15 April 2012

Running 101: Beginning Workouts

I am always very glad to hear the word workouts. It makes me think about a good sweat, running fast and improving my running speed. When you are getting started with running, don't be afraid of this word! It is not as scary as it sounds. Let's break it down...

What is a "workout" ?

1. A workout, in my terms, is different than just a run. A workout will have 3 different parts which all have a purpose. A run might just be some light stretching then running 4 miles. A workout will have a more distinct plan.

2. A workout does not always mean running same distances or speed over and over again . Although repetition is a great way to build up speed, it isn't the only way to complete a workout.

3. When you are training for a specific race or distance, a workout helps establish you race pace. If you tend to run 8 minute miles for a long run, a workout might require you to run closer or at your goal pace for the race. 

4. Math time!  
One of the "over sights" of the American counting system is our lack of using the metric system. In running, as well as various other international sports, most races & distances are measured by meters or kilometers as the metric system is used by almost every other developed nation as the standard of measure. New runners might wan to brush up on some common conversions but here are few frequently used race lengths:

5 Kilometers (called a 5K) = about 3.1 miles
10 Kilometers (called a 10K) = about 6.2 miles
15 Kilometers (you get the idea) = about 9.3 miles

400 meters = 1 lap around a regulation track (those found at high schools and colleges are 400 meters)
1600 meters = just under 1 mile
3200 meters = just under 2 miles

Although many track athletes use the terms 1 mile and 2 mile interchangeably between the 1600 and 3200 meters, they are different distances.

get used to the metric system, most races are set in metrics rather than miles! 

The Joy of Racing!

What does a workout look like?

An example of a beginning workout for someone racing a 5 Kilometer distance (which is about 3.1 miles. get used to the metric system, most races are set in metrics rather than miles!):

Warm up: 10 minutes of easy jogging. Stretching for about 10 minutes
The purpose: Getting your body warmed up will prevent injuries, get your heart rate up and help you run faster when it comes time.
Workout: 1200 meters at race pace or just above, 2 minute recovery, 800  meters at race pace, 2 minute recovery, 2 x 400 meters at race pace (with a 1-2 minutes recovery between each 400)
The purpose: Giving your body burst of speed followed by a short recovery will get your body used the pace you want it to run. When you are running a speed workout you are using different muscles than those used on longer runs. 

Cool down: 10 minute of easy jogging, stretching for 10 minutes
The purpose: You worked up a sweat and got your heartbeat going. Cooling down gives your body time to recover and get oxygen to those hard working muscles!

Ta Da! A workout. This set of intervals would be great for a beginner, but if you feel like a 3/4 mile close to your race pace is too much to start, try running 2 x 800 and 3 x 400 meters instead.

A workout should aim to be about 1/2 to 3/4 the total distance of the race you are preparing for. The idea of a workout is to get your body used to the speed and fatigue during a race. Going all out on every repetition is not the best way to train you body. You want your body to feel what "race pace" feels like. 

A workout should be tailored to your needs. If you are following a running plan and your body does not feel ready for the prescribed workout, running 4 miles instead will be fine! When you are ready to push your self, plan a workout for another time. If you need longer recovery times between each interval don't be afraid to take an extra breather at first. Don't just stand around. Lightly jog in place or around in a circle. Don't allow your self to fully recover your breath if you can.

Before you set out on a workout it is a good idea to do a few of the following things:

  • Find a flat, even surface for your workout. A track is a great place to start, but if you don't have access to one, try a block around your house. Most city blocks are square and can be used to measure about 400 meters. If you can, mark out a location by using your car and picking significant points for you stop/start. 
  • Decide what intervals you want to do and how many. Although plans may change if you find your self feeling great, having a plan ahead of time will help you keep track of progress.
  • Use a stop watch to record your time per interval. Using the lap button on most wrist stop watches you can save your workout while you run. Pen and paper works well too!
  • Plan your warm up so you are close to you start location so there is less wasted time. 

With a little planning, a workout will soon be a great addition to your routine. Try to aim for 1 to 2 workouts a week for the first few weeks. Don't over due it yet. If you are still getting used to running more than 3 or 4 times a week, hold off trying a workout until you are running 4 or 5 days a week consistently. 

Running with friends or family can making racing even better!

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