I’ve had some readers and friends ask me some questions lately, that I’d like to share. I’ve never done a Q/A post before, but hopefully this won’t be my only one! Feel free to email, Facebook, Tweet, or ask anything in person, and I’ll do my best to answer. I am by no means a pro on running stuff, but I do like to research and learn more and more about different running related things, so I’m happy to share what I do know!
How do you keep track of your runs and workouts? I keep essentially 3 different records of my runs! I am a bit of a numbers and data freak, and like to know exactly what I did, with who, when, and how I felt. I keep an old school paper planner record, which includes my mileage, pace, shoes I wore, how I felt, who I ran with, and anything else I may have done on that day, like a chiropractor appointment, yoga, weight lifting, etc. It also has what the run was (tempo, speed night, long run, etc), and I keep all my races and times in this book as well.
I keep a record on my phone with the Evernote app, which just has date, mileage, and who I ran with (KC Running Co, Amy, my mom, etc). I keep track of my monthly mileage day by day, and have all my previous months’ runs and mileages in the same document on my phone/computer. Lastly, I am able to look at my run more in depth with my Garmin Connect app, where I can see my splits, cadence, elevation gains/losses, and heart rate, as well as my route.
Now, I do think it’s important to keep track of your runs or workouts, but it may not be necessary to keep as much data as I do. Or maybe you want to keep more data! What you ate, what the weather was like, etc. Sometimes I do note the weather, or if I felt especially bad or good, I jot that down too. I know some people use specific running plan apps, or have their data in Garmin Connect or Map my Run, Nike, Run Keeper, or some other app. I know others’ jot down mileage only on the calendar or in a planner.
The best advice I an give you is to keep track of your runs or workouts, one way or another. Every once in a while I look back through my planner; I see the paces improving, the mileage increasing, and feel the progress in my hands.
Does speed work, speed training, hill work, or utilizing different types of running workouts help increase speed or endurance? YES! A million times over, YES! When I started running, I avoided hills at all cost, and I had one speed… run. I didn’t run faster than I had to, and I often ran slower than I should have been. As I’ve grown as a runner, I’ve used different training plans that utilize tempo runs, intervals, long runs, etc.
Since I’ve been attending group runs at KC Running Co, once a week we have a speed night. Sometimes we have intervals at the track, sometimes tempo or race pace runs, sometimes hill repeats, sometimes a timed mile or 5k trial. Each week is different, and I can say with confidence that doing some sort of speed work once a week through the spring and summer has made me a faster runner. I have PR’d my 5k and 10k, and I can tell my pace per mile is improving month by month. The workouts are not always easy, in fact, they are often very hard, but with a plan laid out, and with my fellow runners at KCRC there to encourage and push me, I know for a fact that I am faster than I was before I consistently included speed work.
I highly recommend adding speed work into your weekly run schedules, even if it is one day per week doing some farleks or adding in a 20 minute tempo or a few strides in a run. If speed is still scary, try adding in a few hill repeats. Hill repeats are hard work… try to keep a consistent pace up the hills, and once you get to the top, run around a bit and then jog back down the hill, and repeat that 3-4, 6-8, 10-12 times, whatever you can. Hills are hard, and they are kind of speed work in disguise.
How do I start running? This is one of those questions that is so hard to answer. How do you start doing anything? You have to make it a priority, and start slowly. You can’t expect to go out and run 5 miles on your first day after never running before. Personally, I used the Couch to 5k app almost 4 years ago. There are several different apps that you can use on your phone; the app instructs you to walk, run, etc, in specific intervals. I found success in this method, because previously when I would “try to run,” I would go out and run until I was tired, walk until I was recovered, and repeat. Well, I could run a while (3-4 minutes was a while back then), but I would walk quite a bit, and then when I tried to run again, I was stiff and I found that when I was stiff and it was hard to breathe, I would simply give up.
The Couch to 5k app (or similar) starts you off slowly, walking to warm up, and generally running 1-2 minutes to start, with walking about 1-2 minutes to recover. It then builds you up slowly, over 8-12 weeks, adding in more running and less walking, until you can run for 30-40 minutes straight. I repeated some of the weeks more than once, because I didn’t feel confident to move on to the next level. The app generally has you run 3-4 times per week, but can be tailored to even 2-3 times per week. I was successful with Couch to 5k, because once I could run 30-40 minutes, I’d signed up and completed a few 5k races, learned a lot more about running, and was able to build up further without the app.
I’ve heard people also having success by picking a 2-3 mile route or loop, and walking the loop/route 3-4-5 times per week, and slowly starting to incorporate running for a block or street sign to street sign, etc, until they are slowly able to build up to running the entire thing. Then they pick a 4-5 mile route or loop, and build up to running all of that, then build up more, etc. Personally, I don’t know if this would have worked for me; I liked the feedback, verbally, from the app, telling me exactly when to walk and when to run.
No matter how you decide to “start to run,” you need to understand it will take a while. You didn’t learn how to ride a bike, or swim, or drive a car in one day, and you won’t “learn” to run in one day. It takes time, commitment, and desire, just like anything else. My advice is to keep with it, don’t get discouraged – you will have bad days when it feels like you can’t run for 30 seconds. I have these days, even now, when every step of my first mile feels like a struggle. But if you keep with it, and run through it, you will advance. (Another reason to keep a training journal or log, you can look back and SEE the progress, even if you can’t feel it!)
I’d better wrap up this post, because it’s getting quite long. PLEASE feel free to send questions if you have them, and I will try my best to answer!