Many beginners, seasoned runners, and everyone in between have no shortage of online training programs for runners. Undoubtedly the key features may have a similar aspect, but with the plethora of programs out there, how do runners make sure that they choose what is best for them and their goals?
The first and crucial step for runners is to make an honest assessment of their activity level for the past year. How many miles per week are they currently running? What has the distance of their longest run been in the past month? Next, they also need to determine their goal for running. What do they want to get out of running? Is it to lose weight? To improve their health? Or to prepare for their first marathon? These steps will help narrow down the right training program they would need:
Understand The Elements of an Excellent Program
All training programs should have the following primary components no matter the runner’s target, be it losing weight or hitting a new personal record:
1. Warm-ups, cooling down, and ancillary strength exercises
Every running program should stress how valuable warm-ups at the beginning of a run and cooling down at the end can be to help prevent injuries. They also add a few important ancillary strengthening exercises. These steps are crucial to allow the body to efficiently improve running economy by stabilizing the joints used during running.
2. Gradual increase in training load
The human body is designed to positively adapt to moderate increases in training load even in a short time. The 10% golden rule for increasing mileage has long been debunked. There is no concrete set of rules on how to increase mileage as long as the progression is slow and easy to help decrease the risk of injury and burnout.
3. Rest days
Running nonstop or even continuous easy runs can affect the body, raise cortisol levels, and cause breakdown to the entire physiological system. Rest days allow the body to recover from this breakdown. Without recovery days, the hard work of training can actually become detrimental as this can lead to injuries.
4. Nutrition plan
Every running journal should have a place to record a runner’s nutritional intake. As training mileage increases, the calorie needs of runners also increase. A robust training plan will include nutritional tips to fuel the body and keep up with the increase in both mileage and calorie intake.
Do Not Waste Time on One-size-fits-all Training Programs
Everyone has a different starting point – from the person who has been sedentary all his life, the person who has been injured and is making a comeback after a long hiatus, to the person who walks every day but not run for two kilometres. It is important to choose a targeted program that will take the time and effort to first create a real assessment of a person’s health and exercise history before anything else. A successful training program cannot work without understanding a person’s behavioural styles and needs.
Runners are spoiled with too many choices of training programs available online. But it doesn’t mean that all programs will work for just about anyone. A well-rounded training program should be personalized and should meet the key elements in a runner’s plan.