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How to Progress A Running Program to Keep It Interesting

it band syndrome

By Xavier Thompson, ATC

One of the most common complaints that runners have after committing to a running program is that their running plan becomes “stale”, “predictable” or “boring.” A primary reason for these feelings is a lack of progression. Running at the same pace for the same distances or for the same duration over and over again can wear you out quickly. As much as it may be tempting to just get out and run a little, taking time to plan can go a long way in terms of keeping your mind and body sharp as well as preventing injury. A running plan with controlled progression can completely change the way you approach your running.

Planning your training out will remove the air of randomness and allow you to ensure that you are working towards your goals. The training plan is a blueprint of sorts, and while you want to commit to this blueprint, it is important to remember that if it’s not working for you, it is within your power to adjust and adapt the plan accordingly. Before you make a plan, determine your goal. A goal without a plan is a wish and a plan without a goal is aimless.

The first step in planning is determining your goal. Is it to run X amount of miles per day or week? Is it to run a race? Is it to get in better shape? If you have a vague goal you need to make it a S.M.A.R.T. one- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Sensitive.

  • Be specific about your goal and define what is it you want to accomplish.
  • Make a goal you can objectively track how close or far you are to achieving it.
  • Attainable goals are realistic for you. Non-realistic goals tend to lead to quitting.
  • Keep your goals relevant to you! If you have no desire to run road races then don’t make your goal to run a road race.
  • Creating time sensitive goals ensures that you have a finite time period to measure whether or not you’ve reached your goals.

The next stage of making a running plan is determining how much time you are willing to commit to it. I recommend committing to a minimum of 3-4 days per week of running with some basic strength and core exercises included. Space these days out as evenly as possible so that you are not running for three consecutive days with four days off per week. This will allow you to stay consistent in your progress. As you begin running, leave yourself at least 1-2 days per week to recover. Plan your runs in terms of volume- whether you measure that in time or distance- and do not increase your volume by more than 10% per week. The 10% rule will allow you to remain injury free as you continue progress.

We will keep what to do in your 3-4 days simple, but your main focus is going to be variety. A sample three days would include a run of moderate distance at a moderate pace, a long distance run at a slower pace and a speed day. Take your goal volume for the week i.e. 6 miles or 1 hour and divide that by the number of days you want to run (in this case 3). Your moderate run should make up about one third of the volume; your speed day should be less than a third (maybe 20-25%) of the volume; and the remaining volume should be made up of a long run. Your speed day can be a short, fast-paced run, or a series of intervals such as X minutes fast, with Y minutes spent jogging or walking to recover. The different paces of the various runs will improve your fitness level at a faster pace than running for the same duration and intensity daily. If you run for more than 3 days, add more moderate runs or speed days. You should maintain one long distance run per week. The formula is your goal volume divided by number of runs. Vary the volume of each individual run based on the type (speed, long distance, short distance).

The most important thing to remember about your running plan is that it is your plan. Be sure to pay attention to how your body responds to it and adjust accordingly. Have fun running and happy trails! A proper warm-up and cool-down should be part of any exercise program. CLICK HERE for a full warm up and cool down demo.

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