Your run training questions answered

Answers to common running beginner questions

Starting out in running throws up so many questions. Running is simply not just about putting one foot in front of the other, but involves plenty of commitment and planning to ensure you get it right. Here's some answers to your common running questions that runners have asked us in the past.

Two men running and your running questions answered

Your run training questions answered

Q. I have no street lights around when it's dark, how can I run safely in the evening?

Answer: There are plenty of options here. Go to your local gym and use the treadmill; consider driving to a well lit area where you can run safely; use a local multi-storey parking area for hill work. The local running track is likely to be floodlit aswell.

All of these options can be incorporated into your training in dark evenings to ensure your training stays on track. This will allow you to use your weekend days well and use the light when it is in your favour.

Q. Will I improve my running by just going out and doing some steady running with the odd fast hard run?

Answer: People have been known to perform well after just clocking up a lot of miles. However, most endurance athletes will employ a variety of training methods. These will include a variety of runs, from long steady runs to medium distance steady runs, fast paced tempo run and 'fartlek' (or 'speed play' sessions), alternate-paced running (steady running with short burst of quick running) and repetition running. These methods may not necessarily be used every week, but frequently during the monthly training cycle. These sessions are different to steady running in that they prepare the runner for the demands of a race. Hopefully that's answered your run training questions.

Q. How should I start running?

Answer: This is a common run training question. When starting out you need to consider your current fitness level, the time available to you to train, and the kit that you require. The time you have available to train will be a crucial factor in your progress. Put aside time so that you can get into a regular routine. This will allow you to build up a good endurance base upon which you can build upon. Depending on your age and current fitness level, you may need to be checked out first to see if you in a fit state to start training.

When starting off, run on alternate days for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. When you can do this comfortably, gradually increase the number of days to six with one rest day. You can then begin to increase the distance on alternate sessions while keeping the speed consistent. If you progress the training in this way, then you can start exchanging some of these steady runs for tempo runs, hill sessions, fartleks or repetition runs.

The basic kit you require is a top, shorts, socks, running shoes. The key thing to get right and spend some money on is your running shoes. Your running shoes should fit well, as ill-fitting shoes will lead to blisters and potentially injuries.

Q. I have recently started running and wondered if I needed to join a local running club to improve?

Answer: You will probably have to join a club if you do not wish to train alone, and there are advantages with this. Most clubs have distance sections and certain clubs are just for endurance runners only. Clubs will provide you with coaching advice and you'll also pick up ideas from club members. Clubs also provide an opportunity to participate in competitions and races. They may also provide cheap transport options to races and have good contacts with local physiotherapists.

Q I am finding it difficult to go running because of my work. To help I have bought a treadmill. How should I use it?

Answer: You can save a great deal of time using a treadmill. On the treadmill you can do a timed session or a target distance session. You can also make the session more difficult by using the gradient settings, effectively mimicking a hill run. The treadmill can also be set to high speed to simulate a tempo run. Doing all this helps save time by cutting out any of the travelling time that was involved previously.

Q. How do I improve my performances on four running sessions a week?

Answer: Improving your power will have an impact on performance. You can improve this by including hill sessions in your training. A good example to use would be 10 sets of 60m (0.04 miles) with a jog back recovery between each. If a lack of endurance is holding your performance back, increase your weekly mileage. If a lack of strength is to blame, include longer hill repetitions into your training (6 sets of 200m or 0.12 miles complete with recovery). If you lack speed, then you need to include fartlek or speed sessions in your training. By analyzing your weaknesses, you can improve your performances, even on just four sessions a week.

Q. I attend the following sessions each week at my local fitness center: pilates, body-blitz and aqua aerobics. Will these help my running?

Answer: These sessions can only hinder your running if you are doing them instead of running. All of the sessions will have benefits in some way to help your overall conditioning, but should be in addition to your normal running sessions, not instead of them. However, there is no real substitute for running other than running. Alternatives to running can bring welcome breaks to your normal running program and could improve your overall conditioning and strength. However, they are unlikely to improve your basic aerobic fitness which you require for running, and that is best improved by one thing — running.

Q. I have read various literature on running training and am confused between Interval Training and Repetition Training. Please explain?

Answer: It is easy to understand your confusion as the terms have tended to become blurred over the years. With interval running, the distances were usually over distances of 200, 300 or 400m with a set number of repetitions, a set recovery and a set time for the speed of the repetition. These sessions are usually run on a track and are designed to raise the heart rate as high as a 180 beats per minute. These sessions are usually used most effectively by endurance runners who are predominantly track athletes.

Repetition running is very similar to interval running but the distance run is a lot further, the number of repetitions would be reasonably high and the recovery would be longer. Therefore a 10k road runner may run five sets of 2,000m on the road.The heart rate would be slightly lower in the 160 to 170 range.

Q. My daughter has started running and I have joined her for a few runs and want to improve. What should I do?

Answer: You need to first consider whether your goal and motivation is to get fit, to help your daughter, to compete, or just to lose weight? Once you have answered that question, you need to decide how much time you can commit to running each week so that you run consistently and improve progressively. This means that if you set out to run four times a week, make sure you do, and fulfill the targets you have set yourself. Once this has been achieved consistently you can then progress to the next level.

Q. I have a bad cough and sore throat, so should I continue run training?

Answer: If your illness is severe or has persisted for a few days, you should seek expert advice. Once you have a diagnosis for the illness, in this case the cough and sore throat, you can act accordingly. If it is not too severe you can carry out a few low key, easy-to-steady runs until the problem has cleared. If the illness is more severe, a few days off training is recommended and is far more beneficial than trying to train through it. When you start back after illness, do so gradually with a few easy running sessions.

Q. Is it better to go running in a group?

Answer: It obviously depends on you and your own motivational strength. It is always a good idea to run with a group, provided they are of similar fitness level, to help break up the monotony, especially on long runs.

While an element of competition can be a good thing, these runs should not become too competitive. It is easy to become too competitive in these sessions when you can be destroyed either mentally or physically.

Q. I am training hard but always feel lethargic when running. Why is this?

Answer: Lethargy could be the result for a number of reasons. It may be that you are training too hard, particularly if you couple this with stresses of everyday life. It may be that you need to introduce more rests or easier sessions. In addition, it may be worth getting a blood test from your doctor to see if you are anaemic or have a viral infection.

Q. Is hill training useful to my running?

Answer: Hill training is probably one of the most beneficial froms of training. It helps get you fit very quickly, is very good for reinforcing your technique, and can make you stronger and more powerful. Depending on the length of the hill, its gradient, the number of repetitions, and type of recovery, the hill sessions can either be a speed, strength, power, speed-endurance or just a plain endurance session.

Hopefully this has answered some of your run training questions!

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