5k Friday: Your 12 Week 5k Training Program, Week 1

Are you ready to rock 2015? Do you want to change your life, lose weight, get fit, feel amazing? I’m here to help you do just that.

Note: While this is primarily a training program for first time 5kers, starting with Week 2 I will include a plan for runners who have completed a race or two, and now have the goal of running faster. Stay tuned!

While that might sound like a cheesy infomercial, it is not. It’s the truth. I’m going to help you commit to fit in 20-15. Not a resolution to exercise and lose weight. A commitment with a real goal. And that goal is…train and run, really run, a 5k.

Run a 5k

Oh, you say you can’t run. You say you hate running. You say you’ve got bad (fill in the blank) knees, hips, back, etc. I say to you, nonsense! You can learn, if not to love running, at least to enjoy the fresh air, the accomplishment you feel after a run, the way running can help with weight loss and management.

Just ask my friend over at It’s All About Me! Deal With It! If I may quote from her Winter Running post of several years ago, “I still wouldn’t classify myself as one of those people who enjoys running, or experiences the elusive “runner’s high.” But I do enjoy the peace, the calorie burn, the way it makes my body look, and how I feel when I am done doing something only 20% of the population is willing to do.”

Run a 5k 2

So just toss those negative feelings in the trash and head out of the door. DO NOT run. Yes, you heard me right. Do not run. If you are one of those naysayers, reading and saying, “No way, Deb, I tried running, hated it, hurt myself, bored me to death, etc., chances are, if left to your own devices, you would step out that door and run for two or three miles and either hurt your knees, back, or whatever, or simply have such sore muscles the next day you cannot walk, whereupon you say, “I hate running.”

We’re not going to do it that way this time. Now, of course, some of this depends on your level fitness before you start your training. For this first post, we will assume that you are a very beginner. You could probably walk one mile, maybe two, somewhat briskly, at least at the beginning. We’re going to get you started on a 12 week plan that will have you ready to run a 5k at the end. So, the first thing to do is pick up a race schedule, check online, and find a race that is scheduled about three months from now. (If you already run, but would like to run stronger and faster, don’t despair, my next 5k Friday post will have some tips just for you.)

Run a 5k 5

Day One: So, we’re walking out the door. A brisk walk, to be sure, but a walk. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? Fresh air, nice sights. I do realize that this is winter, and some of you may need to do this on a treadmill, which is kind of sad, but the workouts are the same. Walk and dream of spring, it will be here before you know it. Now that you’ve walked about eight to 10 minutes, let’s try a little run. Fast, slow, it doesn’t matter. See if you can do it for a minute. Then, stop and walk again. Wasn’t that easy?

Keep walking for about two minutes, then try that minute run again. Do this three more times, finishing with at least five minutes of walking. Do not give in to that type A exerciser, the one who has injured you in the past, and try to run the whole time. Follow my instructions. Oh, and just call me Coach.

Run a 5k 3

This first workout will take about 30 minutes. When you’re done, spend some time stretching, particularly your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hips. Check out this post for a great stretching program for runners. It is also helpful to ice your knees and shins.

Day Two: Repeat day one workout. Seriously. You don’t need to increase right away. You need to start slowly, stay healthy and uninjured. Repeat. Day. One.

Day Three: Rest. You can do some strength training if you want, or Yoga, but if you are really out of shape, keep the work out light. You’re easing into that, too.

Run a 5k 6

Day Four: Repeat the day one workout with one change. The running interval can be raised to 90 seconds, while the walking interval in between is lowered to 90 seconds. Don’t forget the stretching and ice.

Day Five: Rest. Totally (no this isn’t an excuse not to mow the lawn or cook dinner).

Day Six: Repeat day four.

Day Seven: You know that day seven is supposed to be. Rest (although again, strength training, yoga, Pilates, extra stretching, are all acceptable rest day activities).

Run a 5k 4

So now you’ve completed your first week of training. While it is true that you aren’t running very much (yet), you’re not injured either. Take a little inventory after week one. How are you feeling? Have you been stretching and icing? While I’m not covering it in this post, healthful eating is important too.

Next week we will continue to slowly add running time and reduce walking. If you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to invest in a good pair of running shoes. Visit your local running shoe store, where you can be fitted, allowed to actually run a little in your shoes, and someone can help guide you to the best shoe for you.

Check in next Friday for 5k Friday: Week Two of 5k Training. Beginners will receive their next week of training, while more advanced runners will get some advice on running stronger, longer, and faster. Stay tuned!

This post is revised and updated from a beginner 5k program I created several years ago.

Will I Run Faster If I Weigh Less?

Last week, I wrote about Running Faster to Get Faster, which basically states that if you want to improve your race times, you are going to have to do some speed training, and I listed my three favorite speed workouts.

I was intrigued by one of the comments on that post. I was asked if losing weight was important in order to run faster. That is quite a complex question, and while I answered to the best of my ability at the time, I wanted to do a little research and address the question fully.  Here is the question:

I’m curious, do you know how weight affects a runner’s speed? I’ve noticed when I’m at a race awards party, the winners are nearly always very petite and lean. If I want to be faster, should I also be working on being leaner in addition to speed workouts?

I think that is a great question. Because it’s true, isn’t it? When you look at the runners who win, both men and women, they are frequently very lean, and sometimes quite petite. Here is my original response:

Weight Loss - running

As you can see, my answer was a little on the lines of  “yes, but no, but yes, and be careful.

It is a complex question, if only because runners can be intense types who can fall into the trap of thinking if a little weight loss is good, more would be better.

Improving your V02 Max is one way of getting faster. V02 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen a given runner can use per unit time per unit body mass. That means the lighter a runner is at a certain fitness level, the faster they will run (at least in theory). Remember, though, that not all excess weight is body fat. Muscle weight is entirely different, and can contribute to performance despite its high density.

Estimates concerning an ideal weight for performance can vary. While some running coaches would say that the ideal weight for a distance runner would be about 10-15% below the median weight, frequently world class distance runners can be up to 10% below that. But while these world class runners perform much better at weights significantly below average, there must be limits in terms of what is beneficial or even healthy.

So how much does weight loss affect speed? Joe Henderson, author of many books on running and training, estimates that a runner with a 10 pound weight loss can run 20 seconds per mile faster. That being said, you still have to look at the big picture. If a man who is six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds loses 10 pounds of fat, he will increase his speed by that 20 seconds per mile (on average). What if that man already weight 170? Would a 10 pound weight loss lead to the same speed gain? Or would the possible loss of muscle actually slow him down?

Using myself as an example, I probably weighed around 145 when I was training seriously, maybe a pound or two less. I am 5’8”, and that is a good weight for me. I know that when I get below 140 I certainly look like a distance runner, because my cheeks tend to cave in. Would I have run faster though? I don’t know.

One of the problems with the thought that weight loss leads to speed gains is, as I alluded to above, that many runners take it too far. They always feel that if they just lose another five or 10 pounds, they will get the edge they need. This can lead not only to eating disorders, but to increased injuries and illnesses, decreased performance, and for women, the Female Athlete Triad, the combination of disordered eating, bone loss, and cessation of the menstrual cycle.

So while the typical American may be out of shape and overweight and could benefit from a weight loss program, competitive runners are typically much closer to an ideal weight, both for health and performance purposes. Remember that more is not always better.

In conclusion, I would say that if you are overweight, even moderately, some weight loss will help you become faster. If you are already at a healthy weight for your height, be very careful about further weight loss, because while it may lead to slightly better race times, there may be other consequences to your health and to your future performance.

Remember, I am a personal trainer and a coach, not a doctor or psychologist. I wrote my own opinions, researched and read other opinions to write this post.  You should always do what is right for you and your body, and if you are in doubt about what that is, you should speak with your own doctor.