For beginning runners—or those beginning again—just getting out the door a few times a week for a few weeks in a row is cause for celebration. But once you have that routine down, you may feel like you want to do more—without risking injury. Gentle challenges followed by rest days can improve your speed, endurance, and motivation while reducing the chance of aches and pains. Here's how:
A regular increase in speed can boost your confidence as well as your pace. You can try this on a track or on a quarter-mile stretch of road.
Do this workout once a week, if possible on the same day each week.
Warm up with 10 minutes of easy running. Then run a lap around the track slightly faster than usual (but not all-out) and record your time. Walk half a lap, then do another lap at the same pace. Try to keep your times consistent. If you're huffing and puffing on your second lap, or if it was much slower than the first lap, you went out too fast.
Add one lap each week, building up to six laps. Then do a one-mile time trial. Time yourself running four laps on the track or one mile on the road. In the following weeks, build up to 10 laps, then do another time trial.
Tacking on even just a little mileage to your usual run can improve your endurance and make the normal distance seem easier to manage.
Run long once a week. Rest the day before; run easy the day after.
Warm up for 10 minutes, then run a quarter mile more than the longest distance you've run in the past two weeks. The pace should be about two minutes per mile slower than your usual pace. At the end, you want to feel like you could continue.
Keep extending your long runs by a quarter-mile each time. Once you build up to five miles, run long every other week. On the alternate week, do a three-mile run.
RUN A RACE
Even if you're not competitive, it's a good idea to enter a race every so often. Just having the date on the calendar will give you a goal to work toward, and help you stay motivated. Once you have run four miles, you're ready to enter a 5K.
Find an event that's known for being fun and well organized. Check with running stores and Web sites (such as runnersworld.com/races
). Do a long run two weeks before the race. One week out, run three miles, taking the first two miles very slow, and picking up the pace on the last mile. Rest the day before the race.
Schedule a race every four weeks. Don't worry if you don't improve each time. Factors like weather and the course may affect how you do.
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