Running: You Can Become a Runner (cont.)

Here's how it works: Let's say you now run 10 miles a week, run 11 miles the next week, then 12, and so on. "Within 8-10 weeks, you will be running 20 miles a week, and what's more, this gradual increase will help you grow stronger and fitter as a runner," says Bakoulis, who has completed 26 marathons. "The 10% rule is good to follow no matter what type of race you are gearing up to run. It's tried and true."

Step 7. Feel the need for speed?

Speed training involves intervals of running at faster-than-training speed, Bakoulis says. "Training pace is a conversation pace -- meaning that you can hold a conversation while doing it," she explains. "Don't introduce speed training until you can run 20 to 30 minutes at a conversation pace," she says. Remember, "if your goal is just to finish whatever race you have set your sights on, speed training is not necessary," Bakoulis says. However, "if the goal is to maximize performance, then speed training is important." Speed training gets your body used to racing conditions. Many road runner clubs offer speed-work classes, or you can do it yourself by sprinting the stretches and jogging the curves at your local high school once a week during training.

Step 8. The long and short of it.

The basics of any training program involve a combination of hard runs, easy runs, and long runs. "Alternate your days with hard runs and easy runs," Bakoulis says. "You can do this by running every other day or by running roughly twice as much on the hard days as the easy days." Don't add miles to implement the hard runs. Instead, figure out how many miles you are doing now and divide them up so that you are running more on the hard days, less on the easy days. Get it?

As the race or marathon gets closer, start gearing up for a long run. "For a marathon, a long-run is 18 miles or more, but a long run is shorter when training for a 5K, 10K or another race," she says.

Before your run, do any type of exercise -- a light jog, calisthenics, a bicycle -- until you break a sweat, says Lewis Maharam. "Muscles are like taffy. When they are warm they stretch, and when they are cold they break." Also stretch out important muscles -- your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and iliotibial band -- before and after your run. "This will not only improve flexibility but prevent injury," he says.

Step 9. Rest your body and your feet.

"It's really unnecessary for 99% of runners to run every day of the week. Most people should take at least one, if not three days, off each week," Bakoulis says. "And you don't have to run every day either." Instead, try "non-impact activities such as cycling, swimming, using the elliptical trainer at a gym, or any activity that is not causing you to pound your feet at least once a week," she says.

Step 10. On your mark, get set, go!

Congratulations. You are now on your way to the starting gate and much closer to achieving your goal. Remember, aches and pains can -- and will -- occur during your run. If you feel sore on race day, take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Says Maharan: "The temptation is to take ibuprofen, but it can block prostaglandins and blood flow to the kidneys in race conditions."

Orginally published March 2003.
Medically updated March 30, 2005.


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