Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nike: Returning to Running

originally posted April 17, 2009 by Coach Jay


Coach Jay, I am going to start running again after a pretty long period of little to no running. I have always trained—what I would call old school—by mileage. In other words, I would determine that I want to run 2.5 miles today and/or 20 miles this week. It seems though that the current philosophy is to run for a certain time period, with or without a set route or mileage. That is what I would like to do. I am considering starting around 15-16 minutes a day for five or six days a week and gradually work my way up (by 10% increments) until I am doing about 30 minutes a day. Do you have any suggestions? Also, are timed runs the current "school of thought" or am I off-base? Any help would be appreciated. Regards, Steve

Steve - Great question. The short answer is that training by minutes are nice for several reasons. However, keep in mind that many elite and recreational runners swear by mileage. People still count miles!

Many good coaches like to use minutes because if you are supposed to run 50 minutes easy, then when you start the run you’ll probably run 50 minutes easy. However, if the assignment is to run your normal 7 mile loop you’ll have to look at your watch when the run is over. If you ran your "normal" time then you're fine. But, if you ran just a minute slower than "normal," you think about things like, "What's wrong? I thought I was fit? Am I getting sick? Do I need more speed work?" So, the reason to go by minutes is that you only have two variables, the duration and the subjective effort (easy, steady, slow, etc.). However, to be honest, I work with one athlete who still uses miles and I don't want her to change just yet. Why? Because she is now comfortable with the idea that some days her easy 8 mile loop may be as much as 3 minutes slower than other days and she doesn't obsess about it! In a few months we'll likely switch to minutes, but the key is to be willing to run by feel rather than being obsessed with your total time.

Also, you want to have fluctuation in your running days as you build up your training. I'd recommend bumping up the duration of 2-3 runs a week during the first month of your training, while still keeping another 3-4 days a week really easy at the same duration. After a month of training, you can bump up the duration of both the easy days and the workout days.

Take care Steve and welcome back to running.

*Coach Jay’s advice is provided as general training information. Use at your own risk. Always consult with your own heath care provider for questions relating to your specific training and nutrition.

Coach Jay coaches athletes at RunnersCoach.com and blogs at CoachJayJohnson.com. If you have a question for Jay, email him here: coachjay@nike.com.