Posts Tagged ‘training’

Trails with a flat, unpaved surface are ideal for long runs because of the cushioning for your legs.

Long runs aren’t just for marathoners — novice runners can benefit from an extended, slow-paced run as well. A weekly long run can help you build your endurance and running efficiency, improving your fitness level while burning lots of calories. After an hour of slow running, your body will tap into fat burning mode instead of burning carbs. Long runs can therefore be an asset in your weight loss program as well as a tool to help you run faster in races of all distances by improving your stamina.

Here are a few quick tips on how to incorporate the long run into your training program:

  • Do a long run once a week, on a day after an easy workout or rest day.
  • Take a rest day or do an easy run the day after your long run so your body can recuperate.
  • Gradually add miles to your long run. Start with the longest distance you’ve run in the past two weeks and add one mile a week to your long run. Every third week, keep your long run distance the same as the week before, then continue increasing the mileage the following week.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water every few miles, or try sports drinks for distances over 10 miles. Runners’ tolerance for sports drinks varies, so test them out on your long runs before deciding to drink them during a race. Water is always a healthy fluid option that is less likely to cause stomach upset.
  • Eat something within 30 minutes of finishing your long run. Eating will help replenish depleted glycogen so your muscles can recover more quickly. Try a piece of fruit for a quick sugar surge.
  • During runs of 10 miles or longer, try sports gels, bars or drinks to give your body an energy boost. Experiment with different flavors and consistencies to determine what works best for your stomach and energy level.
  • Eat a large meal within a few hours after your long run. You will need to resupply lost nutrients in your body as well as satisfy what is probably a huge appetite after running. Just remember to keep your choices healthy, especially if your goal is weight loss. A long run is not a free pass to pig out on fried foods, junk food and candy, or you’ll cancel out some of the benefits of your run.

So you’ve set your sights on a 5K race. Maybe you got roped into it by your co-workers, you want to participate in a charity event or you’ve been running and want to try your hand at racing. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to run 3.1 miles with lots of other runners and test your mind and body. Congratulations! Now all you need to do is prepare for it.

Here’s a crash course in how to train for your first 5K, so when race day comes, you’ll feel good and have fun without crashing and burning.

Stretch after your runs to keep your muscles from tightening up.

  1. Build up your running base. Give yourself six weeks if you have already started a running program, or eight weeks if you haven’t run since that time someone chased you.
  2. Start slow. Work out for 30-minute sessions five times a week. If you’re not used to running, alternate walking and jogging until you reach 30 minutes. For instance, walk for 5 minutes, run for 3 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 3, until you hit half an hour. Don’t worry about your running speed at this point.
  3. Keep running. Stick with your routine and gradually add more minutes running until you can run for 30 minutes. If you start out running in 3-minute segments, for instance, add 2 to 3 minutes of running to the segments each week until you hit 30 minutes.
  4. Add speed workouts to your plan after four weeks of steady running. You can do interval training or tempo runs. If you do a tempo run, pace yourself to go at your goal pace for the race. Do a 10-minute slow jog to warm up then run for 1.5 miles at your goal pace and cool down with a 10-minute jog. Do one speed workout per week.
  5. Rest. Give yourself one day off a week so your body and mind can recover from training. If you don’t rest, you’ll be more likely to get injuries and burn out on training.
  6. Cross train. Set aside one day a week to do a different exercise that you enjoy — whether it’s cycling, tennis, basketball or dance. Working different muscle groups will help you get in better shape and give your body a break from running.
  7. Taper before race day. Tapering means to cut back on your workouts so your body will be fresh and rested on the day of the event. Give yourself a day of rest before the race, and two days before the race do a light, slow run of a mile to loosen up your muscles.

Even a slow, short run is better than no run.

Sometimes the hardest part of running is just getting out the door. Excuses are always plentiful – whether you’re tired, hungry, it’s too sunny out, too rainy, too cloudy, your favorite show is on TV or your eye is twitching, it seems like there’s always a good enough reason to skip a workout. But if you give in to the excuses one day, before you know it you’ll be skipping workouts left and right and joining the ranks of the complaining non-runners.

Here’s how to kick your excuses to the curb and get back to running strong:

  • Keep track of your workouts. If you record each run, you’ll be more likely to stick with the program to keep your records on track. Preventing your weekly mileage totals from plunging can be more motivating than you might suspect.
  • Share on social networks. Sites like Daily Mile and Nike Plus allow you to broadcast your runs on social networks like Facebook and Twitter while also offering personalized charts and milestones to you help you stay motivated. The running sites also have their own social networks, where you can add friends and cheer people on. Knowing your friends and family are cheering for you will encourage you to keep running and updating.
  • Make a deal with yourself. Tell yourself you will just run 10 minutes and then if you still feel like you can’t run, you will turn back and come home. Getting out the door is usually the biggest obstacle, and chances are, once you get started on your run, you will stick to it (unless you have an injury, in which case you should rest).
  • Reward yourself. On days when you feel sluggish or reluctant to run, give yourself an incentive. Be creative with your rewards and think about what you enjoy. Watching a movie or your favorite show, cooking a favorite meal, buying a new pair of running shorts or going out with friends can inspire you to get your run done.
  • Run with a partner. Grab a running buddy or join a running group — which you can find on sites like — and you’ll be less likely to skip runs because someone will be counting on you. Running with people also makes your workouts more fun and seem like less of a chore.

Pro athletes use plyometrics exercises to sharpen their motor skills, increase speed and power and improve their game performances. Plyometrics use high-intensity, fast movements to train your nerves and muscles to perform better. You don’t have to be a pro to benefit from the many rewards of plyometrics. You can improve your race times, get faster and stronger by incorporating some plyometrics for runners into your training plan.

Do the following exercises on a track or cushioned, flat surface at least twice a week to step up your running game:

Tuck jumps can improve your running efficiency.

  • Tuck jumps — Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and arms at your sides. Spring up to jump into the air, tucking your knees in toward your chest and bringing your arms out in front of your for balance. As you land, immediately jump back into the air. Repeat to do two sets of 15 tuck jumps.
  • Lunge jumps — Stand with your feet together and bring one foot forward, bending the knee to get into a lunge position. Your knee should be aligned with your ankle and not go past it and your back leg should be straight out behind you. Spring up into the air, pushing off both legs. Switch your legs in the air to bring your other leg forward and bent and bring the front leg back behind you to land in a lunge on the other side. As soon as you land, spring back up to switch legs again. Do two sets of 10 lunge jumps on each leg.
  • High knees — Stand with your feet slightly apart. Bring your arms out straight in front of you to help you balance. Spring one leg up toward your chest, bringing your knee up to touch your arm. As your foot lands, immediately push off with the other leg to bring the knee up to your hand. Repeat to do 25 high knees on each side.
  • Box jumps — Use a stable bench or wooden box for this exercise. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and spring up to jump onto the edge of the box. Step back down quickly and repeat. Do two sets of 15 box jumps.

As an arm strength-challenged runner, I can attest to the common runner’s plague of feeling strong on bottom and weak on top. Cross training can help you balance that out, and get in a good workout and have fun in the process. Pole dancing is one form of cross training that is not only fun and exciting but also offers an effective strength, flexibility and cardio workout all rolled into one.

Pole dancing can vary depending on where you take a class and the individual teacher’s focus, but in general pole fitness involves doing dance routines that incorporate floor work, chair work and pole spins and poses. Learning to maneuver your body around a pole can be challenging, awkward and thrilling, but well-worth the effort. Pole dancing helps strengthen your arm and shoulder muscles, as well as your core muscles (a common problem area for runners and non-runners alike). In fact, pole dancing helped tone my arms and abs so well that I now pole dance — with yoga and pilates warm-ups — a few times a week instead of doing a weightlifting routine.

If you want to try out pole fitness for a cross training workout, check out your city’s pole dance studios and talk to the instructors and visit the studios to get an idea of what to expect and where you would feel comfortable.

Caution: Pole dancing can be addictive. After signing up to try it a year ago, I have since trained and gotten certified to be an instructor, so expect more pole fitness articles to come. (In the meantime, you can read more about my adventures in pole dancing here.)

Me taking a spin at Divine Body Fitness, my second home.

If you’d like to join the ranks of the millions of runners enjoying the health and weight loss benefits of running but don’t know how to begin, don’t worry- it’s really not as hard as you think. Whether you want to run to lose weight, get fit for another sport or tone up, you can reap the rewards of running with some quick tips for beginners.

Here’s how to get going:

  • Check with your doctor to make sure you have no health conditions that could impede your running.
  •  Buy a pair of comfortable running shoes that fit your foot type (see “How to Find the Best Running Shoes”).
  • Start slow. If your body is not used to running, you can ease into a running program by alternating walking and jogging. Try walking for five minutes and jogging for two minutes, for instance, for a total of 30 minutes of working out. Gradually increase your jogging time until you can run the whole 30 minutes (this may take up to a few months, depending on your fitness level).
  •  Run with a partner. Having someone to run with makes workouts more fun and also helps keep you motivated, as it’s harder to miss runs when someone holds you accountable.
  • Take a break. Give yourself at least one day of rest a week to allow your body and mind time to recover from the workout routine. You can do a cross training activity (such as “Pole Dancing for Runners”) for a light workout, or give yourself free reign to do nothing.
  • Record your progress. Tracking how far and often you run can help you see how much progress you are making in your workouts. You can also record your times if it helps you stay motivated.
  • Pat yourself on the back. When you reach a goal or accomplish a running feat, give yourself credit. Reward yourself with new running clothes, some new music or a healthy treat.

Once you get into the swing of running and get bit by the running bug, you’ll never look back. Welcome to the world of running! May many happy and healthy runs await you.

Related post: Track Yessi’s progress as a beginning runner in Training Tales.