30 August 2008

Back over a mile

I've whined a little here about my stress fracture; they're no fun. Past the problem itself, I was off enough, and had been at a low enough running base, that after getting the cast off I was basically starting over from scratch. Again.

This morning, I ran my first continuous mile. Yay! I'm doing run/walk for 30 minutes at the moment. With the progress, I've gone from 1 minute running : 1 minute walking to, now, averaging 6:30 to 1. I'm working on being positive about this, and not think too much about how fast I used to run, or how far. (50 km on trails is my longest (31 miles) Really don't need that thought in mind when I'm doing a tenth of that. Oops. Thought about it.)

The main thing is, aerobic activity is good for your health, improving or preserving physical and mental condition. It doesn't seem to matter much which aerobic activity you do* but quite important to do something. I like running, especially on trails, so that's my main aerobic activity. My wife prefers sculling, a coworker prefers tennis, another person likes hiking, someone else bikes, another swims, ... you get the idea. Doesn't matter much what it is, but important to find one you like.

*The exception here is that for prevention of osteoporosis, you need to be doing weight-bearing exercise. This includes walking, running, and weights, but not biking or swimming.

In terms of running, a lot of people tell me "I'm just not a runner. When I run a quarter mile, I get out of breath." There are problems with that. Most importantly is, almost everybody starts out by running too fast when they run. If you run a hard quarter mile (or block), you'll get out of breath regardless of how good your condition is. Most people run hard when the run at all. When you're getting started, you want to be running at a conversational effort level (makes it great for buddy-starting, more fun to talk with a friend). The next major problem is assuming that you have to start with some long distance. I started, after a 15 year layoff, with 50 yards/meters at a time of running. In time, I got to the 50 km trail race. Doesn't matter where you start. It does matter that you start.

Below is the current version of my progression table for going from being able to walk 30 minutes comfortably to running 30 minutes comfortably. Do check your health status with respect to running before starting, of course! It is also a good idea to look for running clubs near you. In the US, the RRCA is the national organization, which also has information on local clubs and more general notes about running. A good book for getting started is Alberto Salazar's Guide to Running. He's even more conservative than I am in some respects, as he allows a year for the progression. Most sources are less conservative than me, the RRCA included.

The run:walk column is the proportion of running to walking to do, in minutes:seconds. Stage 1 is to run 0:30 (30 seconds) and walk 7:00, then repeat this 4 times (giving a total of 30 minutes exercise, 2 minutes running).

The stages with a/b versions are fundamentally similar effort levels, but some people prefer the longer walk, or the shorter run. Try both and go with whichever version words best for you.

Stage 0: Walk 30 minutes straight, 4 or more times per week

For the following, do 3-4 times per week, with 36-48 hours between workouts.

  • stage Run-walk Repetitions Running time
  • 1 0:30-7:00 4 2:00
  • 2 0:30-5:30 5 2:30
  • 3 0:30-4:30 6 3:00
  • 4 0:30-4:00 7 3:30
  • 5 1 - 5 5 5:00
  • 6 1:30-4:30 5 7:30
  • 7a 1 - 2 10 10
  • b 2 - 4 5
  • 8 2 - 3 6 12
  • 9a 2:30-2:30 6 15
  • b 1 - 1 15
  • 10a 2 - 1 10 20
  • b 4 - 2 5
  • 11 4 - 1 6 24
  • 12 5 - 1 5 25
  • 13 9 - 1 3 27
  • 14 14 - 1 2 28
  • 15 30 minutes running

Note that some of these weeks have larger apparent jumps than others. The experience seems to work out, however, that they're about even in difficulty. I've based this in the early stages on Jim Fixx's Complete Book of Running, which is old but one of the few to address true beginning from the couch. The later stages are based on the RRCA's beginning runner programs. I've also made some adjustments based on feedback from runners over the years and my own experiences in re-beginning.

Irrespective of the apparent finely tuned mathematical precision of the list, the important parts are
* to run and walk at conversational effort level
* to get out consistently, 3-4 times per week
* to give yourself sufficient recovery time
As you do these things, you'll be able to run farther, faster, and more comfortably. The progression list is a guide, not a straightjacket.

This all leads to:
Stage I: 30 minutes running 3-4 times per week

This is a major milestone in your running. Once you're here, you can comfortably and confidently go out to area 5k races and have fun with running the whole distance (you can have fun with run/walk as well!). It is also a major plateau in running for health.


Hank Roberts said...

Thank you for this. Here's hoping.

Robert Grumbine said...

Good luck Hank. Something I found helpful in restarting after the 15 year layoff (and various failed restarts before) was just to note that it'd taken me 15 years to get out of shape, it'd take me a while to get back in. Relaxing about how soon I'd get back to running 3-5 miles comfortably let me get there.