How I Train

Everyone’s training journey is different, but every runner usually encounters some of the same challenges and questions along the way.

My first big question was how often and how far to run. Quickly after that I started to wonder how fast I should be running… and then what sort of running, what kind of cross-training… it went on and on.

Since I had a lot of questions at first I decided to research training plans with the ultimate goal of beating my university time. Back then I had zero plans, and merely ran as often as I could either at the gym or out at local walking trails with my friend. This time, I decided to get serious and really set out a schedule.

The best plans I found were half-marathon training guides by Nike, Runner’s World, and Women’s Running.

What Kinds of Running to I do each day?

The training plans I found all had varying lengths of prep time and different suggestions on distances, but all of them had a few things in common that I incorporated into my weekly schedule. Each week has two days with shorter more relaxed runs of around 3 to 5 miles; two days that are more workout focused and centre around speed and strength (like hill workouts, fartlek and track days); one day is a long run that has gotten progressively longer each week (I started at around 5 or 6 miles and worked up to 10 or so miles so far); and there are at least two rest/crosstraining days.

My favourite cross-training activity is rock-climbing! It is a slower low-impact sport that allows me to build strength all over in a creative way. I get bored easily with average gym sessions, so climbing is perfect. I can work on core-strength, my arms and back… and many other muscles that may get forgotten whilst running, but also I can strengthen my leg muscles in a way that doesn’t stress them out in the same way that running can.

My favourite style long-run has got to be the days iIve decided to incorporate trail-running.  Even though running on the streets and parks beats a gym any day, the woods are even better!  So many interesting trails and terrains!  On the days when my husband and our friends meet up for long mountain-biking rides in Surrey Hills I instead run similar trails or the push-up trails where walkers and runners are allowed to shared the road with cyclists.  You can really clock in the miles this way without even realising it!

How did I work out how fast to run?

Experimenting. I went on a few runs with Strava running on my phone to figure out my average time. Whether you realize it or not, you really do have different speed gears that you can engage based on effort and feeling. Once I had an average I could consult the pace charts provided by the training plans and figure out how fast to run each day. This was especially important if I was attempting a workout-style run.

Track Days Without a Track

Without the budget to get a membership to a track I thought creatively about how to time and measure my speed and distance. I used an app called Interval Timer to create my own customized workout sets. I calculated how long I would need to run at a certain pace and how long to rest in-between. I use wireless headphones for music and/or maps of the routes I’m running and the app runs in the background and buzzes or dings when I need to change gears. I have to say, that once I incorporated the Suunto watch, all of this got a lot easier as I was able to see my pace and distance quickly without having to fuss with my phone.

Injuries, Recovery and Rest

One of the hardest but most important lessons I constantly have to re-teach myself is to actually rest to let yourself recover. Despite being essentially brand-new to running, I’m also VERY stubborn. This means that I might make the mistake of failing to sleep enough or rushing my stretches. I’ve really learned to listen to my body and actually invest in taking care of myself. It’s a work in progress of course; I haven’t become an expert overnight.

Like Nike’s training plan says: “Sometimes missing miles in the present lets you run better miles in the future.”

Letting myself have more days off than my schedule originally set is a hard bargain to come to terms with. My first instinct is to keep on going… or if I really can’t… I can really beat myself up about it!

I try to talk myself out of self-criticism and instead focus on recovery and rest in an active way. I’ve changed my warmups to focus on problem areas like my calves. Also, after consulting running friends and Youtube I invested in the +addaday massage tool and a hard massage ball that I could work between my thigh and calf muscle. In addition I have booked massages and even gotten into cupping therapy!

How do you train? I’d love to hear your plans and tips and get inspired to incorporate them as well.