Thursday, December 8, 2011

After the Couch to 5k: A Plan for Recreational Runners

So you finished the Couch to 5k program. Yay for you!!!'re feeling a little lost? Not sure what comes next? You can completely and totally relate to this first post of the series? If you're a recreational runner--someone who likes the sport for staying lean, improving heart health, combating stress, or just feeling the wind through your hair--then this is your post--your The Couch to 5k is over, now what do I do? What comes next? Where do I go from here? post.

Some people run to stay healthy for their family:
 Taking my kids to go see Santa.

Some people run to stay in shape for other physical activities they love to do:
No, seriously, that's me. I don't love hunting, but I love my husband, so I go to keep him company.

And some people run so that they'll look nice when they decide to take a random self-portrait next to their kitchen trash can:
What? You don't do that?

We'll start with a few basics to keep in mind when you hit the road:

1) Try to run at least 3 times a week. 4 seems to be the most doable number for the average joe, and 5-6 is totally fine, too.

2) Aim to cover 2-4 miles or 20-40 minutes per run. That way you're getting the cardiovascular benefits and using some fat as your fuel. Run according to feel. If you feel like going longer, go longer. If you feel like poo and want to head home, head home. If you can only squeeze in 20 minutes before a PTA meeting, it's better than eating peanut butter off a spoon during that splurt of down-time.

3) Just because you're a recreational runner and not a competitive runner doesn't mean you don't have to worry about shoes. Go to your local running store and get fitted for the right sneaker, and plan on replacing your shoes every 6 months. If your wife thinks your running shoes are too expensive, let her spend $100 at every 6 months. Trust me, she'll stop complaining.

4) You should be running at a conversational pace. This means, if you're running with a buddy, you should be able to openly chat about your mothers-in-law (good things only!). If you're able to talk like you're standing still, pick up the pace. If you can barely get the words out, slow it down. Talking should be a little bit challenging, but there's no need to be sucking wind.

5) It's good for your body--and your brain--to vary your running terrain. Try sidewalks, roads, trails, the track, the treadmill, and definitely throw in a few hilly routes.

6) Every once in a while, play with your pace. This is great for fat burning, cardiovascular strengthening, and improving your overall fitness. Pick a stop sign and run fast until you get to it. Run fast until you get to the red house, or the blue car, or the fire hydrant. Simple enough.

It's news to no one that running can get a little boring after a while. Try this:

1) Getting bored? Treat yourself to a new running outfit or a new running gadget.

2) Download some new music on your iPod, or try listening to a Podcast for a change. Some of my favorites are Manic Mommies, The Moth, This American Life, Spilled Milk, The Mielmen Podcast, and The Sporkful. They're all free from the iTunes stores and if you browse around you'll see that there's something for everyone. Even for people who like boring stuff.

3) Try a new route. Run to the post office to mail a letter, run behind the grocery store (because seriously, the back of the grocery store is kind of exciting), run through an apartment complex and wave to people like you live there, run through the ritziest neighborhood in town, run through Super WalMart, run through a cemetery. Just run somewhere new.

4) Run with a friend. And if you don't have any running friends, get someone started on the Couch to 5k program. In 10 weeks, BLAMO! A running friend.

5) If you're a treadmill runner, partake in some extra trashy and strange reality TV...stuff you wouldn't watch in front of your family.

6) And every once in a while, enter a race--you don't have to be in it to win it. Run for charity, run to wear a silly costume, or run to encourage a friend.

And finally, just because you're a regular runner doesn't mean you can eat anything you want on the face of the planet:

1) A mile of running burns about 100 calories. That means, if you run 10-15 miles a week, you're earning yourself 1,000-1,500 extra calories. That's a few slices or pizza and a beer, or a really good ice cream sundae, or a hefty plate of nachos. You can afford to splurge, but only about once a week.

2) Try to take in 100-200 calories of carbs and protein within 30 minutes of finishing a run. A greek yogurt, or half of a turkey sandwich, or a Luna Bar is a perfect post-run snack.

3) Runners should drink some extra water and stay hydrated during the day.

Does this sound doable? Clear up your confusion?

The bottom line is this. If you love running for the sake of running. Try to get out at least 3 times a week for 20-40 minutes or 2-4 miles. Vary your terrain and wear good shoes.

Now get out there and make your neighbors jealous. Happy running!


  1. Is eating nutella off a spoon okay in place of a 20 minute run? I'm asking... uhhh... for a friend. Yeah.

  2. "nutella off a spoon" hahahaha! yeah, that's why I can't buy that stuff anymore :)