginning.  How am I doing this?  I'm running my miles faster, mile by mile.  If I start off at a 7:30 pace for mile 1, I'm making mile 2 a 7:15 or 7:20 pace, and mile 3 is down to a 6:56 pace.  Sometimes, I even sprint the last half mile which brings me to my next point.
  • Sprints - Sprints are fun because they allow you to exert so much extra energy, but they're also draining.  I like to do some sprints in my training runs.  I might sprint in the middle of a run, for the second 3/4 mile, or for my last half mile.  Regardless of when I'm sprinting, I'm increasing my speed.  

How I Train
I don't follow a training plan.  Each month, I aim to run 50 miles.  Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn't and that's ok.  For me, realizing that it's ok to take a day off and not run was challenging.  I realize now that my body needs rest sometimes and I've learned the importance of recovery runs (more on this next Thursday).  50 miles doesn't seem like much if you're a long distance runner (marathoner or even half-marathoner), but it's a good number for me to shoot for and it works.  It allows me to have fun, still do the things I want to do outside of running with my family, and not feel stressed.

I usually run/workout 4-5 days a week.  Generally, I take one day off during the week and rarely run on Sundays because it's a busy day with church and I've usually run the day before.  Also, I keep any Saturday races in mind when I'm thinking about my running schedule for the week.  For example, I ran a 10K last Saturday.  I knew I wanted to beat my last PR and I wanted to have rested legs, so I only really ran twice leading up to the race.  This is how I exercised last week:

  • Monday: A slow, after spaghetti 3.22 miles; 100 lunges
  • Tuesday: Upper body, glutes, and abs
  • Wednesday: 6.2 miles; situps, 100 lunges
  • Thursday: OFF
  • Friday: .75 miles (I ran for 5 minutes on the treadmill before working out); upper body, glutes, and abs
  • Saturday: 10K Race
  • Sunday: OFF
For me, the biggest key is looking at my calendar and determining when I'm going to run.  I don't schedule workouts, but at the beginning of the week, I have a good idea of what days I need to concentrate on runs and what day(s) I take off.  I also make a mental note of the days I want to go to the gym.

There you have it.  Next week, we'll talk about my favorite gear, other exercise, nutrition, and my advice.  


Jen said...

Thanks so much for all the info! My husband has been wondering how to increase his pace. I'll give him your tips. Excited for the rest of your running series!

Nina said...

I love this! I'm a runner, too and I enjoy reading tips from others pushing themselves, too. I am obsessed with intervals. Since I started incorporating them into my workout routine about a year ago, I have seen a dramatic difference- not only in my speed but the tone up it has done on my legs is amazing!