- Training plan
About this challenge
Feel as though your running performance has hit plateaux? Maybe you are not getting faster, going further or even enjoying your training as much as you used to. You need a running reboot to get you out of your training rut.
The running reboot challenge will help boost your performance, kickstart your motivation and develop your running know-how. You can expect 30 days of advice on different training approaches, nutritional ideas and alternative strategies to maximize your running mojo.
beginner Training Plan
Entry requirements: beginner
#1 Run with others
Finding the motivation to drag yourself out of the house to go for a run can often be hard, but you’ll find it a lot easier if you have committed to meet a training partner. Running with a training partner around your ability level is a great way to mix up your training, and a bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone. If your friends are all too lazy to join you on your runs (shame on them), try signing up to your local running club. Here you’ll meet a group of likeminded individuals who will be able to show you new local routes, offer advice and encouragement, and push you to new levels in your running training.
Pledge to - Take time out to research running clubs in your area. You don’t need to commit, just suss out what’s available and if there are any sessions locally that might suit you.
#2 Sleep more
Sleep allows your body to recover from the exertions of the day, and if you aren’t getting enough sleep your body isn’t recovering properly. It’s that simple. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep to recover fully, so it’s a good idea to start with the recommended eight hours a night and adjust accordingly. If you really want to use sleep to optimise your running, you can keep a sleep diary. Note down when you went to bed, how long you slept for, and how you felt in the morning and in subsequent training sessions. You’ll soon get a good idea of what your optimum amount of sleep is.
Pledge to - Rethink your sleep routine, simply start by aiming for the same bedtime each night for three consecutive nights. Relax and wind down by reading for at least 10 minutes, and really try to minimise browsing on your phone/iPad ideally for an hour before bed.
#3 Treat yourself to a sports massage
Now before you get your hopes up, we’re not talking about a ‘cucumbers over your eyes whilst relaxing music plays’ style massage, nice as they are. Sports massages can in fact be slightly painful if done correctly, as they are designed to directly stretch and reduce tension in the muscles used for running. This shouldn’t put you off, as the mild discomfort felt is well worth it in the long run. As well as helping to prevent and treat injuries, sports massages can decrease recovery time, boost your running performance, and reduce the amount of pain felt while you’re running.
Pledge to - Take time out and research sports massage therapists in your area. Ask at your gym if they can recommend anyone, or search online. You don’t necessarily need to book a treatment straight away - just get an idea of what’s available.
#4 Enrol in an event
Finding the motivation to improve as a runner can be difficult, especially when you don’t have a goal to aim for. Remedy this by signing yourself up for an event. Depending on your skill level it can be anything from a 5k fun run to a full marathon – whatever will challenge you as a runner and give you a target to work towards. If you are a seasoned event runner, you’ve still got options, how about a tackling a different distance, choosing a destination race or maybe trying an off-road or nighttime event. You could also consider something completely different, maybe an OCR, Mud or colour run? There are plenty of themed races to choose from that offer fun and variety to event running so why not give one a go?
Pledge to - Spend some time looking into potential events with the aim to sign up for a running event or similar challenge within the next month.
#5 Get more gear
If your kit is looking worse for wear it might be time to treat yourself. You don't need to go all out, head to toe on brand new kit but it’s surprising what a new running top or a brand new pair of shoes can do for your running. It’s also an opportunity to get the right type of kit. If you’ve been doing your training runs in some beach shorts and a cotton T it’s time to get some running specific gear to your kitbag. The right kit will maximise your comfort, potential and might even give you extra motivation to train.
Pledge to - Treat yourself! Get a new bit of running kit - even if it’s just a new pair of socks.
#6 Try trails
Flat roads and pavements are perfectly good for training on, but to make improvements as a runner you’ll need to mix things up a bit. Training on the uneven surfaces of trails will make you far more aware of how you are running, which over time improves technique and strength. Throw in the hills often found on trails which boost endurance and speed, and this becomes a seriously challenging yet rewarding method of running. As an added bonus, the soft surface of the trails will reduce the impact of your footfalls, which will put less strain on your body as you run.
Pledge to - Mix in some off road terrain into your next training run. Don’t commit to a long run, just enough to feel the change and add variety to your training.
#7 Try somewhere new
As you pass that same old lamppost on that same old route for seemingly the millionth time, ask yourself this: what is stopping you from running somewhere new? All too often runners find a route they like and stick to it religiously, eventually working themselves into a boredom induced running rut. The next time you are about to head out for a run around your usual route, set off in the complete opposite direction. Or even better yet, hop in the car and head somewhere you’ve never been before and start running. The new scenery will eliminate the tedium of your previous routine, and inject new life and interest into your running career.
Pledge to - Run a new route or one of your old favourites that’s been neglected for a while.
#8 Posture check
Running is tough enough as it is, so you don’t want to make things harder for yourself by doing it the wrong way. Developing a smooth and efficient running technique will make a world of difference, and once you’ve got into the habit of doing it you won’t even have to think about it. One common running mistake is to let your posture suffer as you become tired. Make sure you are facing directly ahead rather than at the ground, with your head held reasonably still. Your body shouldn’t be bolt upright, but instead at around 90 per cent.
Pledge to - Carry out a body scan on your next run - this is a simple assessment of each part of your body whilst on the move to ensure correct technique.
#9 Book a session with a coach
You can read every bit of running information you can get your hands on, whether it’s training guides, websites or books, but nothing can quite match the expert eye of a professional running coach. Running coaches are trained to analyse people’s running styles, training regimes and diets, and a bit of expert input can lead to a serious running breakthrough. This level of expertise comes with a price tag to match, but even splashing out on a single session could be hugely beneficial. You’ll be able to learn how to perfect your running technique, when to train, and how to eat properly to fuel your progress.
Pledge to - Look into coaching opportunities in your area. This might mean you revisit your ‘run with others’ pledge from day 1 of this challenge.
#10 Identify your excuses
There will be countless times in your running career when you are fully prepared for a training session, only to open the door and be met with rain, snow, or any other host of poor weather conditions. This is not an excuse to skip your training. A bit of light rain never hurt anybody, so unless there is a chance of injury due to the weather, get out there and complete the training you planned to do. If not, you can head to the gym and complete the distance on a treadmill, or work on some cross training. No successful athlete ever got anywhere by skipping training sessions, and if you want to improve you need to have the same mind-set.
Pledge to - Take time out to think about the three most common excuses you use to skip training and come up with a counter argument for each. Then, when you next want to miss a session you’ll be able to see your excuses not to train are just that, excuses.
#11 Be honest about bad training habits
Do you launch into a main session without a proper warm up? Does your cool down consist of a few token stretches and then a shower? Bad habits in training can lead to lack of performance, motivation and, at worst, injury. When you are a runner it’s easy to focus on just running, simply the time you spend on your feet, but running training encompasses so much more. Take time out to look at the bigger picture of training, aspects like your warm ups, nutrition, cross training approaches, rest and recovery strategies. All of these things can have a bearing on your performance as a runner.
Pledge to - Identify three of your worst training habits - and remember to be honest with yourself. Understanding where you can improve could be the difference between good and great.
#12 Run for charity
Although running is a very personal journey, there’s nothing to say you can’t help others as you do it. Raising money for charity is a fantastic way to give your training purpose, and will provide you with an admirable goal to work towards. It doesn’t matter what kind of event you’re interested in – charities will be happy to have you on board whether you’re running one mile or 100. As your fundraising progresses so will your training, and you’ll find yourself more motivated than ever to succeed so that you can donate funds to a much needed cause.
Pledge to - Take time to think about a cause that is close to your heart. Why not run your next running event and fundraise? Knowing your running efforts are supporting a worthwhile cause can be an amazing antidote to lack-lustre motivation.
#13 Learn from running
We’re all for reading every book and training guide you can get your hands on, but the person who knows your body best is you. Experts can only give general advice to runners, which might be completely different to what works best for you. If you’re following a strict training regime and it doesn’t seem to be doing anything for you, don’t be afraid to make some minor adjustments to personalise it slightly. As long as it’s not drastic, adapting your runs to work in tune with your body can only be a good thing.
Pledge to - Be a little easier on yourself. If don’t follow your planned training to the letter don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at how you can adapt your training so it fits in with you.
#14 Don’t let injuries stop you
As you gradually put more and more miles into your training, it’s a sad fact of life that as a runner you are likely to suffer from an injury. All too often runners pick up a knock or pull a muscle and let it affect their training far more than it should. However, while injuries are definitely annoying, they shouldn’t mean the end of your running progress. As soon as you suffer from an injury you need to start taking the steps to recovery, such as icing the affected area, getting a sports massage, or lightly stretching the muscle. If you are sidelined from running by injury you need to seek professional advice. A physio or fitness professional will be able to offer rehabilitation advice as well as ways to avoid injury in the future.
Pledge to - Identify injuries don’t ignore them. That little niggle that’s been bothering you - get some advice, if ignored it could take you out of training for a prolonged period of time.
#15 Add hills to your routes
Running along flat surfaces is all well and good, but if you really want to improve and challenge yourself you need to start adding some hill work into your training. Hill training adds variety to your running sessions, and the added effort involved helps to build up your leg muscles, improve your technique, and generally make you a better runner. What’s not to like? If the options are limited in your area your best bet will be hill interval training. Find a reasonably sized hill and (after warming up of course) jog up it around six to eight times with slow walks back to the bottom for recovery.
Pledge to - Work some hills into your training routes. If undulating running outside is not possible just crank up the treadmill gradient and crack on.
#16 Try cross-training
If you’ve reached a frustrating plateau with your running progress, it might be time to try cross-training. Cross-training involves taking part in activities in addition to running to complement your training. Finding alternative ways to work your system reduces the continual high impact work on your joints, and it can help avoid monotony and boredom by adding a bit of variety. Your cross-training should include a core regime of cardiovascular training, strength training, and flexibility training. Whatever your training level, cross-training can help you get the results you want and improve as a runner.
Pledge to - Do something different other than running. Swim, cycle, opt for a session of circuit training or you could choose to focus on your core with Pilates, improve your flexibility with yoga. There are many activities that will complement your running - get out there and give them a go.
#17 Ditch the timing device
Hold on, hear us out. We are not suggesting long term and completely - just on one of your training runs. It’s easy to get bogged down by personal bests and how to shave vital seconds off your times. Just once in awhile it’s good to run without speed or time targets. A pressure free training run will allow you to enjoy the act of running and help you focus in on what you enjoy. Running just because it makes you feel good can be a powerful motivator and sometimes more so than meeting specific times and distances.
Pledge to - Do a time-free training run and simply concentrate on enjoying the act of running. Absorb what’s around you and how each step makes you feel without any pressure.
#18 Shake up your diet
Are the same foods hitting your shopping cart week in week out? It’s so easy to get stuck in a recipe rut when you are pushed for time or trying to cram in the carbs for your next long run. But a varied balanced diet is one of the fundamentals of successful running and that includes eating a variety of forms of carbohydrate, especially when you need a lot of it! Plus, it’s important that you don’t neglect other food groups - foods rich in protein are essential for building and repairing muscles and the good fats need to be included too.
Pledge to - Cook up something new this week for one of your meals. You don’t need to go mega gastro - just something quick, simple and tasty.
#19 Don’t neglect rest
Less is often more when it comes to running. Many runners are afraid to rest as they fear that they will lose all of their hard earned fitness in an instant. However, gains in fitness actually happen when you rest, not while you’re training. Your body needs to recover in order to allow the physiological adaptations to a training stimulus to take place. Incorporating a regular rest day or a very easy day into your training will enable you to physically and mentally recharge your batteries and you are more likely to achieve better overall performance and consistency.
Pledge to - Give as much discipline to rest as you would your harder workouts, it’s form of training too.
#20 Check your hydration
You’d be amazed how many people don’t stay properly hydrated when they’re running. Aside from the fact it can negatively affect your running, a lack of water in the body whilst exercising can lead to serious health problems. Whereas taking water on a run used to be a chore with cumbersome bottles ruining your form, there are now plenty of options such as belts and ergonomically designed water containers, so there is no excuse not to stay hydrated. The amount you’ll need during the run will vary depending on distance and weather conditions, so try taking frequent small sips until you find a suitable balance of frequency and amount.
Pledge to - Pay attention to your hydration strategy on your next training run and ask yourself if are you taking on the right fluids in the correct quantities.
#21 Where’s your warm up?
Warming up correctly before you run is one of the best ways of avoiding injuries and improving your training sessions. To start your warm-up you’ll want to lubricate your joint surfaces by gently moving each of the major joints through its full range of motion. Next you should perform some gentle aerobic activity for around five minutes, such as brisk walking. This will raise your body temperature and heart rate, and prepare you for your run. After (and only after) you are fully warmed up you can perform light stretches to loosen your muscles, focussing on any areas that feel tight or tense.
Pledge to - Dedicate time to your warm up on your next training session. When beginning your run, start with five minutes very easy jogging, this will warm up your body for your training session.
#22 Injury proof your body
Prevention is better than cure right? And that saying definitely applies to running injuries. Doing too much too soon, poor hydration, inadequate nutrition, incorrect running gear... runners can sustain injuries for a multitude of reasons. The best approach is to know the common danger areas and then take steps to avoid them.
Pledge to - Identify injuries don’t ignore them. This was #14’s pledge but it’s so important we are going to ask you to make it again. If something is bothering you - get some advice, if ignored it could mean a long pause in your running career.
#23 Get to know the good and no go foods for runners
We all know a good balanced diet is essential for running success. But there are some foods that are proven to give you an added boost and some that will, for sure, inhibit your performance. It’s a good idea to keep in the know of recent research in the realm of running nutrition - what you eat can mean the difference between just missing a PB and smashing it.
Pledge to - Take a look at your diet honestly. Are you eating too much? too little? Is your diet filled with run-friendly foods or a few too many post-training treats?
#24 Get a cast iron core
Sure a six-pack is nice but developing a cast iron core goes way deeper than aesthetics, especially of you are a runner. Many runners skip or overlook core stability workouts. Yet building a strong core is essential if you want to be the best runner possible. Improved balance, improved joint and body stability, improved posture and reduced risk of injury are just some of the benefits of developing mid-section strength and stamina.
Pledge to - Concentrate on your core. Aim to dedicate at least one 15-minute core focused session into your weekly training. Alternatively go along to a Pilates or core conditioning class.
#25 Supersize your stretch sessions
You might not be able to see a direct correlation between flexibility training and running, but we can assure you there is one. Exercise classes such as yoga has a whole host of benefits that can be applied to running, including the development of strength, flexibility, range of motion and breathing technique. Recovery time will also be decreased, as your muscles develop and your strength increases. They’re also perfect for runners who are suffering from injuries – the low impact nature of the exercises means you can maintain your fitness levels without exacerbating existing problems.
Pledge to - Make sure your next training run concludes with a thorough stretch session. Alternatively why not take it to the next level and commit to a weekly yoga class.
#26 Breathe right
We know, we know; first we told you socks aren’t socks and now we’re telling you that you don’t even know how to breathe properly. But hear us out. We’re all used to the sight of the exhausted jogger who sounds like an outboard motor as they amble past, and you might have even been guilty of this yourself. Rather than frequently exhaling, make sure you are breathing in deeply on a regular basis as well. This will help to open up the heart and lungs, increasing the amount of oxygen in your body and making running easier. Even such a small change will make a big difference to the effectiveness of your training sessions.
Pledge to - Pay attention to your breathing on your next training run. You could practice with some techniques such as matching your breathing with your strides, for example try inhaling for 2/3 strides and then exhaling for 2/3 strides.
#27 Buddy up online
If you are looking for a little extra motivation why not consider a running buddy online. Let’s face it some runners prefer to take to the road alone and are not fussed about a training partner. And sometimes coordinating a run with training partner can be difficult around yours and their lifestyle commitments. This is where a virtual training buddy can bring benefits. It might be someone that shares similar training goals as you or someone that is training a couple of levels above you. The idea is that you can check in regularly, update each other on progress, share tips, switch advice and so on. An online running buddy might be the added motivation you need to stop you skipping sessions and might also bring a little healthy competition to your training too.
Pledge to - Look for a running buddy, someone that shares similar or more challenging goals.
#28 Check your training volume
You might think that becoming a better runner simply means putting more miles in, but increased distance does not always mean progress. In fact, it’s quite the opposite sometimes. If you’ve overtrained, you’ll know all about it. You’ll feel a general sense of fatigue, aches and pains you aren’t usually used
to, and even a drop in concentration when performing day-to-day tasks. We don’t have to tell you that this can put a sizeable spanner in the works of your running career. There’s nothing wrong with pushing for that little bit extra effort, but if you think doubling the distances in your training plan will benefit you, you’re in for a nasty surprise.
Pledge to - Be completely honest with yourself and assess your current training volumes. If you are experiencing a prolonged sense of fatigue, aches and pains it might be an idea to easy off.
#29 Experiment with intervals
Planned and controlled interval training is a great way of making improvements to your running abilities. Interval training can be tailored to your skill level, but experienced runners will probably see the most benefits from it. The technique of interval training involves setting a distance of high intensity, followed up by a much slower cool down period. This can then be repeated as many times as necessary. By keeping track of interval times and distances you’ll be able to track your progress and increase the intensity of your interval training appropriately. If you have no means of measuring your distance, then a nearby running track is the perfect place to try interval training.
Pledge to - Include a set of intervals to your training schedule over the coming week.
#30 Don’t forget how far you’ve come
Congratulations on reaching the final day of our running reboot challenge. We hope our information and advice over that past 30 days has been helpful and given your running the refresh that it needed. Today is the day where you can reflect on how far you’ve come. Think about which aspects of the running reboot worked best for you and how you are going to apply them to your future training.
Pledge to - Remember your successes and your mistakes, they’ve all contributed to carving you into the runner you are today and the type of runner you’ll be in the future.