I have a friend who wants to train for her first 5K running race and she is over 50 years old. At her request, I told her I would help her by coming up with a training plan, and do some of the training with her. She is interested running barefoot, but since the race we are planning on is in Idaho in February, the chances are we will both need some sort of footwear, so I have recommended Sockwas as the best choice for possible wet, cold conditions. My red G4’s have worked very well for my minimalist needs in cold and wet temperatures that my bare feet cannot tolerate. If it doesn’t work for her to get those, any old pair of flat, flexible sneakers with lots of toe space will do for now, although resistance to moisture could be an issue. Wool socks can help with that.
Since everyone has their own background of strengths and weaknesses, it seems reasonable to give you a summary of what I see as hers, which will be of use to others considering using her training outline.
Points in her favor:
– She is in general good health.
– She is a fairly active person for not being someone who exercises regularly.
– She is not overweight, even though I know nearly everyone thinks they are to one degree or another.
– She eats a nutritious diet.
– She is willing to take on goals.
– She has already been going bare foot quite a bit at home.
Points that may be challenging:
– She is just getting over a cold.
– It is the holiday season.
– She is not used to a regular exercise routine.
– She has some chronic nerve pain from an accidental impact injury that flares up in her back.
– She works full time outside of the home, so her schedule is less flexible than mine.
She already knows my advice to her about gradually and patiently building her maximum aerobic function. This is important to both avoid injury and to avoid discouragement. The idea is to very gradually increase her amount of time running in a given distance, coordinated with also increasing her distance. She completed a very easy paced 2 mile walk/run about 3 weeks ago that was doable, but left her legs pretty sore, so that gives us an idea of her current capabilities.
What this means in any given workout is to not exert herself such as to be short of breath or struggling to continue. At her level, all efforts should feel sustainable for rather indefinite time periods. The increased stamina will come from just getting out there and moving. It is counterproductive at this stage to do more than comparatively minimal stress her cardiovascular system. If she continues after building a base of endurance, she can add occasional “speed” for up to 20% of her workout. A good rule of thumb is to always feel like more could have been done at the end of the session.
Building up her endurance will require a balance of regular effort with rest days. Since she is not training for the Olympics, I am going to suggest a 4 day a week program. If she feels up to it she can add another day after a couple of weeks. (After December 23 is recommended) Less than 4 days could inhibit progress, but if there really is an urgent need, she might cut to 3 days a week once or twice and not undo her gains much.
The running program should take up 3 of the days, with the 4th, and alternate 5th day, being used for some cross training, to get more balanced strength and add variety. I know she likes variety. Since she belongs to a local gym, I think she could manage some stationary biking. She lives close to me, so she could come ride one of our spin bikes with me sometimes, too, as she has in the past. She is also welcome to use my warm and covered swimming pool, in addition to the gym pool, but in the winter and for such short term race preparation, I think swimming is of lower value right now.
I have printed a “custom” calendar for her from timeanddate.com. I am penciling in the suggested workouts, because I believe strongly in pencil. Even though she really wants to aim for the 4-5 days a week, she will likely need to adjust which days and exactly how much she does. I always end up adjusting things. The calendar will serve as both a plan and a simple journal. I will post the original plan on convenientcalendar.com for others to see. The way the convenient calendar site is set up, you will have to send me an email and request to have your email address added to the group to have access to the Daily Improvisations Workouts for Fun Fitness Over 50 calendar.
I am guessing that Saturday will be the best day of the weekend for some exercise; Sunday will be a much needed rest day, both physically and mentally. I will schedule something for Monday, because it is always good to get the first workout in early in the week. It’s helps to stay on track and is motivating. We don’t want too many days between workouts, so I’ll suggest a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday routine to begin with. MWS can be the projected run workouts. Friday can be for biking. Especially in the first few weeks, this schedule should only take half an hour each workout day. After that it will depend on overall progress, but should still not be much more than that.
Here is the basic workout plan:
– Begin at 1 mile.
– Keep the distance for 2 weeks before increasing it, only that once 3 miles is reached, the following week is increased to 3.2 because of time restraints.
– Increase the distance in half mile increments, except for the last increase, which is only o.2 miles more.
– Add 20-30 minutes of biking on Tuesday at least part of the time after December 23rd.
– Taper the last week, with 2 miles on the Monday, 1.5 on the Wednesday, biking 20 minutes on that Thursday, then resting on the Friday before the race.
– Get outside for the walk/run at least once a week, probably on Saturday.
With the weather getting cold and dark, I expect that some indoor training will be useful, even for the running. There is an indoor wooden track at her gym. Still, I am going to recommend that she try very hard to get out for at least one run/walk per week. This will probably be most easily done on Saturday, when she has more command over her own schedule and can attempt for the warmest, driest part of the day. The 5K race will be outdoors and she needs to both practice on the harder outdoor surfaces and acclimate some to the cold for the race not to be a shock.
I am not going to set specific amounts of time that she walk versus run, because I want her to do it by feel. The running should be so that she is not out of breath. The walking should be done in a relaxed way, not trying to race walk, but not sauntering too slowly, either. She may benefit mentally from keeping track of her intervals and overall progress, but she should not be discouraged if there is not a steady increase in running time or improved aerobic capacity. These things are rarely linear. Truly, very moderate increases in effort, along with a not too strenuous schedule will make this all much more likely to happen.
You will notice that I have her getting up to 3.2 miles at the beginning of February. I always find there is a mental, as well as a physical, advantage to having trained for at least a bit over the intended race distance. My husband coach taught me this principal, as he has taught me many things. The 5K is 3.1 miles, so it is not much, but it should help. Also, the plan is for her to cut back some the last week, right before the “race.” This will have her feeling much fresher on race day.
Here are a few reminders for the general plan:
– Plan at least a day ahead about what time of day it will be best to schedule your exercise. Trying to just say, “I will do it sometime today” rarely works.
– Be flexible, though, and don’t give up if schedule adjustments need to be made to exactly when it can get done. That is, if the time gets missed, fix on another time, even more firmly.
– Remember to do a bit of self-massage of the newly invigorated muscles. During or after a hot bath is a good time. All of this helps the muscles to recover better from their effort.
Last, but not least, we should sign up for the race as soon as possible! I know she will be motivated by the fact that she has already paid for the race. This will provide a solid goal to help her stay on track. It’s kind of like having a silent coach beckoning from the future. It is comparatively cost effect, especially if one considers the health benefits of the exercise and the social interaction. So, friend, shall we Run4Love on February 14, 2015?