As an assistant coach in Dartmouth over the past 3 seasons I’ve had the opportunity to work for the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service between competitive seasons. For the majority of athletes I coach in that 11-15 years of age range their season would end near the end of June which would free me up until the start of the next season. It’s a great way to switch gears for the summer and do something with a different focus in aquatics.
Part of preparing for a summer on the beaches, the fitness testing, and annual training camp that is associated with it, I need to run. Now I am not a great runner! I won’t be winning any 5k races any time soon but I do know the benefits – especially to swimmers – of having a good athletic base from running. As a form of cross training I’d include it as apart of any athletes development plan. So I include it in my own
So what do you do when you don’t know how to run, like me? I can go though all the benefits of interval training, seasonal training plans, loads, and various age appropriate activities for swimming. But I have to be honest I struggle with running because it’s not something I have a lot of experienced with or am specifically trained in. How long is too long, how far is too far, how do I maximize my efforts so I don’t hurt myself? One thing I can tell you I don’t do is that I don’t wing it! Instead I look for a coach.
Whether I’m running for myself – like preparing for the beaches this summer – or developing a running based cross training program for my athletes I always use the professional guidance of a coach to maximize the benefits I wish to accomplish. So if you’re adding a bit of running to your cross training you have a few options. You could use one of the many training apps from places like Nike or Active Network. Both other coach developed running programs. Or you can register for a coach lead program with a local club or organization such as the Running Room.
The apps offer a generic run programs, which would be suitable to the majority people. An app like Active Network’s Couch To 5k provides an 8 week program to get you to running your first 5k race. Each week has 3 runs in it and each run (of each week) follows the same pattern of running and walking. Over the weeks it ramps up your running time and distance decreasing your walking time. Nike’s running app Nike+ offers a little more variety in their beginner level Couch to 5K program. Each day involves some form of activity. Be it a short run, a walk, a “cross training” day, or a rest day. Personally the variety of this program appeals to me more so this year I’m giving it a shot with 5 weeks left until training camp.
But if you’re looking for specifics in running technique, feedback, strategies, and someone to answer your questions I’d recommend a coach lead program. Running stores like the Running Room offer community programs for various levels of running that are lead by experienced running athletes and instructors. This offers a different dynamic as a participant so you can have someone ask questions, get the feed back about technique you can’t get running on your own, and encouragement from others in your group. They can also make on the fly decisions on adjusting your run program to ensure you’re getting the most out of it, something the apps will always struggle to do.
So whether you’re using an app on your smart phone or signing up for the local club/program make sure you’re not winging it on your own. The benefit of a coached program should never be overlooked. This will help you avoid injury from over doing it, catering to your own bias and limiting your challenge, or getting overwhelmed on achieving our goals. It will provide you either general or specific steps to achieving your running goals. Even experienced runners can benefit from a check in with a coach on their training, but that’s a topic for another day.