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Monday, April 27, 2009

Starting to Run - Beginner's 5K Training Plan

I began my road to fitness as a smoker. Yes, a smoker. I picked up the habit as a teenager. Before I knew it, I was bumming smokes off others, then started buying my own packs. Then, after seeing someone die slowly of emphysema, I decided to quit. My thinking was that regardless of how I check out, that was definitely NOT the way I wanted to go.

Quitting was a slow process that took months because I could not quit cold turkey. Also, I did not want to take medication to quit. I had to slowly wean myself off the nicotine, giving up one smoke at a time until I had one or two cigarettes a day. Then I stopped altogether. I have been a recreational cyclist up to that point, riding once or twice a month on the local trail. I increased the frequency of my time on the bike (partly because I was able to breathe better after quitting smoking) until I was racing in some local criteriums. I tried my best but was not that good. I think it was because was just starting out and also because I did not know anything about proper training and how to fuel my body.

I decided to take up running to cross-train. I thought that my cardiovascular system could easily adapt since I was already a cyclist. Wow, was I in for a huge surprise. When I went out for my first run in my neighborhood I had to sit on the curb after a quarter mile to keep from tossing my morning cookies. I quickly realized that I had to start slowly but I was not about to give up. Like many folks who are starting to run, I decided to swallow my pride and look into a 5K training program that was for the "off the couch" beginner. I found one that involved a walk-run combination. It was more walking than running at first, but I quickly saw significant improvements not only in my breathing and speed, but also my weight and well being.
The more I ran the more addicted I became. In time I signed up for a 10K, then a half marathon, then started swimming in the local pool (which is a great way to take a break from running and give the joints a break as well).

The 5K training program I used almost 20 years ago worked well for me. It did not help me win any awards, but it helped change my life from a beer drinking smoker to a runner, cyclist and an amateur triathlete and I would not have it any other way. The program is duplicated below from my notes. The only trick is to start slow, stay consistent and make it a part of your life.

The Beginner's 5K plan:

The program lasts for 8 weeks to gently build your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system. The activities during these eight weeks are based on time. The time suggested should be spent walking and running. The time spent running should be gentle as far as effort goes. During the first few weeks, spend the time running (easy pace) for 2-4 minutes, then walking for 4-5 minutes, then running for another 3-4 minutes, then walking. Repeat this until you completed the allotted time. As the weeks go on, the time spent running will gradually increase and the time spent walking with decrease.

Week 1: (M) 20 mins; (T) off; (W) 20 mins; (Th) off; (F) 20 mins; (S) 20 mins; (Sun) off
Week 2: (M) 20 mins; (T) off; (W) 20 mins; (Th) off; (F) 20 mins; (S) 25 mins; (Sun) off
Week 3: (M) 20 mins; (T) off; (W) 20 mins; (Th) off; (F) 20 mins; (S) 30 mins; (Sun) off
Week 4: (M) 25 mins; (T) off; (W) 25 mins; (Th) off; (F) 25 mins; (S) 30 mins; (Sun) off
Week 5: (M) 25 mins; (T) off; (W) 25 mins; (Th) off; (F) 25 mins; (S) 35 mins; (Sun) off
Week 6: (M) 30 mins; (T) off; (W) 30 mins; (Th) off; (F) 25 mins; (S) 40 mins; (Sun) off
Week 7: (M) 30 mins; (T) off; (W) 30 mins; (Th) off; (F) 30 mins; (S) 45 mins; (Sun) off
Week 8: (M) 30 mins; (T) off; (W) 30 mins; (Th) off; (F) 30 mins; (S) 45 mins; (Sun) off
Remember to start off walking then gradually introduce running. I highly suggest that you buy a good pair of shoes designed for running.

You will likely feel a little sore during the first couple of weeks. You may not have exercised much, and it will take a little while for you to adjust.

If you feel more than general muscle soreness, back off! Don't try to keep running through an injury, or pretty soon you won't be running at all! If you feel pain, rest and use ice. Try to talk to someone with some experience with running injuries, or consult your doctor.

If you have to take a break for injury or family commitments, don't give up! If you miss one or more of the workouts, just pick up where you left off. If you have an extended break because of a vacation, etc., you might want to back up a week or two.

The days of the week listed here are merely suggestions. Run on the days that best suit your schedule but please take a day break between each workout except once a week when there are consecutive days of running reflected on the schedule.

Please provide feedback of your progress. Thank you.

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