Spring Training - Advanced 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, whether to run some fast 5-K and 10-K times at the end or to improve your speed base before starting my 18-week marathon training program. Regardless of your goal, it is now in sight. Think about this today as you run. Also, check the schedule for the full week. This is a race week with a 10-K penciled in for Sunday. Your workouts change as a result of getting ready to race. (As before, if the local schedule doesn't yield a convenient race at this distance on that day, adjust accordingly.)
Tuesday: Today's track workout is 16 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 a 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 across it. Interval training is an excellent way to improve your concentration, which becomes critical when you race.
Wednesday: Three miles running with stretching to follow. Continuing a discussion thread begun yesterday, how is your running form? Usually I tell beginners not to worry about form; just get out and run. But once runners rise to the advanced level, how they run is worth some consideration. As you run 3 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.
Thursday: Thirty minutes is your tempo run for today, so with the stress level lowered somewhat focus on how you run, particularly during the brief period when you are at maximum speed. 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.
Friday: Three miles plus strength training. Form is important in strength training exercises, as well as when you stretch. Don't be sloppy in anything you do connected with your running. That includes eating. It's interesting how running often forces people to change their lifestyles. When people become runners, they often modify their diets, eating more carbohydrates than they might have before. (The proper form for eating spaghetti, by the way, is to stick your fork straight into the spaghetti and twirl it to entrap strands, which then can be raised to your mouth. You can use a spoon beneath the fork, if you want, to assist in this process.) Typically, runners 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, I'll give you the option of running an easy 3 miles or taking a day of rest to make sure you compete well. Or do some easy jogging and a few strides. 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 a 10-K race, although the exact distance you run isn't that important. I would prefer, however, that you race less than 10-K given the focus of this program on speed and quality. 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 would 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.