Jim D. has gotten a lot of good advice, but may be wondering how to put it
together, while Mary Ann is just beginning. Jim might want to read Mary Ann's
piece (9641) because she may already realize something many of us forget:
while improving requires some pushing your limits; the weightlifter "no pain, no
gain" attitude is not going to produce sustained results. In my experience,
there are 2 key elements: a consistent program but with great variety (I'll try
to explain this apparent contradiction later) AND patience: you will not be
Bill Rogers tomorrow. I have had to relearn running after a long layoff and am
in Michael's position ("How to Keep Going"). By the way, Michael: if you get
out there, you might meet a running partner on the road. For Jim and Mary Ann,
let me offer a few of my tips for what ever they are worth:
#1) listen to your own body and follow your own goals as we are all different;
#2) while endurance is important, for many runners, so is speed; speed may not
mean doing 5 minute miles; I train in an area where there are 4 minute milers
and body told me a long time ago that a 5:30 mile turns the run into a 1 miler
at best. There is a real problem, however, with trying to develop spped first;
if you do so without a base, you can get injured quite quickly. Develop some
sort of endurance and leg strength before you step on a track for intervals.
Intervals, by the way, are only one way to develop speed: I find fartleks (burst
of speed in the middle of a run is the best way I can describe the idea) and
tempo runs (near race pace for a few miles--"few" depends on where you are at)
to be less stressful on the body and on the mind.
#3) building a base means longer runs at a more relaxed pace but do not think
that you need to do 10 miles tomorrow. I do not think any of you are ready for
that. Find a good bookstore and buy a book that has a suggested training log
for beginners and be patient with building that base. Even if an accelerated
step-up in distance does not injure you, it might become a barrier to devloping
what ever speed you are capable of obtaining.
#4) practice "hard day", "easy day" and even possibly "hard week" "easy week".
My biggest problem is that I tend to run 6 miles on easy days even though my
total week is circa 50 miles. A lot of people tell me to run only 3 miles.
Rest days are absolutely necessary. My suspicion is Jim makes the same mistake
that I do here. By the way, I do not take many off days, but that too may be a
mistake. In the early part of your running, 3-4 days a week may be all you can
handle. Many experienced runners take 1 day a week completely off, and Mary
Decker had to learn the hard way to take off a day every other week.
#5) Mary-Ann mentioned fat loss; a laudable goal for many reasons including, you
run faster if you are carrying less. Ideally, fat loss (which may not mean
weight loss) takes care of itself. Do NOT crash diet (how Florence Johnson
trained in 350 calories/day is a real mystery) but do eat pasta rather than all
fat. Running is not a substitute for good diet; to give you one example: my
uncle and his buddies started a 3 mile every other day running routine with
each run followed by downing 5 beers. At a 150 calorie/beer and 100 calorie/mi.
pop, each work-out added 450 calories to their systems. Yet, they could not
figure out why they gained weight. A fellow economist once told his simple
theory: Number of pounds lost = (calories used - calories consumed)/3500. In
one sense, this simpleton formula must be right and each a fast paced marathon
uses up only 2600 calories.
Let me close by repeating that every one is different and you running routine
must be YOURS AND YOURS ALONE. If you can get a partner of roughly equal
ability and goals, it helps, but the main piece of advice is to think of
running is a LIFETIME event. Be patient, be persistent, and be versatile...
but mostly HAVE FUN!