Cooking Light teamed-up up with Derick Williamson, a senior coach with Carmichael Training Systems, a Web-based coaching service, to create a training schedule that is adaptable to athletes of all levels.
"Running is a tremendous impact sport," Williamson says, "yet people put a big goal on the calendar and then just start running. They'll run for a few days and feel good, so they jack up the intensity, volume, or both, which frequently leads to overuse injuries."
"One of our key goals is to maintain an injury-free state," he says. "To run a 5K, or any competitive distance, you need to build up to it." To accomplish this, Williamson created a program that incorporates running, walking, and cross-training, as well as weekly drills to perfect form and improve efficiency.
Quick Tip: Consistency is key to enjoyable running. Have a plan and train regularly for best results.
Run/walk: Builds run volume (another way of saying how long or far you can run without needing to stop and rest) by alternating intervals of running with intervals of "recovery" walking. To do it: After warming up, run for three minutes, then walk for two; repeat for the full time prescribed. After a recovery day, repeat the sequence. As this gets easier, gradually increase the length of the running interval and/or decrease the walking interval. A typical progression might be: 3/2 run/walk; 4/1 run/walk; 5/1 run/walk; 6/2 run/walk; 6/1 run/walk; etc. As you progress, your goal is to shorten the recovery time and increase the total volume of running time. If using a heart-rate monitor, stay in the 50 to 96 percent range (of the average heart rate from the eight-minute run test); if using RPE, aim for a six or seven.
Elliptical trainer workout: A low-impact cardiovascular workout that continues to develop increased fitness on recovery (or non-running) days. "Cross-training helps you stay mentally fresh, as well as working muscle groups you don't normally use," Williamson says. Do it for the time prescribed at an RPE of five to seven. If you don't have access to an elliptical machine, cycling, swimming, rowing, and skiing are all great ways to boost your heart rate and give your mind and body a break from running.
Basic skip: A drill designed to improve running mechanics and emphasize proper form. To do it, perform an exaggerated skipping motion for the time indicated, focusing on the following aspects:
• Foot strike: how and where your foot hits the ground. "You want your foot to land directly beneath your center of gravity, or your belly button," Williamson explains. If you strain to plant your foot far out in front of you, it stresses the leg muscles and bones and could lead to pain or injury.
• Knee drive: how you use your legs to propel yourself forward. "Concentrate on bringing your thigh up to parallel with the ground, and leaving the lower half of your leg relaxed," Williamson instructs.
• Arm swing: how you use your arms to propel yourself forward. Bend your arms at 90-degree angles, and swing them so that your upper arms do not go higher than parallel to the ground. Avoid swinging your arms across the midline of your body.