I’ve just gotten back from an interesting course on coaching distance runners and I hope to be able to share some of the things I learned here. The first thing I wanted to do was provide some thoughts for the everyday runner on what to do in winter. It’s been so cold and it can be frustrating to think that we are not getting in the training we’d like. That said, winter is a good time to get in some easy miles, which are vital to spring and summer success, and the cold weather won’t hurt our ability to do just that. Just bundle up and you’ll be fine, and you don’t have to go that fast.
If you are just starting to run, the best training you can do is slow, easy running. There’s no need to do much more than that at first because you will see great and quick improvements just by increasing the length and frequency of your runs. As far as your pace goes, find a comfortable pace, and don’t go much faster than that. You are likely to find that you have only two (or maybe three) speeds: jogging and sprinting. The third speed may be described as “faster distance running.” Stick to jogging for at least three, and up to six, weeks. Gradually increase the time you spend running by about five minutes per run per week: so if you run 3×30 minutes one week, run 3×35 minutes the next week. After a three week cycle, you can also increase the number of runs per week: so if you run 3×30 minutes one week, 3×35 the next, and 3×40 the third, on the fourth week, run 4×30 minutes. In this way, you will gradually increase the amount of running you are able to do and you’ll see improvements in your ability to do those runs. Always keep the runs comfortable: don’t pay attention to pace, other than to ensure you don’t go too fast.
You can do some fast running. At the end of your runs, do a few (start with three or four, and gradually increase to six or eight) short sprints. These are very short — eight seconds at first — and all out. These aren’t just moving into “faster distance running” but actually sprinting as quickly as you can. The reason you only do eight seconds of sprinting is because you don’t want to allow your body to shift to “faster distance running.”
If you are just starting out with running, this is all you need to do to get better and set the stage for more complicated training later. The challenge is that there is not much variety, but if you are looking for variety, you can always buy a box of Timbits and sit on the couch enjoying the different flavours of donuts! Trust me, you’ll feel much better by getting outside during winter and fitting a run in.
These are some thoughts for beginning runners. In the coming weeks I’ll write about what runners with intermediate and more advanced experience can do!