Ages and Stages: Running Imitates Life
February 13th, 2021
By Daryl Steeves
When a runner first discovers running life after leaving the non-running womb everything is quite different in that new running world. There is so much to learn, and we all need somebody to pretty much teach us everything and clean up the mess after we get it wrong. But just like everyone loves to help a new baby, runners are more than happy to help new runners. So don’t be afraid to ask anything of your new running friends, heck, most of them will be more than happy to show you how much they know about this great sport.
Here is a bit of a primer to understand the lingo of running:
1. Newbie… that’s you, the new runner. It is not meant as an insult, just a welcome to the club and a great help when people don’t yet know your name… “Hey Newbie, wanna join us for a light one on Wednesday”
2. LSD… no, it’s not that… Long Slow Distance… it is SUPPOSE to be a very easy run that goes on for a while at a conversational pace… however, when a pack of runners gets together for one, it often has a way of getting speeded up, little by little, like a pack of hungry wolves trying to get back to the coffee shop first to eat a honey cruller… but seriously, LSD runs are important and build a good base for running
3. Tempo Run… this is a bit more pace than your LSD run but short of your full race pace for say a 5-km. It is a way to slowly coax your body into some of the faster speed zones but still be somewhat comfortable, sometimes it is called comfortably hard.
4. Fartlek… I think runners just like saying it! A Fartlek is a run with a random variety of speeds to help develop speed and endurance in the same run. It is literally Swedish for “speed play”.
5. Walk/Run (aka Galloway Runs) … this is mixing walking and running in a preplanned way. It is a perfect way to start your running journey but don’t think you can’t use it forever. Many very excellent runners use that method to run marathons and beyond with great success. Starting out you might simply decide one-minute walk and one-minute run is perfect.
So to start those baby steps, consider getting a comfy pair of running shoes (contrary to what you might hear, nothing trumps comfort in selecting your shoes, the best answer to the question “Are these the right shoes is another question… do they feel like the right shoes? If they do, they are! Then start getting out 3-5 times a week doing a mix of walk and run for something around a half hour and suddenly you’re a runner and you can start to progress from those baby steps.
The Terrible Toos
Just like in life, where babyhood is followed by the terrible twos... in running Newbie-hood is followed by the terrible toos! That’s too much, too hard, too far, too soon! Progress should be slow and steady if you want to avoid injury. There is often quoted that you should only increase by 10% a week but that has no really scientific basis and certainly can’t be applied infinitely or it would be exponential, and you would quickly be doing 100% more over and over again. The more reasonable interpretation of that is to take your time developing a base that will have you running injury free for life. Increase only when you have reached a comfort level (maybe almost a boredom level to be really safe) and then when you do increase, don’t exceed 10% increase, and even that is high and can quickly regress back to the terrible toos and you will look like a Newbie again as you limp to practice.
Adolescents have it all figured out, right. Same thing applies to people in the “adolescent” stage of running. They have been around a bit, maybe ran a 5-km race and had some luck and genetic help. They start to get a little cocky, maybe run by you backwards just to show how good they are compared to you. Then they sign up for the marathon and train just like they have all along. These are the folks you will find along the side of the road at the 25-km point of the marathon emptying breakfast into the ditch.
When you have some running under your belt and want to take the next step, do some homework and get a proper plan to help you prepare. Take it in steps building from the 5-km to the 10-km, half marathon, marathon and beyond only over a number of years and only if you WANT TO. Adolescents are always trying to prove themselves but in running you have no need to prove yourself to anyone, just have fun, stay fit and meet friends and only worry about competition if you feel it in your soul.
The Adult Years
Just like in real life, in running we eventually reach a level of maturity where we have made the mistakes of youth and are ready to use what we have learned to make running an even more positive experience. Runners at this stage have hopefully learned some of these key things.
1. Just like everyone has a different height that is largely determined by genetics, we also have genetic determinants to our running abilities. Mature runners have learned this and adjust their running goals to match their abilities.
2. The beauty of running is that it offers goals for all those abilities. Maybe you were given the gift of speed so you keep chasing 5-km PBs, maybe you are gifted with the ability to go all day in a slower gear so Ultras are you plan. Maybe you are a dog with a bone type so you pick a “streaking” goal and try to do 100 consecutive days of running. It’s all about playing to your strengths at this stage and getting all the enjoyment you can from it.
3. Injuries have consequences to your running and to life in general and should be avoided at all costs. Take rest when it is called for, back off when you feel something isn’t quite right and don’t be afraid to cancel a run or race when you know you are not ready.
The Golden Year
When you have been running for a while, made all the mistakes, collected the medals, met all the new friends, you discover the real magic of running. It never has to end. Just keep redefining the goals and adjusting your plan and you can enjoy this fantastic sport forever. You will always be welcome even when you reach the slowing down stage. Newbies will seek you out for your wisdom and you can help them to enjoy the beauty that is running.
The 2021 Run NB Challenge
So how does all this fit into the 2021 Run NB Challenge. It is key that each runner takes some time to see where they fit in the lifecycle of running, not by chronological age but by running experience. If you are at the baby steps stage, you will likely want to use frequency as you best tool and get out almost every day but keep it just over that 3-km threshold required for the Challenge and don’t worry about intensity.
When you start to improve or if you are already doing some running but don’t have a lot of experience you want to be very careful of the Terrible Toos so you need to not get carried away with the Challenge. Consider running a little less frequently when you start to increase the distances. For example, instead of 6 runs of 3-km you might go with 3 runs of 3-km and one of 4-km and one 5-km. Then build on that until you get up to your weekly goal requirement. That allows you to have a rest day or two each week, so you stay injury free.
The others, adolescents and beyond, might want to create sub goals within the Challenge. Maybe you will decide to only count your easy runs toward the Challenge and exclude your speed work so it encourages you to get the easy kilometers in as a base. Or maybe you make one run a month a 5-km time trial to measure your progress. There are lots of ways to add some spice to the Challenge if you are already to the point where a 1200-km year is your normal.
The bottom line is the 2021 Run NB Challenge has something for everyone, no matter what stage of the running “life” they may be at… so take those Baby Steps, or get out an enjoy the social runs of the Golden Years. You will love every step.