How does a not-couch-potato start running?
January 26, 2011 8:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a beginner running program that's geared to someone with good initial fitness and isn't quite as beginner as Couch-to-5k. Any recommendations of a good program or any experiences you have to share?

Every time I start running, I start way too quickly and injure myself, leading me to swear off running for good, which ends up to be several months or years. I have a few extra pounds on me (BMI: 25.1), but I've been racing bicycles for a few years, so I have quite good aerobic fitness. That aerobic fitness is a blessing and a curse, because it makes me feel like I can run all day already, but my shins and ankles can't take it yet. I just bought some good shoes from our local running shop; now I just need some guidance on how to ramp up and not damage myself in the process.

Thus, I'm looking for recommendations for programs or training plans, along with your experiences from being someone fairly fit who decides to start running.
posted by The Michael The to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The whole ramping it up to quickly thing is exactly why you do need something like Couch to 5K. It forces you to go slower (and hey, it's just 9 weeks, then you can move into the 10K plan after a bit).

What's better? Too fast then swearing off, or taking it a bit too slow? You can maintain your aerobic fitness with cycling or whatever on your off days.

FWIW, I was pretty fit when I started C25K. I did it because I'm getting old and my knees can't take sudden shocks :)
posted by gaspode at 8:13 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I started with Couch to 10k. Honestly, unless you're already jogging/walking, your good initial fitness doesn't mean all that much. Running is it's own animal, and you need to build endurance, and get your body used to the serious pounding it takes to run.

If W1D1 of Couch to 5k is too easy for you, maybe start with W3D1. Or try the Couch to 10k program.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:14 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I gotta say, Couch to 5k or Couch to 10k is still the answer here. The point of the gentle walk/run cycles, which feel like a piece of cake to your heart and lungs, is to slowly build up the impact resistance of your bones and joints (thereby avoiding shin splints and other similar issues). They take a lot longer to improve than your cardiovascular system does. It will feel too easy at first; that's the way it's supposed to be.

Side note: It's always been my experience that cardio fitness doesn't really translate across sports - a bicyclist might be crap at swimming, or a runner might be crap at bicycling or swimming. I think it has something to do with the way your body needs to *use* the oxygenated blood it's already so good at pumping...or maybe everyone is just crap at swimming at first.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:29 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you run with a friend who isn't a runner yet? I know a few people who have this issue. You go all out and you basically have a problem pacing yourself. Get a friend. Run with them, don't leave them behind.
posted by cashman at 8:34 AM on January 26, 2011

However slowly you're running, run slower.

I know it sounds stupid and obvious and asinine, but it's really not. I ran for close to a year and could NOT seem to run for more than a few minutes at a time, no matter what I did... my shins burned like fire, everything hurt, the whole world sucked. When I finally swallowed my pride and slowed down to a RIDICULOUSLY snail-like pace, I was able to run further... like, exponentially further. With a few months of uber-slow running under your belt, you can SLOWLY elect to increase your pace (the standard is no more than 10% extra running time OR extra speed added per week).

Bottom line: forget about distance. Forget about how you look. Forget about anything but going sloooowly, and doing it for at least a half an hour at a time, at least three times per week.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:36 AM on January 26, 2011

Check out Jeff Galloway's website. For example, this is a good 5K training program. Runner's World has good training ideas for people at all levels as well. I think a magazine subscription is actually worth it -- I sure use mine for training.

Also, don't forget to be careful about your shoes. I humbly suggest you aim for minimal cushioning/padding, e.g. Nike Frees or very beat up old running shoes, and try to transition into Vibram Five Fingers (aka shielded barefoot running.) That tends to really cut out the injuries that can come with a transition back into regular running.
posted by bearwife at 8:47 AM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Every time I start running, I start way too quickly and injure myself,

This is what I liked about Couch To 5K. The first three weeks or so were way easy, but doing them on schedule felt really good. This gave my body some time to prepare for the more challenging runs later on in the training, and got me in the habit of the three day a week thing.

If you know for super serial that you just absolutely CANNOT stomach a week or two of mainly walking and not doing any sustained runs right away, I'd skip ahead and start with week three. Paying very close attention to how you're feeling and making sure to hold yourself to the thrice per week pace, as well as being prepared to stick with week three or four if you're not quite ready to move into the longer runs that start with week five.
posted by Sara C. at 8:54 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are three types of fitness that you need for running: cardio, muscular, and skeletal. You are in the worst position possible, you are a cardio monster, but your muscular and skeletal system can't keep up. That means that your lungs say "come on, push through the pain guys! This is easy" and your body breaks down.

In order to get the rest of your body up to speed you are going to have to plod along on a slow and simple program. Sorry about that, but there really is no substitute. You probably think that if you finish a 3 mile run and are not winded that you didn't really get a work-out. Well, you are right, but that's not the point. You should not be trying to get work-outs now; you are trying to get your body into shape so that you can give it work-outs.

Time flys. Let's say you increase your longest run by an insanely slow one mile per month. I know, I know, that's crazy talk. But in one year you'll be running 12 miles as your longest run. And, I promise you, it will be easy.

Don't worry too much about the speed. Particularly don't worry about beating your best time ("Hey, I did three miles in 25 minutes last time. I should shoot for 24:30 this time..."). No. Bad idea. As you gain fitness your old times, which you earned with such effort, will be nothing. I can still remember the first day I ran 10 miles in under 1:30 (9 minute miles). I deliberately decided not to try to break that the next week or the next, reasoning that as I got fitter I'd break it naturally. The week after that I decided to run a comfortable pace and see what would happen and I broke it easily. Now if I don't go faster than that it's because I'm having a bad day. But it took patience.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:25 AM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

sorry, cycling isn't the same as running; the former is not weight-bearing, and the latter is. also, cardiovascular cross-training does not (provably) provide benefits to a particular mode of exercise. (i.e. being a good cycler/rower does not make you a good swimmer/runner). for examples of studies that show this consider this and this.

(however, certain modes of strength training do provably provide benefits to certain modes of cardiovascular exercise. for studies consider this and this and this. it is extremely important to note that all these studies were conducted on athletes).

i know it's tough, because i manifestly fail at this all the time, but it sounds like you need to seriously scale back your fitness self-image. good shoes is probably the most important first step, and something i also got wrong when i first started running.
posted by asymptotic at 9:29 AM on January 26, 2011

I had a similar problem where I would start running, ramp up too fast, get injured, and have to stop running.

What helped me was the realization that running at 12min/mile pace was still running and never running more than 1 mile longer than my longest run in the last month or having my weekly mileage exceed by more than 1 mile my highest mileage week in the last month.

If I felt the need to do more exercise, I would use a stationary bike or elliptical.
posted by stchang at 9:48 AM on January 26, 2011

I'm a big fan of the 3 run a week programs to train for races. As others have said, your cycling isn't weight bearing, so that can make you prone to injuries. Doing a little less running, and mixing up your cardio workouts with other weightbearing exercise (some form of strength training is best) will help build up your muscles in a more balanced way. Though not carrying much extra fat anymore, I'm at the high end of 'healthy'/low end of 'overweight' on BMI, too, which increases load on the joints and underwent extensive recontructive knee surgery for major trauma due to a bicycle accident three years ago, but I've still managed to complete a marathon last year using this method without any injury.)

I'm going to go against the main current of advice, and not recommend forcing yourself into the Couch to 5K if you're finding it too boring or not challenging. Part of what makes exercise useful is the mental/psychological challenge it brings and if Couch to 5K isn't doing it for you there, you're not going to be able to stick with it, and you'll be too tempted to overtrain. Go at at a comfortable pace, pay attention to your muscles and joints, and have fun. And mix in strength training and flexibility training, because these are important components of fitness in their own right in addition to preventing injury.
posted by Kurichina at 10:13 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been following some of the Nike+ workouts. I've been doing their equivalent of the couch to 5k, but there are other programs on there. Why not try one of them?
posted by jonathanstrange at 4:33 AM on January 27, 2011

« Older A tagging system for multiple items within the...   |   OSX: universally disable print Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.