Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Program Building: Why Are You Running?

You can approach running as a scientist or an artist or a little of both, but whatever your approach, you need to know why you're running to set goals and build a program that will get you there.
  • Maybe you're trying to get yourself into shape, (or back into shape!) You don't want to compete and you don't want to spend hours and hours pounding the asphalt. You do want to strengthen your heart and burn some fat. You want to get yourself a pair of those fantastic legs. 
  • On the other hand, maybe you think you'd like to test yourself. You like the idea of running fast or even piling up some distance. You've watched as other people run organized races and thought to yourself that you'd like to try.
  • And you might be an experienced runner who wants to go farther, but isn't sure how to break through the plateau you've been on for a while 
  • You might hate running, but you think it's the best way to get yourself fit. You have put it off for years, but you're finally ready to get serious.

Everybody is going to have their own reason for running, but it's important for you to know yours before you start. That will tell you how much you value running, and where it fits into the rest of your life.

You're wanting to get fit? You need a program that is tough. A little light jogging isn't going to cut it for you. You need to burn calories.

Your goal is distance? You might need to take the opposite approach. Don't get me wrong. You'll still have to work plenty hard to get up to those 3, 5, and 10K events, but your priority is going to be efficiency. The fat burners want to use up energy fast. You need to learn how to go fast and far and still have gas in the tank for the finish.

Stuck on a plateau? It may be time to try something different to your training. You could be missing out on the benefits of long-slow runs, or of short, hard intervals. The other possibility, and a dangerous one, is that you could be over-training: burning yourself out by running too hard or too frequently and breaking down your strength instead of building it up.

Are you a running hater? There might be good reasons for that. Maybe you've hurt yourself running in the past. Maybe somebody used running as a punishment in practice or gym class. You might prefer team sports and not like the idea of training as an individual. I want to be clear: you can work around some of these, but the bottom line is if you really hate the idea of running, you shouldn't run. You will quit. No sane person will commit to doing something that they hate when they don't have to. The reasons to run might seem strong now, but once your feet start throbbing and your eyes burn from the sweat in them you will start finding much more compelling reasons not to run. Look elsewhere for your fitness life. Walk. Lift weights. Take a class in Yoga or Spinning or Dancing. What matters most is that you find a way to move that you enjoy. You won't get Marathoner benefits from bowling, but you won't get any benefits if you stay home and watch poker on the TV. If running doesn't do it for you, keep looking. Something is going to appeal to you.

Knowing who you are, and why you're running are the foundation for your program, but you need to build a bridge that takes you from where you are to where you want to be. Choosing the right goals, SMART goals can make your program just that. And that's what we'll talk about next time.

Till then, sleep well, eat clean, lift heavy, run hard.


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