Where to I take my running from here?
November 30, 2006 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm finishing up the Couch-to-5K Plan. What's the best way to keep building my speed and endurance on a treadmill?

I'm familiar with the idea of increasing weekly distance by 10% every other week, and with track work for boosting speed… I’m looking to do a bit of both, ideally simultaneously (I'm okay if that means progress in each area is more gradual than if I concentrated on one).

For the C25K, I've been on the slow side, because 10-minute miles make the math easy in terms of distance, speed, and duration of workout. I'm on a treadmill, and will be for at least the next few months, because the gym's convenient for my schedule and we're hitting winter in Minnesota. The advantage of the treadmill is that I can force myself to go at the chosen speed, meaning sustaining speed over distance is more assured (assuming I don't choose to slow down). The disadvantage is that it makes track-like work a bit tougher – I have to pick a specific speed, not just "sprint," but more than that is that I'd rather not be switching speeds every couple minutes, at least not every run, as it's distracting and I'm clumsy at it. Are there treadmill-specific suggestions out there?

Most training plans for beginning runners I’ve seen take you up to the 3 mile/5 K point and then you’re kind of on your own. Where can I go from here? It's obvious how to increase the distance, but I'd like to build speed at the same time, to keep the time spent on the treadmill from ballooning. I think a reasonable intermediate goal is to be able to do 5 miles at 8.5 min/mile, but I'm not sure how to (safely!) combine building speed and distance. Do I just bump up by 0.1 mph and an extra quarter mile every week or so? Are there plans out there I haven't seen? I'm not really looking to train for races necessarily, just fit a longer run into less time.
posted by nickmark to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you're looking to increase speed, your best bet is to do short sprints.

I have run plenty of 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and marathons, and I always tried to incorporate at least one long distance run or one sprint day each week of my training.

For example, take a Tuesday and head to the track. Sprint 100 yards as fast as you can then walk for 100 yards and repeat. Do this anywhere from 8 to 12 times. You should be dog tired by the end of it all. I never actually cared too much about the distance, it was always arbitrary. What was important was the intensity: an all out sprint, then cool-down, then sprint again.

I found that this method greatly increased my overall speed on normal running.

Also, longer distances can help out your top speed immensely. Doing longer distance runs at a slower pace may seem counterintuitive, but this should help with your speed as well. It did for me. Take one day and run much longer than normal, but slow down your pace. Have this be your "long" day.

I try and do one distance/sprint day a week, and always take the day after to rest, or just do some real low-intensity cardio stuff.

I highly recommend sprinting, though. It really increased my mind's connection with my legs.
posted by dead_ at 1:22 PM on November 30, 2006

Sprint - rest - sprint - rest repeat

That is the best and tough on a treadmill, although I think I can program ours to do that. I hate treadmills, though. If you are going to stick with them you might try tempo runs where you run shorter distances at faster speeds, right at the red zone. The key is consistent speed. It will make you a much more efficient, thus faster runner.
posted by caddis at 1:25 PM on November 30, 2006

It may not necessarily make you faster, but you could always keep the speed/distance the same and start increasing the incline of the treadmill. This is what I am planning to do in a couple of weeks, when I finally reach the end of Couch to 5K.
posted by jclovebrew at 1:26 PM on November 30, 2006

more info on tempo runs
posted by caddis at 1:29 PM on November 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

People on Cool Running and other running community forums recommend the Hal Higdon Spring Training Program [http://www.halhigdon.com/spring/Springintro.htm] and speak well of it. There are other 'continuing ed' programs the users of the forums favor, if you peruse Cool Running and/or Runner's World beginner's forums, they'll be discussed there and there will be virtual running 'groups' following the respective programs.

I need structure so the programs help me. It may not be a solution for you. And before I get flamed, shouldn't you be in favor of anything that helps someone be active? There.
posted by micawber at 3:40 PM on November 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

If your treadmill has the option for Hill Climb, or Random, try using that. It'll just increase the incline, but hills have been known to improve leg strength and increase running speed. Otherwise, when I'm on the treadmill I just manually change the speed - it's not the greatest because you lose your running form when you have to hit the speed buttons, but it's only a problem for a few seconds.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2006

Runners' World has a number of prescribed programs for lengthier running. I, too, get kind of lost if I don't have a specific training goal, and I find them helpful.

As to increasing speed: I'm not fast, but I did get from 10 minute miles down to 8:20s or so, mostly by adding interval workouts 1x/week. Intervals just mean that you run a slightly slower-than-average pace as a baseline, then increase the pace for short (usually one-minute) bursts, in sets of three or four. You go all out during the short bursts, then get some 'rest' during the slower jog. The treadmills at my gym offer program settings for speed intervals. WHen I did these regularly the reduction in my time per mile was marked.
posted by Miko at 7:35 PM on November 30, 2006

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