Cooking Light teamed-up up with Derick Williamson, a senior coach with Carmichael Training Systems (www.trainright.com), 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.
Skip kicks: Designed to improve running mechanics and agility. Perform a traditional skipping motion, hopping on each foot twice to a "one-two" beat. As you move forward, kick your front foot out until your leg is almost parallel with the ground on the second half ("two") of the beat. Bring it down, and repeat on the other side. "This reinforces proper foot strike and a quick transition from the heel to the ball of the foot when you're running," Williamson says.
Strides: A drill designed to activate fast-twitch muscle fibers (which power explosive moves and develop speed). To do it: Find a flat, preferably grassy area, and run for 30 to 60 seconds at a moderate pace. Focus on mechanics, including foot strike, knee drive, and arm swing. Jog back to the starting point, and repeat for the time indicated.
Endurance walk: Builds size and strength in slow-twitch muscle fibers (the ones that power endurance or distance exercise). "This is essentially a recovery day," Williamson explains. "It gets you out, keeps you moving, and increases blood flow to your legs so you can recover more quickly for the next day's workout." To do it: Walk at a moderate pace without exceeding 88 percent of your average heart rate from the eight-minute run test. If using the rpe scale, aim for a six.
Foundation run: Builds run volume by eliminating recovery periods. To do it: Run for the prescribed amount of time at 50 to 88 percent of your average heart rate (from the eight-minute run test) or aim for an RPE of six or seven. If your heart rate becomes too high, simply back off the intensity. "The great thing about training with a heart-rate monitor is that it forces you to take it easy," Williamson explains.
Fartlek intervals: Increase leg speed and teach the body to tolerate and clear lactic acid (a byproduct produced by your muscles during a workout that can contribute to soreness and fatigue). To do them: After warming up for the prescribed amount of time, pick up your pace until your heart rate is between 98 and 108 percent of your average heart rate from the eight-minute run test. (The equivalent of an RPE of eight or nine.) Sustain that pace for two minutes, then resume your endurance pace for one recovery minute. Repeat sequence three times. Follow with the remaining time indicated in the day's foundation run.
ONE READER TRIED IT:
Felice Geoghegan is no stranger to running around. The 41-year-old mom spends her days juggling work, managing household responsibilities, and coordinating the schedules of her four active daughters. While she may live life at a race pace, Geoghegan wanted to really run―a 5K, to be exact. We decided to put her in touch with Derick Williamson of Carmichael Training Systems.
"My husband is an avid triathlete, and all of my daughters play sports, so I'm really motivated," Geoghegan explained. "I've participated in a few 5k [3.1-mile] races, but each time I've had to run and walk. My goal is to run the entire distance and improve on my 10.5-minute miles."
Geoghegan, who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, hits the gym three times a week for a workout of strength training (mostly lower body) and cardio (on elliptical machine or treadmill). She found a 5k race just 10 weeks away―and was eager to start training for it.
After 10 weeks of training, Geoghegan completed her 5K race in 32 minutes, 15 seconds―and came in fourth in her age group. "The course was really hilly, so I'm letting myself off the hook for not finishing in less than 30 minutes," she says with a laugh.
Geoghegan admits the challenging terrain plus race-day nerves had her momentarily questioning her ability. "But as soon as I began running, I just got into that rhythm," she says. "I had the confidence from all of my training that I could do it, and I did!" Will she stick with it? No doubt. In fact, four weeks later, Geoghegan completed an 8.15-mile race, crossing the finish line nearly 20 minutes before her goal time of two hours. We'd say she's off and running.