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Post Couch to 5k - increasing distances

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 James Malloch 12 Sep 2020

I used to do a lot of running (normal run would be 7-10 miles) and played a lot of football which, I guess, was the base of my training as I never did anything specific. 

I had a suspected meniscus tear in 2015 which put me out for a while and a busy work schedule meant I never really tried to get back into running until now.

I’ve had a lot of physio over the past few years and “started” running again multiple times doing C25K type plans. But found if I stopped for a few weeks I quickly regressed and got some pain again and often just quit and climbed more instead. However over lockdown I’ve been doing the C25K but over a much longer time (4 months rather than 9 weeks). Lots of repeating weeks, doing a mix of on-off road etc.

I’m now in the final week doing 30 min runs which are going fine. I’ve generally done at 5min/km pace but up to 4min/km (More like my old pace) for some of the shorter runs. Managed a 5.37min measured mile too so I’ve been feeling reasonably strong in the legs again. 

Other than football training I never did any running training, so I was hoping for some advice on how to progress from here. The last 3 weeks of the C25K have been:

3 x 25 min runs, 

3 x 28 min runs, 

3 x 30 min runs. 

My aim would be to get back to doing a couple of runs a week, one shorter (30 mins or so) and one longer (say 7-10 miles again). I’d love to run the yorkshire 3 peaks as well - but perhaps a little more of a long-term aim (though if I could do a run/walk on the winter solstice this year I’d be pretty psyched!)

Should I just keep adding time? 3 x 35min, 3 x 40min etc. 

Maybe do some longer, 2x30min and 1 x 40 min, then 2x30min and 1 x 50 min etc.

I’ve quite enjoyed doing time-based runs, rather than aiming for a certain distance or pace. If you’re going fast you can just add a bit of extra loop. I think this has helped avoid injury as I just go at what seems comfortable on the day.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated - I think I need a basic plan to keep it going otherwise I’ll end up back at square one again. 

Edit - sorry if that’s a bit of a ramble. I find it hard to review well when writing on a tablet...

Post edited at 11:19
 James Malloch 12 Sep 2020
In reply to James Malloch:

Just to add - my injury always seemed to be aggravated by distance rather than speed etc. So I could do a fast 20min run. But Doing a slow 30 min run would aggravate my knee. So I think continuing to build up will be key but I don’t know how to build that up. 

Though hopefully dragging the C25K out for so long will have helped with the base conditioning.

 DancingOnRock 12 Sep 2020
In reply to James Malloch:

What does your physio suggest? 

I’d start there. 

but the runners I know with cranky knees (all footballers!) tend to do a lot of cycling. 

 SouthernSteve 12 Sep 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> What does your physio suggest? 

Good advice. Perhaps you need some gluteus or VMO strengthening exercises for the knee pain, tape or a band might help, but a good sports physio would be the place to start. Starting some random knee strengthening programme may make you more sore. If that happens the physio usually has some alternative exercises which will get you to a similar place. 

One main difference between the slow and fast run may be the cadence, it may be worth looking at that, although changing it can be awkward and may make you stiff/sore elsewhere while you adjust.  At higher speeds you are less likely to overreach and have better form which will help the knee.

 domwhyte 13 Sep 2020
In reply to James Malloch: as said already, listen to your physio. Beyond that I’ve run on and off over the years but now doing so with purpose having read an article about fitness levels required to get up Mont Blanc (1:45mins for a 1/2 marathon). Since lock down I’ve gone from 30 mins for 5k down to 27, and 60 mins for 10k down to 55 mins (although my watch said I was pretty much dead at that point). This is on the back of two niggling hamstring injuries with some physio too - ask for stretching exercises. 
Just go at whatever pace and distance feels right and don’t push it or expect miracles overnight. Hold yourself back and learn to enjoy running so that it doesn’t feel like a chore and you start feeling good when you run, and dare I say it, actually enjoying it. 
Also, try to get into a routine, 2 or 3 short runs in the week and a longer one at the weekend, with rest time in between. 

 Siderunner 11:37 Sun

Sounds like you're going well, congrats on the measured approach.

Now you're at 30 minutes per run I'd suggest gradually ramping one of them up to 45 minutes or even an hour, rather than incrementing them all equally. That gives a longer recovery between the long runs. Perhaps only add 5 minutes per week up to 50 minutes and then add 10 mins per week from there (with some weeks repeated perhaps).

Try planning in a down week every fourth week, rather than keeping on increasing volume each week. Perhaps just reduce to all 25 minute runs in the down week and keep them all slow. A down week is a widely accepted way to reduce injury risk by giving soft tissues a chance to catch up with fitness gains. I find it also fires up my motivation for pushing on in the following weeks.

Take a look at your heart rate on your easier runs, you want to be in the easy zone (can't remember the percentages but they're easy to look up, around 65% HRR perhaps). Or use the talk test ... make sure you could have a (non-gasped!) conversation while running. Running too fast in all the runs is a common mistake and widely reckoned to increase injury risk. 

I'd definitely be looking to incorporate some physio exercises each week for the knee if I were you. If you haven't got any favourites already - though I expect you do! - you could do worse than looking at James Dunne's channel on youtube (no affiliation).

In reply to James Malloch:

Many thanks for all the replies - I’ve not actually seen my physio for some time now (since pre-lockdown) but might drop him an email anyway and get his view. 

The comments on cadence are interesting - I was running across from someone tonight and noticed they had a much higher cadence than me. Perhaps something to play with on the next few runs and see if it makes much of a differnce. 

I think I’ll aim to go with the ramping one up slowly and having a low week every month too. Seems like a nice structure similar to what I’ve been doing already which has been relatively okay to fit in around work etc. 

The heart rate comments are interesting too. Looking back at my last lot of runs, my average hear rate seems to be in the region of 150-160bpm depending on pace. Using the max heart rate as 220-age this is approx 80% max heart rate for me, however other than when on hills they don’t seem too onerous.

This seems to put me in the higher HR zones though and it suggests I should be aiming more a much slower run to be hitting the 65% level. Perhaps this is right and I’m just thinking of my old paces when I’m aim to do 5k in 20 mins rather than 25...

Siderunner - based on your suggestion, are the “easier” runs, those in the down week, or would the other weeks contain easier runs as well?

Thanks for all the suggestions!

In reply to James Malloch:

Don’t worry too much about heart rate numbers - they’re always wrong. If you can talk while you’re running that’s a good indication you’re hitting the right pace. 

My cadence is around 178 for practically all my runs. 

In reply to James Malloch:

A good percentage of your weekly mileage should be easy.

At least 80% of my mileage is either easy (8:30m/m) or steady (7-8m/m). The remaining mileage is anything from 5-6:30m/m depending on the session.

Adjust based on whatever easy, steady and fast is for you.

In reply to DancingOnRock:

> Don’t worry too much about heart rate numbers - they’re always wrong. If you can talk while you’re running that’s a good indication you’re hitting the right pace. 

> My cadence is around 178 for practically all my runs. 

I think I could talk, though I’ll give it a go next time. Always feel like I can but you never know! 
My cadence seems to have averaged 153 for every one of my last 10 runs. Generally being 5km/min give or take 10s. I guess this means I’m running with quite a long stride? 

In reply to The New NickB:

8m/m seems fairly steady at the moment, though I’m not sure I’d keep it up for many more km than what I’ve been doing. Perhaps it’s worth going a little slower for my next few runs and seeing how they feel.

 Siderunner 05:21 Tue

Easy runs should be in every week, not just down weeks, IMO. Try setting yourself a HR ceiling of 150 for a couple of runs and see how that feels. I think 5 min/km is brisk for easy running for someone who's not been running regularly very long, with the caveat that everyone's different in terms of body composition and running form. I try talking to myself to see if I pass the "talk test" ... after checking for passers-by first ;-)

To make the scheduling easier I run 4 times a week which is then easy to program: easy, medium, easy, long; the last two are on consecutive days. This is for a two month base phase, I'll change the medium to speed work later on. 

153 is a very low cadence. My natural cadence is 158-160 which is seen as very low too. I've been working to push it up to 170 using a metronome app and music from youtube, both at 170bpm (not at the same time obvs!). Low cadence is linked to overstriding and thus to injury. Go at this gradually though, or the change may injure you. I find it hard to run slowly with a fast cadence, but I think it's worth learning (as most good runners seem to do it).

 Dervey 11:19 Tue
In reply to James Malloch:


My response is likely to be less technical than some on here, however  generally speaking progression is just about gradually building up a load tolerance (as you have done with C25K).

I know someone who ran the Hal Higdon novice 10k program afterwards with good results, though its distance based rather than time so that may put you off.



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