By Dr. Derek Li
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither can fitness. Unfortunately, despite the myriad of technological advances we have seen in recent years from GPS technology to the latest and greatest in shoe cushioning (or lack thereof), fitness is something that simply cannot be rushed. Everyone has to start somewhere, but it’s the ones who kept it up over weeks and months and years who ultimately evolved into great runners. Here’s the catch: it doesn’t actually have to hurt! One can become a reasonably fit runner simply by running at an easy to moderate intensity on a frequent basis (e.g. 3-4 times a week) for a long period of time. The trick is to be consistent. It really is a case of “slow and steady wins the raceâ€.
A large part of getting the most out of your running is making the most of your most limited resource i.e. time. It is always helpful to plan your running days 1-2 weeks in advance so that you can better organize your day between your different work, domestic, social and running priorities. It is not simply pencilling down which days to run, but also setting aside travel time e.g. to get to the park, rest and recovery time etc. This is especially important if you join group running sessions, as you want to make sure you arrive on time to get the full benefit of the sessions including warm-ups and cool-downs.
It is helpful to have a rough objective in mind for each run you do. It may be something as simple as an easy recovery run to freshen up the legs. Going into a run with a clear objective in mind prevents you from getting into the (bad) habit of doing all your runs at roughly the same intensity. An easy run should be EASY. There should be no speeding up at any point, be it to get over a hill or to sprint at the end of the run. Similarly, a run focused on e.g. short hill repeats should be done at a relatively hard effort and you should feel suitably winded at the end of it. Different types of running effort train different aspects of fitness, and having this clear dichotomy in your runs will ensure that you get the most out of your runs. Easy runs are for stimulating blood flow in tired muscles. Tempo runs help build your lactate threshold and teach you how to gauge your race pace. Long runs build endurance and aerobic fitness. Fast intervals (e.g. 3-5km race pace efforts) train VO2max and running economy.