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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How to Train for a 5km/10km Race

I recently received a lovely Facebook message from an old high school friend who is inquiring as to any training plans I might have for 5km/10km races. She also asked about marathons, but I have very little experience in that realm. I've devised one training plan for half marathons, and it is currently being used by my wife with much success so far....I guess we'll have to wait and see till she actually races her first half.

So, I guess at this stage I could list out training plans I've devised....but frankly, I've never actually written one out. Well, isn't that swell considering the title of this post would indicate I know how to train for a 5km/10km race. Well, it turns out I do, and I have built that knowledge over time in a few different ways:

Get a Coach

If you're in high school, this is quite easy to do. They are free and will help mold you into the athlete you want to be...or at least the one they want you to be.  At this stage this is all you really want. If you're in College or University, you can get yourself a coach with the varsity cross-country or track teams...if you're fast enough. Most people aren't, luckily I was. Sadly, it kicked off my injury laden career as a runner.

So what to do as you get older and don't have free coaching resources at your disposition and you want a coach? Find a local running club or group. Running groups usually meet at local running stores and are a great, affordable way to get yourself into running. The entire group typically runs with a goal race in mind, making it rather easy for you to succeed in that race you've set your sights on.

Running clubs are a little more involved as they cater to the more competitive runner, but if you are looking for a real edge, this is the way to go. I joined London Runner Distance Club last summer and since then I've shaved over 4 minutes on my most recent 5km PB and 7 minutes on my 10km PB. Steve Weiler and his team of assistant coaches do an amazing job at teaching you how to push yourself, and before you know it, you are dropping times. I would highly recommend any running club, just running with a group of like minded people does more for your success than anything else.

Learn Quickly

I am a very analytical thinker and I have an uncanny ability to break things down so that I can more easily understand them. Essentially, I've been able to understand the reasons why my coaches have me do long runs, intervals, hills, tempo efforts...and I've taken these learnings over the years, combined them with readings I've done on running topics and formulate my own independent thoughts.

This isn't something everyone can do, but if you realize the power you can hold by starting small and slowly building up a knowledge base of training tips and ideas, you can see how you can be your own coach pretty quickly.

But I digress....

I suppose if you have a specific goal in mind, and it relates to running, there are likely only two options: 1) Run a specific distance and 2) Set a personal record at a specific distance.

Keep reading for my tips on how  you can make sure you finish your next 5km road race in record time, or just finish it regardless of your time.

I view my ability to complete races in two compartments: mental and physical strength. You'll want to build both of these up as you train, but if you're going for speed or distance, your approach changes slightly

Tips on running in general

  • Start slowly. It takes time for the human body to adapt to a new training regimen. So many times we jump into a new program all gung-ho on the first day. We overdo it. We hurt. We then associate the discomfort and pain with the program and never return to it. For the first weeks, do much less than you think you are capable of.
  • Build a routine, a habit. Run consistently for 3 weeks before tossing in the towel. At that point, regardless of your love or hate for the sport, you'll have formed a habit and will find it incredibly hard to stop running.
  • Know your weaknesses and strengths. Cater to your strengths first, but be mindful of your weaknesses.
Tips on finishing a road race

So you just want to finish eh? Well then, the training recipe is pretty simple:
  • Run consistently. I vote for 3-4 times a week max and you can tackle just about any race distance up to the half marathon
  • Be flexible: Take as many rest days as your body needs.
  • Be creative: Include easy runs, long runs, hill repeats, fartleks into your weekly schedules.
  • Find other runners and commit to them: You will be more likely to stick to your plan if you do this.
  • Get good running shoes: Trust me on this one people, do not neglect your feet, knees and hips. Shoes are crucial in ensuring good health below your waist.
  • Just log the miles: in the end, all you really need is a good base of miles to get you through your goal race.

Tips on improving your time

So you want to start being a little more efficient, faster, stronger? Then make sure you have a solid base (look above for suggestions) and add on the following items:

  • Include more intensity in your workouts: So you currently crank out 4 easy runs a week and are able to go the 20, 40 or 60 minutes without any problems.  Now its time to switch one of those easy runs for a high intensity workout that consists of a tempo effort, intervals or hill repeats.  Adding this intense workout will cause your body to recruit new muscles, pathways and result in a stronger more efficient runner.
  • Get your running stride/gait analyzed. Simple idiosyncrasies in your stride can cause mucho pain later on, go visit a sports physiotherapist and get your stride analyzed.
  • Join a running club. Running with people of your level, and even better than you, can be the greatest motivator towards becoming a better runner.
  • Be flexible: Unlike above, my flexibility tip in this case involves stretching and massaging. As you begin to log the miles you will find you get stiff, everywhere. Incorporate a routine to help with your flexibility. It will directly affect your ability to run long and fast. Try and incorporate it as soon as you wake up, you won't feel like it's getting in the way of your running (if you run at night that is...)
  • Do Drills: Incorporate dynamic drills prior and after your running.
  • Incorporate strength training exercises: You need your core muscle groups to be as strong as possible. This doesn't mean you need a gym membership...most core strengthening exercises can be done in your own living room. View my core workout routine for ideas!
  • Get a coach: I would not be as good as I am if I had to coach myself.....know the value in your coach and find one that suits you well. If you are a runner in london and want a coach, I recommend Steve Weiler of London Runner Distance Club!
And that my friends, is all I can really speak to. I don't have training programs per say, but I also feel I don't need coach does that work for me.  If you follow the tips above you're on the road to being a healthy and strong's taken me 10+ years of experience to finally learn these hard lessons. Don't be as foolish as I.

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