I'm almost finished with my beginner runner program. Now what?
January 10, 2014 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm closing in on the end of my couch to 10k running program, and I'm a little unsure how to proceed next. I'd like to improve my pace, but I'm not sure what the best way to do that is, and the internet seems to have lots of conflicting advice. Plus I really liked having a program and an app that told me what to do. Is there anything out there for the no longer a couch potato but still a beginner runner? What's worked for other people? Should I try designing my own training program, and if so, how do I do that?

Details, if helpful: I've been using the Run 10K app for iPhone (three workout left) which is quite simple but has a couple features I really like: it's time based, and there's audio cues to let you know when to run and cool down and so forth, so you don't have to glance at the phone much. Two, you can play your own music or podcasts while the app is running.
Pace: right now I'm running between 4.5-5 mph pace (12-13 min per mile) almost always outside, mostly on run bike trails, occasionally some hilly streets. I'd like to get that down to like 10 min per mile.
Other goals: I signed up for a 5k in March. Even though I'm currently doing a 10k program, I still feel like I too slow and untrained to really run a whole 10k, and I'd rather wait until I feel like I'm confident I'd be able to complete the race without walking before I do that. I have no real interest in training for a marathon.
posted by Diablevert to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
How often and far are you running? Is this the program you're doing?
posted by purpleclover at 6:59 AM on January 10, 2014

Response by poster: Pretty similar --- the program is 13 weeks, though I've stretched it out a bit; I take two days in between run so I can incorporate strength training as well. (So, rest day, strength day, run day, like that.) So basically 2-3 times per week, about 5 miles per run. The most recent workouts have been more like 6 miles.
posted by Diablevert at 7:20 AM on January 10, 2014

I don't have a suggestion for an app, but do have a lot of running experience. For a beginning runner, the simplest ways to get faster are to run more often, run for a longer time when you do run and/or drop weight.

General rules of thumb are no more than a 5% increase in time or distance in a week, take cutback weeks every 3-4 weeks and have fun. :)
posted by TORunner at 7:21 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think there are two things you need to work into your routine, tempo runs and interval training.

Tempo runs are distances at a specific pace. For instance you might plan to run 5k at an 11 minute pace to start and slowly work your pace down and distance up to whatever your 10k target is.

Interval training is a way to break out of your aerobic comfort zone and get your lungs and legs prepared for the next level. In interval training you run at a fast pace for as short time or distance, then revert to a slower pace to recover, then repeat. You might run a minute an 8 or 9 minute mile pace, then slow to a 13 minute pace until recover, then repeat.

As for a specific training regime, I don't have a suggestion. I usually just work up a plan on my own prior to any race.
posted by dzot at 7:28 AM on January 10, 2014

I dropped about 90 seconds per mile (from 12:00 to 10:30) doing the Hal Higdon Intermediate 5k program. I don't know of an app, but it's pretty easy to implement, so I'm not sure you'd need one. I think the most important thing in gaining speed was running fast 400m laps. The explanation of the different kinds of runs (temp, speedwork) on the page is useful too.
posted by purpleclover at 7:29 AM on January 10, 2014

Best answer: I recommend RunKeeper as an iPhone app that has all the features you've liked about your 10K app, but that allows you to program your own workouts. Specifically it does audio cues for your intervals and you can listen to your own music. What I really like is that you can mix time based intervals with distance based intervals, like, run 1 mile then walk for 2 minutes (all with audio cues).
posted by telegraph at 8:26 AM on January 10, 2014

That is excellent that you have gotten so far.

Just as a point of information, working for explicit improvement in a systemized way is great, but even if you do the exact same run for months and months, you'll improve your pace. Not in an optimal way, but the trade-off is that it can eventually become a low-pressure thing that you have no problem doing forever. I think you benefit from something you can do forever than from something that makes you quit. Then again, for you, it may already be no big deal.

So, don't feel you must improve your performance by leaps and bounds, but by all means do so if that's what you honestly want.

For me, personally, my speed increased the most when I started deadlifting. The increase in leg and back power just made everything easier.
posted by ignignokt at 8:27 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is certainly true that adding speedwork (tempo runs or intervals) will result in performance improvements, but it is also the case that for beginning runners, you will just get faster as a result of running consistently and running more miles per week. Virtually every runner I know gets significantly faster over the course of their first year running with or without any specific speedwork. If you are just building up to the 6 mile range and have only been running for a couple of months, your body is still making enormous adaptations. Your muscles are still building and your aerobic system is still developing. Personally, I wouldn't ask newer runners to focus on actual speedwork for at least 8 months, maybe longer if they are satisfied with their progress. The reason I say this is that it is easy to push yourself too hard, especially with tempo runs and get injured and either have a significant setback or get down on running altogether. If you run longer distances more consistently, you will undoubtedly see continuous improvement.

The first "speedwork" I would suggest for a beginning runner is to do hill repeats. You don't want one that is super-long, but it is nice if it has a fairly consistent grade, ideally around 10%. At your pace, I'd suggest a hill about 150-200 yards long. Once a week, keeping your form good, run up the hill at a hard, but not suicidal pace and walk back down. You want your recovery to take about twice as long as your climb took (which should be between 60-120 seconds). Start out aiming to climb four times. If you can't maintain more or less the same pace for all four repeats, you need to slow down a little next time. Each week, as you feel comfortable, add another reapeat until you build up to about 8 repeats. Once that becomes routine, either increase your speed or the length of the hill. I don't think any speedwork I've ever done has made as much difference to my performance as hill repeats have done and I find them easier to recover from than intervals or tempo runs. You should also be nice and warm before you start, so ideally you'd do a nice easy jog for 10-15 minutes before you start.
posted by Lame_username at 8:46 AM on January 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Seconding hills. I moved house a couple of years ago and my new running route took me over a long reasonably steep hill a couple of times in a run. I didn't really think much of it in terms of a training device, but then entered my first race in 6 months or so, and just flew up the little hills and had gone from just under a 10 minute mile to just under a 9 minute mile.
posted by gaspode at 9:06 AM on January 10, 2014

Are there running stores near you that host regular group runs? More than any particular kind of workout, what's made me a better runner has always been running with people who are just a little faster than I am - they make me push myself harder.
posted by dr. boludo at 11:47 AM on January 10, 2014

Seconding Runkeeper. As well as allowing you to programme your own intervals, they have training plans for 5km and 10km.
posted by Pink Frost at 1:46 PM on January 10, 2014

Response by poster: Just wanted to add a thanks for all the advice. I've been using RunKeeper, which has been great, and trying to incorporate a few more hills. Did my first 5k today --- came in at an 11:46 pace. Still slow, but we 're getting there.
posted by Diablevert at 11:04 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've recently started running too, and I really like the PaceDJ app. It looks up the bpm of all your music and can adjust the playback speed to match whatever pace you want. I find it's much easier to run with music if the beat matches my optimal stride

It can run alongside apps like runkeeper as well
posted by jpdoane at 6:09 PM on March 22, 2014

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