5 Ways You Can Benefit From A Structured Running Program

Anyone that wants to run a 5K can be successful if they use the Cool Running or Hal Higdon Couch to 5K program.  Each year I launch a Dream-to-Reality Couch-to-5K program to our employees.  Employees sign up, follow the program, and send me their picture after they’ve experienced the exhilaration that comes with crossing the finish line for the first time.

As much fun as running a 3.1 mile race is, stepping up your game and training for longer distances is where you’ll really start to realize your goals and find out if running competitions is something you want to make a part of your workout plan and life.

Finish Line

The finish line makes it all worth it! Flickr photo by jayeandd’s photostream

From Couch to 5K, 10K, 15K and Beyond

I worked through the steps of doing a couple of 5Ks, then a 10K, a 15K, and finally a half-marathon.  Each time I finished a race of a longer distance, I felt like I was ready for the next challenge.  I remember crossing the finish line at the Chicago Hot Chocolate 15K thinking adding four more miles would not have been impossible.  Five months later I ran my first half marathon.

If you want to be successful at competitive running, your first goal should be to avoid injury. This is where the training programs come into play.  They will take you through the training steps at a pace that allows your body to adapt and respond to the stress of running plus they provide the structure and motivation you need to be race-ready on event day.

Here are five key reasons why following a structured running program will help you reach your goals.

1.  There’s No Guesswork.  You don’t have to figure out how many days you’re going to train, how far you’re going to go (such as until you’re tired) or how much time you’ll need to train each day.  The running programs do all of the planning for you.  The only thing you have to do is run.

2.   You’re Not Relying Solely On How You Feel. – We all have good and bad days when it comes to running.  On our bad days we may quit before we do what’s needed to move us towards our goal.  On good days we tend to go farther, faster.  Overdoing it can be just as detrimental to our success as not doing enough.  Going too far or too fast before we’re ready, leads to injury and fatigue.  A structured running program sets the pace for you.

3.   Rest Days Are Built In – When you follow program that gives you the permission to ‘rest’ you’re more likely to do it.  Every runner needs to spend some time on cross training activities like strength training, stretching, or yoga.  The days that you cross train are built into the program along with rest days so there’s no need to feel guilty when you take a day off from running to get recharged.

4.  You’re Less Prone to Procrastination– You decide you want to run a 10K but don’t know exactly how many weeks ahead of race day you need to start training.  When you follow a structured running program you know exactly how many weeks in advance of the event you’ll need in order to be properly prepared.   You can print the schedule out and attach it to your fridge with a magnet, log your runs into your FitBit, download the training program app to your phone and start marking off the days leading up to the event.  You’ll avoid the “I’ll start next week” attitude that can easily put you way behind with your plan.

5.   Your Chances of Success Are Greater – Since I started offering the Couch to 5K program each year as part of our wellness programming, employees that were not runners have completed the program, ran a 5K and several have gone on to run longer races.  These are people that would not have gotten from the couch to the finish line without the help of the program.

Whatever distance you choose, there’s a program available to you for free from the web sites listed below.  These programs, developed by pros, guide you easily through the steps of race training and get you to the finish line.

Some of the most popular running web sites that have downloadable training programs are:

What’s your favorite training plan?

You might also like Eight Tips That Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals or Running Without A Goal Is Like Reading A Book Without An Ending.

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