What I Need In My Running Program

Photo of running program next to blog title

A training program is a good tool to follow especially if you are a new runner or a repeat offender of over-doing your workouts until injury. It holds you accountable but controls the reins. Some tips may be straight-forward if you are experienced, but you may learn something new.

Allow enough time per goal

Planning schedule with a post it note plan ahead

If you are starting with a low baseline, then planning roughly 8 months for a marathon, 5 months for a half and 6-8 weeks for 5K. It is a good idea to include several week as a ‘buffer’ in case of injury or set-backs. It’s a tricky scenario when you don’t have a buffer during your build-up, followed by 1-2 weeks off due to injury because then you have no room to build back up. Lastly, You will get stronger faster with shorter more frequent runs, so 4-5 days per week with 2 recovery days is recommended.

A mixture of long runs, recovery runs & interval runs

Recovery runs are designed to prepare you for, or recover from, harder sessions. An interval run includes switching on a faster pace for a short period of time. For example, repeats of 2 minutes running fast followed by 2 minutes slow jog. Commonly, a training program will have one long run per week and one interval per week. The general rule is to train eighty percent of your overall load at an easy intensity, but this ratio can be modified in individual circumstances.

One hard effort per fortnight

This would include a short ‘max out’ sprint for shorter periods of time or scheduled time-trails of shorter distances. Unlike interval sessions where you train around 80% max, this session will have you completely depleted.

Runner ready to start running from the blocks

Pre-set your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) per session

This is especially for those experienced runners who have a good awareness of their RPE and those who are constantly injured. Your RPE should range from 1 (a light walk) to 10 (Max out effort), and every workout should have a pre-anticipate RPE range. For example, 6k run at 3-5RPE. Another option is to work within different heart-rate zones. This can be quite accurate against intensity if you are not experienced with RPE. I often see runners who start a long session ‘feeling really good’ and will over-do their workout, leading to an over-use injury. So, set your RPE in advance and stick to it.

Plan out your weekly arbitrary units

Your arbitrary units (AU) are the total minutes of running x RPE. If 6ks takes you 30 minutes and your RPE averages 4 then you total 120AU (30×4). You can then do a quick calculation of your total weekly units to monitor if you are doing too much too soon (the #1 cause of injury!!). We have probably heard the rule of not increasing by more than 10% per week but this is extremely conservative. I say if you are starting from scratch try 20% increase per week. If you have a healthy weekly mileage already then average 15-20%, any higher and you are putting the risk on yourself. If you are constantly dealing with injuries, I would stick between 10-15%.

There are certain apps like the Nike Run Club – App which allows you to build your own running program. I personally love this app because it factors in your past experience, current capacity, your goals & your RPE after each session.

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