Running Made Simple: Training

How to keep your running a refuge from life's complexity... and maybe even run better in the process.

Posted: 18 May 2005
by Mark Remy

By its very nature, running is simple: put one foot in front of the other; quickly repeat; keep going. That formula is burned into our brains. For our ancestors, running meant the difference between eating or being eaten, so the skill was there from day one.

We don't need gloves, helmets, bats or racquets. As runners, we don't have to pump up tyres, keep score with stubby pencils or memorise the vagaries of the LBW law. We just slip on our shoes and go. Easy, right?

Well, not always. Sometimes your running can become as cluttered as the rest of your busy life. How to fit it in? How far to go? How fast? How often? Where? When? What to eat? What to wear?

When things get like this, that's when you need to simplify the situation. The following tips, contributed by RW staff members and running experts and coaches across the country, will help.

You won't need all of this advice, but we think that many of these suggestions save you time and aggravation. They'll leave you free once again to enjoy the simple pleasures of running. And they might even make you a better, faster runner.


Get in sync
If your schedule allows it, run at the same time each day. If you have to decide when to fit your run in every day, you waste valuable time and energy.

Cross it off
Want a simple way to help you stick with your training? Mark an 'X' on your calendar on the days you exercise. In a recent Canadian study, exercisers who did this fared better than those who didn't keep track at all.

Put it in writing
Crafting a four-month training plan may not sound simple, but it only takes an hour or two, and once it's done you won't have to worry about it for another four months. Work backwards from your goal, and plot out each week's work-outs one by one, including long runs, speed sessions, hills and rest days. Nothing is simpler than glancing at a schedule, then heading out the door to follow it.

Set your alarm
Whenever possible, run first thing in the morning. Not only will you avoid having to shower twice a day, you'll also be less likely to skip your run. (You know how it works - the longer the day drags on, the more time you have to find an excuse not to run.)

Streamline your stretching
So you don't have time for a 20-minute stretching routine? Then focus on your calves and hamstrings, the most important muscle groups for runners. Here's a stretch that works them both: place the balls of your feet on a low kerb or a piece of wood with your heels resting on the ground. Slowly bend at the waist as if you're trying to touch your toes. Hold for 30 seconds.

Get a grip
Negative thoughts or minor aches and pains can turn a good run into a bad one in a hurry - but only if you let them. "When I'm on a run and feeling down, I remind myself how miserably out of shape I was five years ago. "This usually pulls me out of it," says psychologist Robert Frisk.

Turn things around
You've heard that tempo training is one of the best ways to improve your performance, but you've also read so many tempo-training work-outs that you're not sure how to begin. It's easy: run slowly in one direction for 30 minutes, then turn around and run nearer to your 10K race pace for the next 20 minutes; when that's done, jog back to your starting point.

Do more with less
Many runners train more or faster than necessary to achieve their goals, says Jack Daniels. "If I told a group of runners that 40 miles a week would allow them to race a 40-minute 10K, and that 80 miles a week would also allow them to race a 40-minute 10K, some would actually choose the 80-miles-per-week option," says Daniels. Rather than pile on the miles mindlessly, examine your goals and set your mileage accordingly. "Then you can better savour the miles that you do run."

Run further
You'd like to, of course. You'd like to burn more calories and maybe plant the seeds for a possible marathon some day. But you feel too tired after just 30-40 minutes. What do you do? Take a one-minute walking break after every nine minutes of running. If that's still too hard, take a one-minute walking break after every four minutes of running. You should be able to double the time that you're out almost instantly. You'll feel great, and that marathon seed will take root and grow.

Turn off your brain
Set aside one day a week as a 'simple run day'. Get up whenever you feel like it, drink a cup of coffee, and then head out. On this run, don't worry about time, pace or distance. Just run.

Listen to your heart
Worried that you're overtraining? Find out in 60 seconds by checking your resting heart rate before you step out of bed. Monitor it first, though, for a couple of weeks to establish what's normal for you. "An increase in waking heart rate is a sure sign of fatigue," says Daniels. "If it's eight beats or more above normal, take it easy that day."

The full series: Training, Nutrition, Racing and Speedwork, Gear, Gym
Plus: Ten Things You Don't Have To Worry About

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Discuss this article

Good article on the basics of running, but the pedant in me can't see past the typos.

I've spotted five........
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 13:25

Ditto, and cos it's part of my job I notice typos all the time ...
it can be very distracting!
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 13:28

This is my personal favourite:

"...the longer the day drags on, the more time you have to fll]d an excuse not to run..."

Do you think someone sneezed when they were typing?
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 13:33

I quite liked "An increase in waking head rate is a sure sign of fatigue".

Erm, almost rude.
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 13:35

I'd love to know what 'yotu toes' are.
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 14:46

I think it's a new yoga pose, Debbs.
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 14:50

I love Bummers World...
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 14:52

Running Fitness magazine (excuse my language) used to be full of non-stop typos. It drove me nuts!

They seem to have discovered their spell-checkers now though.

Posted: 29/07/2005 at 15:18

Ah, my favourite Running Fitness mistake ever was to write burnt as burn't. Although I don't think I was laughing at the time.
Posted: 29/07/2005 at 15:21

Sorry, that's disgraceful. We're short on online staff this week and that was a set of scanned articles (using text 'recognition') that went live without going through the normal process.

Would it have made the mag? Of course not.


Sean, RW
Posted: 30/07/2005 at 11:02

Sean, bet you spent ages checking that post for typos :-)
Posted: 30/07/2005 at 13:41

Sorry, but I'm going to be really boring and get back to the article itself.
As a new runner I avidly read anything which may help me so find this type of article useful.
At the moment I'm trying to get ready for the Glasgow half marathon but have hit a problem at 7 miles which it appears to me is as far as I can go.
Add to that the awful mess I made of my feet last week and I'm feeling pretty disheartened - is there anyone out there with a few words of wisdom?
Posted: 10/08/2005 at 08:04

Val - what problem have you hit at mile seven that makes you think you can't go any further?
Posted: 10/08/2005 at 08:06

Run slower Val.

....unless you are literally hitting a wall at seven miles, in which case change the route you run to one that isn't blocked by a wall at seven miles.

What have you done to your feet, blisters?
Posted: 10/08/2005 at 08:17

Thanks guys -

1. Just feel totally spent at 7 miles - but interested in the 'run slower' advice. I do a lot of training on a treadmill with a personal trainer who pushes me with regard to pace - then on the road when I do run run with someone it's a 36 year old (lot younger than me) 6' 4" (I'm 5'3") man (no prizes there for guessing I'm not a man). So maybe I am running too fast.

2. Yeah - badly blistered feet last week then went out on Sunday and just made the problem worse.

I really don't want to give up at this stage cos I've worked so hard to get this far.
Posted: 10/08/2005 at 08:38

Do you have a HRM? I'd advise using one to pace you rather than some lummox down the gym or your friendly giant.


Blisters. Probably lots of sensible advice on here. Depending on how bad, I tend to just put plasters on them with a dab of germaline (or some such) or use surgical gauze and tape them.

You might want to have a hard look at your trainers. Do they really fit properly? How many pairs do you have? If only one then has it really dried out since your last workout? Socks, do you wear them?
Posted: 10/08/2005 at 08:45

LOL, Dodge "change your route"

Don't give up Val - I'm only a beginner, too but you will get past that 7 mile thing! I've never even run further than a 10k but am still doing the GNR next month - that's gonna hurt. ;-)

Seems like your personal trainer might be pushing you too hard. What kind of pace has he got you running at on the tready? First thing my trainer did was to slow my pace down (from 7mph to 5.7 mph) while we built up on time - apparently slower, longer runs are good for building stamina but a 'burst' of speed is okay at the end (just as well, my legs like faster running but my lungs can't take the speed for too long). Also, my running partner for the GNR has a different running speed to mine (I'm taller, with longer legs) so I needed to learn to run slower! The best thing is, I can now run for 50 minutes relatively happily at pretty much any pace. So, you'll get your speed back but first concentrate on stamina / endurance and running further or longer (I always measure time, sounds like you measure distance).

Presumably, you're paying (a small fortune) by the hour for your p/t? That being the case, his/her job is to help you achieve your goals so I'd suggest you talk to him/her, say that the pace is too high for you and you're suffering on the stamina side because of that. The p/t's got all the qualifications, by definition, but only you know how your body feels and what feels 'right'. It's not science but it works.

Er, just thought, might the 7 mile 'wall' be blood sugar or hydration related? Thing is by that point, you've already done 7 miles which is a long way to run.

If you want to compare notes on 'Taming your personal trainer', email me.

Good luck
Posted: 10/08/2005 at 09:07

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