Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beginning Runners: Take it Slow

I was excited when the newest issue of a health/nutrition magazine I get arrived the other day. As I was skimming the table of contents I saw an article about a beginning running program. The tagline pitched a 6-week walk-to-run program. Of course this caught my attention so I quickly flipped to the article. The 6-weeks made me a bit skeptical. So, I read the article.

The article does provide the reader with some good info—you don't have to be in perfect shape to begin a running program; running provides an extra 70% reduction in risk of stroke and diabetes; running can help bust a weight-loss plateau; help maintain bone density, doesn't damage knees; and helps improve mental sharpness. The only problem I have is that the proposed plan, will have some runner wannabes throwing in the towel after the first run or two.
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The "grabber" tagline at the beginning of the article reads, "Our 6-week walk-to-run program will have your clocking miles in no time!" Having worked with beginning runners, I'm thinking this may be a bit of an oversell. The tagline bills the program as a "walk-to-run" program, yet, Monday they run, Tuesday they cross-train, Wednesday they run, Thursday they rest, Friday they run, and finally on Saturday they walk before another rest day on Sunday. The other thing that worries me about the plan is that it has new runners running 1.5 miles on the very first day of the plan. Now if you're a seasoned runner, that sounds like nothing, but if you're a newbie to running, that can be quite a task. One of my running clients has the fastest walking pace of anyone I know. I can hardly keep up with her. But when it came to running, she was good for spurts of about 30-60secs at first.

Now to give the article some credit, it does say to take walking breaks as needed during the runs and if you can only run 15-30 seconds at a time to begin with, that's okay. My stance though is why, make it seem like the person is compromising by walking? It kind of reads like, "It's okay if you need to walk." Also, the workout schedule grid just says "Run 1.5 miles." So, for the skimmer who doesn't read the entire article, they're going to be trying to run 1.5 miles on day one of the program and not know it's okay to take walking breaks.

The other thing I find odd is one of the motivation tips it provides. It reads, "It's more efficient (and fun) to track miles instead of minutes." Huh? If you're not up to a mile yet, this will be a little hard to do. Plus you'll either have to be running on a track, go out in your car and figure out mileage or spend $300 on a GPS.

In my opinion, it's best to start with a run/walk method, but forget distance and focus on time. Begin with a cycle of a short achievable running segment that's paired with a longer walking segment. For example, on day one of the plan, you might start with a 5-minute warm-up walk. Then run for 1 minute at a slow steady pace followed by a 4-minute walk at a steady pace. Repeat this 1-minute run/4-minute walk process for 30 minutes (you'll repeat it 5 times). Then wrap up with a 5-minute cool-down walk. Do this for 3-4 times during week one. Then gradually increase the running segments and shorten the walking segments throughout the course of the program. For example, in week two, increase the running segment to 2-minutes (still at a slow steady pace) and decrease the walking segment to 3-minutes. Continue this process over a ten week period. Over the course of the program, work up to running 5 days a week. By the 9th week of the program, you'll be doing just two run/walk rotations that look something like 14-minutes running/1-minute walking before the last week when you'll run the entire 30 minutes covering approximately 3 miles.

One of the biggest reasons new runners give up is trying to do too much too soon. So, choose a plan that you can succeed at. There's no rush. Take your time. Start with those short running segments and build up. Run at a slow to moderate pace. Don't sprint. Don't worry about distance. Once you can run 30-minutes without stopping, then you can begin thinking more about increasing your pace and mileage.
If you're in the Greensboro, NC area, I'll be starting a new beginning running group 10-week program on August 3rd. Email me at runnerdude@runnerdudesfitness.com if you're interested!

23 comments:

Danielle said...

I totally agree with your comments to the article. I did the Couch to 5k program and thought it was amazing - really got u to work up to the point where you needed to be!

I am not training for my first half marathon!

Thanks for all the great updates!

Danielle

physikerin said...

I agree! In college, a friend and I decided to start running. After attempting to run a mile or two a couple of times, we got discouraged and quit. A couple years later, the Couch to 5k program finally got running to stick for us! Sloooow!

Jess

Iris said...

I'm a "keep it simple" beginner runner, and I think most beginner plans are too complicated to engage a newbie for the long term. Too much math and not enough FUN.

When I started running last summer, I alternated walking and "running" in 30-second intervals, a la Galloway. That may not seem like much of an interval, but for a beginner, 30 seconds is ages! I listened to my body and increased (or decreased) my intervals as my ability allowed. Time was a better tool than miles at that point.

That's still my method, but with bigger run intervals. I'm still slow, but I enjoy myself and can trot out enough miles/time each week to keep myself from popping my stability ball chair when I sit on it, and that's what counts!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Danielle! A Half Marathon! That's awesome! When's your race and which one?

RunnerDude said...

Hi physikerin! Welcome to the blog! That's awesome that you guys didn't give up and found a program that worked for you.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Iris! You rock! And that stability ball ain't got a worry in the world!

Kerrie T. said...

I so agree with you. Honestly, I just did what felt natural. That meant running with walk breaks for about 20 minutes on the first day. I bet that was maybe a mile. And that's just sort of how it went at first. It didn't seem too hard to say, "Okay, today we'll do 25 minutes, tomorrow, 30..."

RunnerDude said...

Hi Kerrie! That's great! It's so good for new runners to hear what worked for others when they started. Thanks!!

Tim Wilson said...

I fully agree and it is funny this kinda goes with something I wrote about a year ago about new runners worrying about speed. That is what gets them discouraged, injured, etc, and why so many give up.

I ran in high school 20 years ago and so many times throughout the years when I was 30, 40, 60, 90lbs overweight I thought I could just go out and run and take the weight off. I would run as far as I could (probably not even 1/2 mile) and felt like I was going to die. I would then give up. I can't tell you how many times that happened.

What was finally the key for me was starting just walking. In early 2007 when I decided to lose the weight for good, I walked every morning (for time not distance) and did that for a month before I even tried to run. The first time I ran I ran for about 100 yards and about died. When telling my kids about this they asked me how much I ran the next day..... I said... THE NEXT DAY???? I was too tired and wore out the next day to do the same. Over time, and about 3 months I worked my way up to a 5k, and have since run all the way up to a marathon.

The key is..... start out walking, and when running do what you can and work up a little bit each time.

##my 2 cents##

Nice post!

Lauren said...

My first run, I couldn't run half a block, much less 1 1/2 miles. 1.5 miles would have knocked me flat on my back : )

I love the run-walk method -- it worked for me.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Tom! A great 2-cents worth! Well said! Thanks for sharing your story! Hey, how would you like to be a "Runner of the Week"?

RunnerDude said...

Hey Lauren!....and look at you know doing 3 marathons this year!!!

Tim Wilson said...

Sure, I will be a "Runner of the Week" on two conditions:

1. As long as I don't have to run 2 a days and log 275 miles that week.
2. You call me Tim :)

RunnerDude said...

Where did I get Tom from? LOL!! Sorry Long day. Although I just realized "I" and the "O" keys are right beside each other.

You twisted my arm, but I guess you're off the hook and are dismissed from runing 2 a days and logging 275 miles that week. Email me at runnerdudeblog (at symbol)yahoo.com (Note: there's no "s" after "dude".)I'll reply with some interview questions. Thanks!!

Rachel said...

The timing of this post couldn't be better! This summer I'm going to be "training" my mom to run her first 5k. Since she's never really run before, I know it's important to start very gradually with lots of walking. I think your plan for beginners is perfect, and I'll definitely be using it as a model for my mom's training plan!

Lauren said...

Oh my gosh I so agree with everyone you said. When I started running i couldn't run for 30 seconds without feeling like I was goign to die. And I was an 18 year old, not-overweight relatively healthy human with no real health problems. If I can't keep up 30 seconds I can't imagine an older adult that may or may not be overweight trying to knock out 1.5 miles! It took me more than a month to get to a mile and I cried that first time :D.

I wish someone had told me the BENEFITS of walking breaks in the beginning as well. I used to feel like it was skimping on the workout. I'd rather run 1mile than run/walk 3.... that doesn't make any sense to me now but it did then. Now I take walk breaks when needed and dont' feel any guilt! Great post!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Rachael! That's so awesome that you're training your mom for her first 5K!! Keep me posted on the training!!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lauren! I'm so glad you shared! It's not only the older adults trying to start running that get discouraged, many young folk do too. But they can get there just like you did, by taking it slow, appreciating small gains, and walking when they need too. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

Kenley said...

Very good article Thad. When I started running last year, I did the walk run routine for about 6 weeks then I was able to run for 30 minutes. I kept no track of distance for another 4 weeks or so until I felt comfortable running for 30 minutes. But even after that a new runner can get in over there head by adding distance and not holding back every 4th or 3rd week. I love my laid back weeks. During that week I go and search out new trails. Thanks for all of the great info here on your blog. I do read them though I admit I do not comment frequently. Take care down there in NC dude. Say Hi to Orson Scott Card for me if you see him again at the grocery. lol

RunnerDude said...

Great advice! Thanks Kenley!

Regina said...

I started running just a little over a year ago. I did the C25K program with podcasts; it was great!! I've come a long way since then, I can run for 2:30 at a stretch and am about to do my first Half Ironman.

It is amazing what you can do starting out slow and just taking small steps along the way.

RunnerDude said...

You are awesome Regina!! When's the Half Ironman and which one are you doing?

Kathy said...

I did things backwards - started with a 1/2 Ironman back in the 80s (before bike helmets! and yes, dinosaurs DID roam the earth then!) then got fat after having 4 kids and finally decided enuf was enuf and walked for 4 months before starting C25K. I spent most of this year injured, but I had made it up to 5 days/week running and about 25-30 mpw and I'm now post-injury back up to 16-20 mpw. But yeah, I would have DIED to have started with running instead of walking.