Running for Beginners – Week 1

It has been a while. Months since I lead a group, years since I lead a beginners group.

What has always amazed and frustrated me is the high attrition rate for running groups for beginners. It seems to me that the biggest reason for the failure to continue running is the rigid structure of the groups.I appreciate most groups are run by LiRFs (Leaders in Running Fitness) who are trained in how to lead, and follow a prescribed model, not how to tailor each run to the exact requirements of the group. Combined with the typical structure of any ‘Couch to 5k’ which has huge increases in the challenge each week and you are set for failure. Each week is ‘more, more, more’ and no-one reads the small print that says you can repeat weeks. The other problem is the emphasis on running. 9 weeks is not much time to elicit such a huge change as moving from sedentary to running 5k without any risk of damage.

I could complain in length about the whole process. Instead I choose to do something about it. A coached group that focuses above all else on enjoyment of the process of learning to run and become a ‘better’ athlete.

If, in 9 weeks or so, we are able to participate in parkrun, great! If not, that is great too. This course celebrates what you CAN do. It empowers you so that you can make the right decisions for your own health and enjoyment.

That starts with the warm-up. 5 minutes is not sufficient. This first week starts with am 8 minute walk that starts easy and builds to a brisk pace. For many people this might be enough, so I’m keeping an eye on the group. All looks good so I=onto the first run. not the NHS recommended 1 min. that is far too much. I am looking to gradually build the intensity, give everyone the greatest possible chance to be prepared and able to work harder later on the session.

15 seconds running. The rest period is loose, but on the region of double the workload. On to 30 seconds, followed by 45. At this stage a significant minority of the group are working towards the edge of comfort, So I stick with 45 seconds. Two more repeats before a longer rest of 3 minutes. It is now around 20 minutes since we started moving and the body will be more receptive to greater effort. The 60 second interval is easier than the previous 45 seconds. The extra rest helps, which is pointed out to the group as a learning point. – If you find it hard, rest more! 75 seconds is tougher. Unfortunately the 90 second run coincides with the steep incline. In retrospect I would have dropped the the effort back down to 30 seconds for the hill, returned to 75 and then possibly 90 if the group looked strong.

After that longest effort 45 seconds flys by. 3 more repeats will take us to 9:45 so I make the penultimate interval 60 seconds. Week 1, 10 minutes total running. Not only that but we have covered over 3km.

Week one of a beginner running group and we have covered over HALF of the total distance we are hoping to complete in just over 2 months time. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot more empowering that ‘you ran for a minute, 5 times, and now you can’t breathe and next week we will double that’?

Ten Percent – Slow and Steady

Compound interest is a wonderful thing. Add 10 percent to what you managed this week and instead of it taking 10 weeks to double the load it takes only 8. Then the real magic happens. 5 weeks later you have trebled your start point, 3 weeks later it has quadrupled!

In 8 weeks time we will be running for a total of 20 minutes. Allowing for a similar distance for the warm up and cool down each week, and taking into account that most of the resting is currently standing still, and it should be clear that we will with relative ease cover 5km.

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