Here’s the deal with running: Not everybody likes it, but it’s a pretty good thing to do, at least occasionally, to achieve well-rounded fitness, not to mention the fat-burning benefits that come from the oldest cardio activity known to man. If you need motivation to add a running program to the lifting you already do, consider signing up for a 5K race. Give yourself at least a couple of months to prepare (particularly if you’ve been slacking on your running lately), get registered so you can’t back out and heed the following training guidelines from veteran running coach Brian Clarke, author of the book 5K and 10K Training (Human Kinetics, 2005).
TRAINING SCHEDULE: Clarke suggests doing three running workouts per week when preparing for a 5K. “Separate them by at least 48 to 60 hours but not more than 72 hours,” he says. “Make the workouts 50 to 60 minutes long. Don’t go longer or shorter unless you have never run before. In that case, make them 35 to 45 minutes long. And don’t increase average pace or workout duration from workout to workout or from week to week. Your body will eventually break down and you’ll get sick, injured or exhausted.”
START SLOWLY: “Always warm up for 15 minutes at your slowest jogging pace,” Clarke says. “Most injuries are the result of going too fast during the warm-up.” If it’s been a while (like years) since you’ve run, even a 15-minute jog could leave you sore for days. If this is your situation, make the warm-up jog the extent of your running workouts at first. Over the course of a few weeks or so, gradually work up to where you can jog comfortably for 30 minutes straight. At this point, you can add tempo training to your repertoire.
DO TEMPO INTERVALS: Don’t confuse these with sprint intervals — huge difference between the two in terms of speed. Clarke’s 5K program calls for three different interval distances: one-tenth of a mile (176 yards), a quarter mile (440 yards) and a half mile (880 yards). The tempo intervals are to be done at the exact pace you plan to run the 5K. So if your goal is to run at a nine-minute-mile pace, your tenth-mile intervals should take you 54 seconds to complete, your quarters 2:15 and your half miles 4:30.
Clarke’s tempo-interval protocol includes the following guidelines: (1) Start every workout with between six and 10 176-yard intervals to set your tempo and transition from your 15-minute warm-up jog. For beginners, this may be the extent of your tempo training for the first week or two. (2) As you adapt and get stronger, add quarter-mile intervals, and work up to one (and only one) half mile as your final interval. (3) Rest 30 seconds between 176-yard intervals, 75 seconds between quarters and two minutes after the half mile. (4) Keep the total distance of tempo intervals to 1.5 miles or less, regardless of how it’s broken down — for example, 8 x 176 yards + 1 quarter mile (1.05 miles total); 10 x 176 yards + 2 quarter miles (1.5 miles total); or 6 x 176 yards + 1 quarter mile + 1 half mile (1.35 miles total). (5) After the last interval, there will still be 10 to 15 minutes remaining in your workout. (“Remember, the workout is a certain number of minutes long,” Clarke says.) This is your cool-down, which should consist of continuous jogging at a slow pace.
Taper interval training and workout duration the last week or two before the race. “Resting is more important than training,” Clarke says. “Go into the race mentally fresh, energetic and injury-free.
KEEP THE PACE: For the race itself, Clarke offers this critical advice: “Warm up beforehand just as you would during a workout. Then start off at your tempo pace and maintain that, making sure you don’t hear your breathing before the midpoint of the race. Breathing becomes audible naturally as fatigue sets in, but if the pace is correct from the outset, it shouldn’t start before the midpoint.”