Spring Training - Intermediate Schedule, Week 9
Monday: Begin the week with an easy run of 3 miles followed by your strength training routine. Eight weeks down now and four weeks remaining in our 12-week Spring Training program. You're two-thirds of the way toward your goal, which presumably was to finish this program, whether motivated from a desire to get into shape or to achieve a level of fitness so you can shift into my 18-week marathon training program. Regardless of your goal, it is now in sight. Think about this as you accept today as you run. Also, check the schedule for the full week. This is a race week with an 8-K penciled in for Sunday. (As before, if the local schedule doesn't yield a convenient race at this distance on that day, adjust accordingly.)
Tuesday: Today's workout is 6 miles, further than you've run on previous Tuesdays, but you can handle it. How is your running form? Usually I tell beginners not to worry about form; just get out and run. But once runners attain a base level of fitness, how they run is worth some consideration. For the rest of the week, I'm going to sneak some tips on running form into the daily instructions. As you run 6 miles today, consider your posture. You should run upright. Your back should be straight, roughly at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Ignore anyone who tells you to "lean into it," even when running uphill.
Wednesday: Today's track workout is 10 x 200 meters, jogging and/or walking 200 between. Run at the pace you would race an 800. Don't forget to warm up thoroughly and cool down afterwards. Warm-up is particularly important when you train this fast. It's too easy to injure yourself if your muscles are cold. Here's another tip on form related to head carry that you can consider while running the 200 reps. Look straight down the track. Your eyes should be focused straight on a point moving about 10 meters in front of you. Try to run in a straight line and not wander back and forth in your lane. While running the curve, focus on staying just right of the inside line and don't wobble back and forth across it. Interval training is an excellent way to improve your concentration, which becomes critical when you race.
Thursday: Three miles at an easy pace followed by strength training. Continuing the discussion on running form, swing your arms naturally. The angle at the elbow between your upper and lower arms should be about 90 degrees. Your hands should be loosely cupped, about belly level. Let your arms swing in rhythm with your legs. The legs should control arm swing, not the other way around. Form is also important not only in strength training exercises, but it is also important when you stretch. Don't be sloppy in anything you do connected with your running.
Friday: This is your usual end-of-week day of rest, and it's interesting how running often forces people to change their lifestyles. Last week, we talked briefly about the fact that runners usually modify their diets, eating more carbohydrates than they might have before. Typically, they change their drinking habits too, realizing that moderation is the key. Rarely do I see runners drinking alcoholic beverages other than wine or beer--and usually not much of that. That's because when you start to run, you quickly realize that it's no fun to run with a hangover. Thus does running create positive habits for those who pursue it.
Saturday: With a race scheduled tomorrow, you may want to take an extra day of rest to make sure you compete well. Or do some easy jogging and a few strides on one of the two days leading to the race. One final word on form, and it concerns footplant. The most natural landing is mid-foot, the ball of the foot landing first, the heel contacting the ground a fraction of a second later. The toes push off a fraction after that. Some runners land further forward, or backward, than others, based on what feels natural to them. Attempt to modify this natural gait at your own risk.
Sunday: Today is race day. The schedule suggests an 8-K race, although the exact distance you run isn't that important as long as you keep the distance between 5-K and 10-K. St. Paul once said, "Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but only one receives the prize? So run as to obtain it." (St. Paul, 9:24) I don't know, Pauly, that message might have been accurate 2,000 years ago, but if you were around today and had an opportunity to experience today's mass-participation marathons, you might agree that more than one runner receives the prize, or benefits from their participation. (That might make a good sermon subject for my former teammate at Carleton College, Bill Hendren,who is now a minister in Ventura, California.) Regardless of whether you expect to win a prize in tomorrow's race, take St. Paul's advice and run so as to obtain it.
Running Tips: Frequently when people start to run, their first steps look and feel awkward. This is natural. You wouldn't expect to go out and hit a hole-in-one the first day you played golf. So take your time learning to run correctly. After you have been running for a while, your running form will begin to improve somewhat as you condition your body. A good coach may be able to suggest some form improvements (as I have attempted to do this week), but most runners develop the form best suited for them without much prompting.
How to Improve: Hal Higdon's Beginning Runner's Guide is a handy booklet for those taking their first running steps. Everything you need to know about starting to run: From your first steps to your first 5-K. Shoes. Clothing. Form. Breathing. Stretching. Goal setting. Nutrition. Weight loss. Training. You too can become a runner today! And it costs only $4.50. To order an autographed copy of this and other books by Runner's World's best writer go to Books by Hal Higdon.