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Running! Some thoughts and plans on running plan structure

by Fred Dyck, Director of Fitness & Facilities

I have certianly seen an uptake on the number of people out walking and jogging around my neighborhood since we all began social distancing. This is great to see and hopefully something that continues once life gets back to normal. Also, I am sure a number of our members are thinking about supplementing their fitness by running while the gym is closed. I thought I would share with you some of my experiences and knowlege-gains from fifteen years of running and training for races.

Pictured: finishing the Beaverflat 50 in 2018. 

When I left the golf industry in 2004 I decided to run a marathon. I had only previously jogged on and off and never with any plan. Just went out the door for jogs. I started researching training plans and interacting with runners I knew and started a great decade or so of regular training and races. I entered the Saskatchewan Marathon that spring, racing the half-marathon distance, and had just a wonderful experience. Being around a group of 2000 people, all with endorphins flowing, was a wonderful experience for me. It started that day and has continued through a lot of races since. I plan to run a long trail race again this coming fall and looking forward to getting fully into my outdoor training.

I will share with you some ideas on how to get into this very satisfying (for me) way to stay active. Give it some thought if you are new to running and for those of you with some experiences, let me know what has worked for you (and what has not). Also, I would love to hear your running stories. Great races you participated in. That first race…any distance. And, in a future blog, I am going to chat about what I do with my mind while I run…music I like and other ways to occupy our grey matter.

In terms of training…here is what has worked for me:

Have a plan:

If you truly want to have a good race experience, even if that means finishing your first 5 KM walk/run or a longer distance or personal best, having a plan is the best way to get there. There is a lot of great plan structures online and I have used some to great benefit in the past. Local retailers like Brainsport in Saskatoon can help a great deal by providing access to experienced runners for you to ask questions and even to train with. My plans have typically featured these items…they have worked well for me and are often part of a good plan:

  • Vary your distances and speeds. A typical weekly plan would have a longer effort at a slower pace once a week. And at least a couple other runs through the week at a speed that is greater than the long distance run pace but shorter in length.
  • Be careful with your weekly distance increases. The typical advice from many runners is only increase distances by no more than 10% per week. So, your long run/jog/walk once a week may start at a specific distance but the following week should only be at most 10% longer.
  • Different types of runs help. Hills, intervals, tempo runs…all help the weekly long run get longer and faster.

Training logs:

When I first started running I recorded everything. Logged each run; how far, what my time was. What my pace was. Calculated my weekly mileage. And, set goals from there with how to increase. This really helps for those of you with specific goals. Its the best way to accomplish a goal. There are online plans to help with this and its hard to measure improvements without data. Get a log book (the notes section of my phone is what I use) and start keeping track.

Or don’t. The type-A runners out there won’t like this comment but I don’t log much anymore. I try to run just for the endorphins and enjoyment. I know this way of doing things likely hinders my ability to accomplish specific goals but after ten years of recording everything…I just like running now. I run for fun. I enjoy being out by myself and enjoying the experience. I set my pace that day to what my body wants to do. I don’t even wear a watch sometimes! Not a great idea if I want to qualify for Boston but it works for me.

Use time as a distance measuring stick:

Especially for those new to running, setting time goals is a great idea. For example, maybe today is your first walk/run. Set a time frame you think will be ok for you, 20 mintues for example, and get out the door. Its a good idea to be cognizant of how far you went so you can measure progress in the future.

Cross train: 

I basically just ran for a number of years. I did push ups and some other things at that time but mostly just ran. Looking back, I would likely do this differently now if I wanted to run the same volumes again (I don’t). I would make sure to get into the gym and complete other workouts involving my legs and lungs. And, I would not ignore my mobility or upper body strength. I don’t like sacrificing any overall health and fitness goals just for running anymore (or lifting for that matter). Since switching to more trail running a couple years ago I have found body weight squats and lunges seem to have had real performance benefits for my running. And, I don’t ignore my ankles and calves. Calf raises and bounding movements to keep my lower limbs working well is important to me so I don’t neglect them either.

Be patient:

This is similar to the above tip about only 10% increases per week. Our basic lifegoal should be to be active each day. Running/jogging/speed walking can be a great part of that. Find what type of structure will give you satisfaction and enjoyment and get going.

I could write lots more on this topic and will do so in the future. Like always, we want to hear from you any questions or comments. Let us know what you are doing. And, if you want some advice on a plan, we can help with that too. Email me at fdyck@ywcasaskatoon.com