The Training Vault

Run Topics

Getting Started: Training for your First 5k up thru the 1/2 Marathon!

You can read through these easy to find sections from start to finish or pick your own starting point that fits your training.

Couch to 5k Preseason- Phase 1

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Getting Started


So it’s a milestone birthday, a New Year’s resolution, or beachbody weather is quickly approaching. Whatever the motivation, it’s time to get in shape! Well, what does that even mean? That is a good question and it is different for each one person you ask. So it depends on your goals. If you are looking to lose weight, great! If you are trying to set a good example for your kids or students, great! If you want to do your first race, be competitive, challenge yourself, impress someone you are crushing on, it’s all good! So where do you start?

Moving is the first step. Getting out there and moving on a consistent basis is where you start. You will NOT be able to run 3 days per week if you have never run one day in your life, so let’s be honest here. Life is a marathon, so is training for one! OK, even if you are training for a 5k (3.1 miles) there is a semi-long term investment you will need to make. But the good news is that most of the investment is sweat equity and it will pay off with massive dividends in physical health and mental health.

You need to start somewhere and the shoe store is probably the best place. Not just any old shoe store, you really need an expert who can look at your gait, the way you walk, and get you into a shoe that will keep you healthy. You really need a running store. In Monmouth County, NJ we have Miles Ahead, Runner’s High, and Road Runner Sports. The big box sports stores or the outlet stores will not be able to fit you like the pro’s at a true running store. Since they only sell running shoes, not tennis or basketball shoes, they know what they are talking about. Additionally, most of the people that I have come across in these specialty stores are runners themselves.

If you are taking up running for the first time, then here is where you will start. If you are in semi-good shape, you can skip to the next paragraph. Start by walking 3-4 days for 20-25 minutes for the first two weeks. We have already established the fact the training is a long-term project and if you want to do it right you will need to trust the process. You will not do yourself any good if you go out and try to run 3 miles “Just to see” if you can do it. You will be sore for days and lose any positive training effect you gained. Plus, you’ll be mentally drained and need a few days off. Remember the two-week rule. You will need two weeks to adjust to any new workload whether training or actual work.

Once you have you baseline fitness level at a where you can start running then it is “go time!” 25-minutes of exercise every other day for two weeks (yes, two weeks again) broken down into manageable segments- 5 minute walk, 5 minute easy run and so on. This will give you 10-minutes of running and 15-minutes of walking. After two weeks of that you can flip it and start and end with the running so you will be running for 15 and walking for 10. You will start feeling different mentally and physically after just 4-weeks.

Oh, there will be days where you don’t “want” to do it, but you can and need to! Consistency is your best friend and excuses are weak. Plan around the weather, plan around your busy day, plan to put yourself and your health first. You can’t “make up” days that you missed since the key is remaining consistent. Injury prevention is another benefit to the every-other-day regiment when you first start. Your body need to adjust to the increased demand while you start shedding the extra weight. The reality is that you are donating 25 minutes every other day to yourself...not a huge ask.

Consistent Movement

Now that you have laid you base over the first two months and gotten moving, it time to keep it going. The title of this section is called Consistent Movement because that is what training really is. Without consistent inconsistent training, you will not make improvements. What? Yes, you read it correctly, you need to workout 5-6 days per week in a different way each day. Consistent inconsistency.

In this phase you will try to run 5 day per week while also adding 1-2 days of core muscle workouts. The core muscles, you arms, shoulders, abdominal muscles, back, and leg muscles all work in unison to keep you functioning. You cannot use one without the other, just ask any woman who has given birth via C-section and they will tell you how limited they were afterwards. “I never knew my stomach muscles could hurt so much just…..” you can finish the sentence; standing up, sitting down, going to the WC, etc. Working the core will keep the entire system strong and healthy and it is best to find a class or develop a routine where you work as many muscles at once rather than isolating one muscle at a time (ie. bench press, arm curls, etc).

Running changes as you get in shape and are able to run for longer periods without stopping. The general rule of thumb here is still the two-week schedule and the 20% rule. It takes the body two-weeks to adapt to an increased workload, so increase only after you complete two weeks at the current load. The 20% rule keep you from going crazy and adding too much too quickly. Increase the overall weekly mileage by 20% every two-weeks. If you were able to run 10 miles per week after the initial training phase, increase to 12 miles. If you weekly total was 20 or 30 miles, increase by 4 or 6 miles. The 20% rule will give your body and mind the time it needs to get used to the workouts and will allow you to avoid injury.

Now it’s time to talk about the inconsistency part of the training. Our bodies love consistency, like going to bed and getting up at the same time and that is a key to successful training. It also likes certain foods and does not like other foods as you will come to find out when you start running more. We talk about this extensively in the Nutrition section of the Vault. Since your body likes a routine we need to be consistent with the training in the sense that we train almost every day. But the greatest improvements come when you change the type of training you do each day!

For years, runners have gone by the idea that you run hard on Day 1, easy on Day 2, and moderate on Day 3 before you go hard again. It works, but what is hard? “Hard” can be measured by effort - heart rate (HR). A band that goes across your chest or a Garmin, apple watch, or comprable watch can do this for you. I prefer going by speed instead of HR because it is more immediate. HR takes time to catch up with your effort, speed is almost instantaneous. My Garmin is set up with speed in Min/mile or min/km as well as average/min/mile-km. This allows me to adjust my effort in real time to meet the desired speed for each run.

During this phase of training the difference in average speed per mile is 15-20 seconds/mile or 10-15 seconds/km. Inconsistency. After reviewing many scholarly studies on the use of speed training, plyometrics, and strength training, it is clear that the improvements that can be made through changing the routine on a consistent basis leads to the greatest gains. In this intermediate stage of your training it is best to change speeds as suggested in the section to make moderate gains. After a minimum of two- two week cycles, you should look reality in the eyes and make the commitment. Ask yourself if you have really been consistent. If the answer is “Yes,” then hit the internet and find your first 5k! This will be a good test to see if the first 12-weeks of your commitment have paid off. It will also serve as a benchmark, a line in the sand, a goal for you to achieve and to try to exceed after a few more weeks of consistent, focused training!

Can I Go Faster?

The simple answer is "Yes!" It is more complicated and can be a little confusing and that is where a coach comes in. Yeah, this is a little shameless self-promotion, but it really helps to have an outsider's view of what you are able to do as compared to what you are currently doing, especially if that person knows what to look for. There are different ways to "Go Fast" as we like to say at BPC. There are two kinds of speed; straight-up wheels and then there is the speed that is hidden- that is strength. The people with wheels are fast. They kick in the last 100 meters of a race as though they haven't felt any of the effects of the first 3 miles of the race. They are often the fast milers or 800 meter runners. Most of us don't have that "special gift" so we work on the other speed- strength. This is a the ability to hold a faster pace for a longer period of time. This is a process and not something you are born with so it will take the accumulation of workouts; consistent, prescribed, focused workouts to build the strength with is speed in disguise. Again, the theme that runs through all of the these articles is consistency. In order to make progress, there needs to be a consistent plan. A hap-hazard plan or an inconsistent plan will not get you faster!