Welcome back to Part 2 of how to begin your path to a lifelong running career. We are going to continue with the two remaining components to a safe and effective running program: duration and intensity.
This refers to how long you run, whether it’s measured in time or distance. Either one is fine, but for new runners time can be more manageable and allow you to run more by feel rather than being ruled by distance. For many new runners it’s not realistic or safe to try to run the entire time so I tend to recommend starting with a run/walk program and often suggest they run by feel. If they can run a minute, but then get tired I tell them to walk until they feel like running again. For the type A personalities, I’ll be more specific because they usually need those numbers or else they’ll go overboard. So in that case I’ll recommend a 1:1 run/walk ratio in minutes and then progress depending on how they feel. Again, it’s ALWAYS easier to start conservative and progress rather than have to drop back down because you burnt yourself out or got injured by running too much, too soon. Most people can tolerate 10 minutes total then build from there, but if you can only run 5 then that’s your starting point. The progression in duration then depends on what is your overall goal as a runner. If your main goal is health and fitness, then building up to 30-60 minutes is plenty for the health benefits of running (that’s either run/walk or consistent running). If you’ve decided to run a specific race, then the duration will depend on the length of the race. I’ll discuss more specific training for races like half and full marathons so I’ll leave those details for future posts (check back each month!).
The last and final component to beginning a running program: intensity. Luckily, I tell most of my new runners to not even worry about this at first. In the beginning, it is more important to work on frequency and duration to build up a base mileage so your body gets used to the activity of running. After a few months or even a year of training, then tweaking the intensity may be more appropriate especially if you want to improve your race time or if you’ve hit a training plateau. Check back in a few months for a future post on incorporating speed-work into training, that’s when I will go into more detail about the when/why/how of using speed-work in your routine. As for now, run the speed/intensity your body can handle and first improve on doing that either more days per week or for longer periods of time before unleashing your inner cheetah.
Follow these basic principles and you will be well on your way to a safe, effective and enjoyable running routine. Consistency is key and always remember what your goals are and why you started running in the first place. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t run in a week, just start that day and get back on the wagon. Find ways to stay motivated and enjoy all the amazing benefits running has to offer. Tune in each month for new running topics and please comment on topics you’d like to see or questions you may have about running or health and wellness. Looking forward to seeing you on the roads!
“Running should be a lifelong activity. Approach it patiently and intelligently, and it will reward you for a long, long time.”
Resources I recommend ALL runners have on their bookshelf to get started:
- Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed and Injury Prevention by Jay Dicharry, PT, SCS
- Jack Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels, PhD
- You (Only Faster) by Greg McMillan, MS