Training Tips for Road Racing Written by: Isabella Ava
Running a road race can be a lot of fun. Connecting with others, raising money for charity, and breaking a sweat almost always leaves runners with a sense of satisfaction. If you have run more than a couple races, you might be beginning to notice your time. Many runners get a great sense of accomplishment out of seeing their time drop lower and lower as they become more fit and gain experience as a runner. However, if you want to set a new personal record, or PR, success does not just come overnight. Adopting and committing to a training plan with consistent mileage, workouts, and other strength building activities is the most effective way to get that new PR.
One of the most common road race distances is the 5k, which is about 3.1 miles. People living in urban or suburban areas can probably find a 5k road race within a reasonable driving distance most weekends out of the year. Training for a 5k is fairly straightforward and can be a lot of fun.
When approaching your training plan, it's easy to start by figuring out what kind of weekly mileage you want to run. To do this, begin a training log and keep track of the mileage you are doing recreationally each week. If you are running 25 to 30 miles per week on average, you can effectively begin your training at 30 miles per week. Next, pick a goal 5k about three months away. This is ideally the race where you want to want to run a big PR.
You might notice that as you begin to increase your mileage, your overall strength increases. As you get into training, it is a good idea to gradually increase your mileage. A gradual increase is roughly ten percent of your weekly mileage. So, if you are at 35 miles per week and you want to raise your mileage the next week, you should plan on running 38.5 miles (because 35+3.5=38.5). If a runner is feeling ambitious and decides to increase mileage from 35 one week to 45 the next, there is a great risk of injury.
Many professional runners run 100 miles per week to train for a 5k. For the average person, this kind of volume is not necessary. For a healthy person with more than a year of consistent running, a good mileage goal to set is around 45 to 50 miles per week. This person's week might look something like this:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: Workout - 2 mile warmup, 5 miles of intervals and recovery, 2 mile cooldown = 9 miles
Wednesday: Recovery run - 8 miles
Thursday: easy day - 5 miles
Friday: Workout - 2 mile warmup, 4 miles of intervals and recovery, 2 mile cooldown = 8
Saturday: Recovery run - 7 miles
Sunday: Long run - 10 miles
Weekly total: 47 miles
To get up to this goal, begin running at 30 miles per week and increase mileage ten percent per week until reaching 45 to 50 miles per week. Then hold this mileage consistently until about three weeks before the goal race. This is when it is effective to taper, or slowly back off of mileage at approximately a ten percent decrease per week to allow the body to recover and feel rested for an outstanding goal race performance.
Many runners like to supplement their running with non running activities, which is often referred to as cross-training. These activities can include but certainly are not limited to yoga, swimming, and weight lifting. A good way to incorporate your favorite cross-training activity into your training schedule is to do it on a non running day and an easy or recovery day. If your schedule allows, it's even possible to run in the morning and take your favorite yoga class in the evening. Remember that training for a big PR in a 5k requires you to commit to running and becoming a better runner. Cross training activities should be done to aid in recovery or for pleasure and should not take away from your training schedule.
The most important thing to keep in mind when training for your next big 5k is consistency. Consistently keep up with your mileage each week, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, go to bed the same time every night, and avoid making any major changes in any way.
There are many resources all over the internet which go deeper into training regimens and explain workouts, diets, and more about how to be a successful runner. Please take a look at the information available in some of the links here:
The Benefits of Running by Elizabeth McLeod Sadler, a Vanderbilt University Student
Running Barefoot from Harvard University