Join the Sofa to 5K Challenge

Have you ever wanted to run a 5K race? Well now is your chance! In just 10 short weeks, Coach Jenny will have you up and running — and well on your way to completing your first 5K.

The easy-to-follow, 10-week Sofa-to-5K training program begins Monday, September 15, 2014 and ends with running a community 5K by Sunday, November 30, 2014.

When you sign up, you will receive weekly email updates from Coach Jenny during your training, including workouts and helpful tips to completing your first 5K. We also invite you to join the Horizon Fitness Sofa-to-5K Challenge Facebook group for even more exclusive help from Coach Jenny, including real-time answers to your questions.

Once you complete your race, visit the Sofa to 5K Challenge Facebook page to upload your race photo and story of how the Challenge changed you and you will be entered to win a Horizon Fitness treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike . All participants will also receive a custom Sofa to 5K t-shirt!

First things first: sign up by visiting the Sofa to 5K website. You’ll also find a welcome video by Coach Jenny, a sample training plan and the official contest rules. Also don’t forget to sign up for the challenge group - a great way to find support and motivation during the program. Join us here.

Ask an Expert: Best Running Surfaces

Running SurfacesI typically run on the sidewalks around my neighborhood – is this bad for my joints? Is there any benefit to switching it up and running on different surfaces like the road, grass, loose gravel, etc.?  -Sarah

Running on a variety of surfaces is a great way to mix up your routine, boost your motivation and improve your running performance. The key is to learn about the pros and cons of each to make the best choice for your personal running life. Here is a list that will guide you in the right direction.

Sidewalk

  • Pros:  A safe, out of the line of traffic place to run, especially in urban areas and in the darkness. Many sidewalks, if in good condition, provide a predictable and even (not cambered) terrain, which allows for better running form and alignment.
  • Cons:  The concrete sidewalk surface is much harder than asphalt and create greater impact forces on the body versus the road, track or path. You may need to stop and start to cross streets, navigate pedestrians and other obstacles on the sidewalk throughout your run, not allowing for a continuous flow and pace.

Street/Road

  • Pros:  Running the roads can be as inspiring as a scene out of Forrest Gump.  There are a plethora of options and roads to explore and you can start right outside your doorstep or hotel room. The asphalt is easier on the muscles, joints and tendons than the sidewalk. Although there still may be some points you’ll need to stop and go for lights and traffic, you can generally get into a continuous running tempo.
  • Cons:  Many road and streets are cambered with a crown or peak in the center and an angle toward the side of the road. Running on an uneven surface can create muscle imbalance and alignment issues including knee and ITB pain as one leg is landing slightly higher on the ground than the other. Safety is an issue, especially with high speed traffic and distracted drivers. Always be sure to run against traffic to see and be seen.

Paved Bike Path

  • Pros: This terrain is the little black dress for runners. It offers the stability of an evenly graded sidewalk, with the forgiveness of an asphalt road, without automobile traffic. Many paved bike paths are marked so it can be a good way to develop your pacing skills and perform speed workouts as you can run uninterrupted.
  • Cons:  Although beautiful, many of these bike paths run through secluded areas and forests. Always run in groups, carry ID and cell phone and be aware of your surroundings. Keep your ears to the path so to hear bike and recreational traffic coming from behind you.

Crushed Limestone Path

  • Pros:  Perhaps one of the best terrains for running, limestone paths are typically flat to slightly rolling, evenly graded and very forgiving on the body. Less impact on the body means more efficient recovery and progression in your performance. They offer a safe haven from automobile traffic and a tranquil running environment. Many of these trails are can be found in parks and forest preserves, are well marked for distances and have bathrooms along the way.
  • Cons:  Unless it is outside your door or work, limestone path runs may be best suited for longer training runs or weekend excursions when you have more time to getting there.

Single Track Trail

  • Pros:  These trails run through the heart of forests and back country and undulate with the terrain. They are narrow and organic which makes for a truly unique running experience. It’s not uncommon to run over rocks, tree roots and across streams. Every step demands your attention making it a zen-like running workout. Similar to mountain biking, it develops running strength and finesse and decreases the risk of over use injuries due to running in the same wear pattern on more predictable terrain.
  • Cons:  You are running well off the beaten path in an isolated area where animals, bugs and adverse weather may cross your path. Technical trail running is energy demanding and like mountain biking or downhill skiing, it requires time to adapt and learn the optimal skills to run efficiently.

Track

  • Pros:  Your local high school track is a safe place to run your mileage as you’re off the busy streets and out of traffic. Most tracks are measured and marked where four laps equal one mile and therefore it is a great way to learn how to pace yourself naturally. All you need is your shoes and a watch or timer. The track is also a predictably flat surface and a great place to learn to run and perform speed workouts. A bonus benefit: many tracks are made from a forgiving rubber material that it easy on the muscles, tendons and joints.
  • Cons:  Unless you live by a track, getting there can be a hassle for the busy-minded runner and some tracks have limited public access usage. Running in a circle can become monotonous for some runners who enjoy the sense of exploration.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.

From Zero to Running

Couch to 5k Plan

Whether you’re new to the running scene or recently fell off the wagon, training to run can be easier than you may think.  Sure, if you go at it the way I did when I didn’t know any better (too far, too fast) it won’t be easy, but if you ignore what your head is telling you to do (too much, too soon), and tune into your body, you’ll go from zero to running in no time.

The key to being successful (and continue with a smile on your face) is to set a specific goal, plan a gradual progression and be flexible along the way.

The Goal: 30 minutes.  When I coach newbie or returning runners, I have them set a goal to build up to running 30 minutes continuously.  Why 30 minutes?  Because it’s an easy number to get you motivated to start, it’s not intimidating and it’s just long enough to provide a solid workout.

Next, I have them commit to 30-minute workouts three times per week on alternate days (i.e. M-W-F).  Every workout begins with a 5-minute walking warm up and finishes with a 5-minute walking cool down.  The good stuff is the middle 20 minutes where they use running and walking intervals to build running fitness.  It’s a fun way to get into running because you’re always switching it up and time flies by quickly!

The next step is to set a target date range to reach your goal to run 30 minutes.  For some it may be ten weeks, for others it may take a little longer.  It depends on your current fitness, health, weight and more.  The key is to allow enough time to progress gradually to avoid injury and burnout.

Progression. The number one mistake most new and returning runners make is to run too far and too fast too soon.  Running is a high impact, high intensity activity and takes time to adapt to the stress of running.  Your body will actually progress faster if you start with sprinkling in seconds of running with minutes of walking and repeat throughout the workout.

For example, rather than trying to run as far as you can or until you’re gasping for air and hating it and have to walk, start by tricking your body into it.  Run for 30 seconds, then walk for 3 minutes and repeat that interval for 20 minutes and call it a workout.  Repeat this workout at least one to two weeks (3-6 workouts), and then progress to more running (1 minute) while holding the walking interval steady (3 minutes).

Running intervals plant the seed of running and in time allow you to evolve into running farther and faster down the road.  The secret is to aim to finish the workout feeling strong rather than wasted and exhausted.  Creating the sense of accomplishment workout to workout inspires you to repeat the workout and come back for more.  As you repeat the workout, it gets easier and you can add more stress (more running time).  Until you reach the tipping point where you are running continuously without wanting or needing a recovery interval.  Progress is to the key to making your running regimen stick and it happens in time, with a gradual increase in running, and when you create the sense of accomplishment with every workout.

Ebb and Flow.  We are all the same and we are all different.  We are similar in that we all need to progress our training over time, however we vary in health and fitness levels, age and running form and skills.  When I first started to learn to run, it took me months to build up to 30 minutes of running because I was starting from ground zero and I was 35 pounds overweight.  Some of my clients who are fit, but not runners and at an optimal weight have learned in about ten weeks.

My point is to avoid rushing your running program and let your body be your guide along the way.  Keep a log to track your progress and take notes after every workout on how you felt along the way.  If you notice you’re struggling with a particular progression in running time, go back and repeat the previous run-walk interval one more week and allow your body more time to adapt and get stronger.  You may notice you struggle more after being ill, missing a few workouts or during highly stressful times in your life.  Let your plan ebb and flow with your life and modify as needed based on how you feel along the way.  In many cases, repeating an interval sequence a week longer will make all the difference in how you feel when you progress to the next level.

We all have an optimal running recipe, and the fun part is figuring out what works best for you along the way. Some runners even love the run-walk strategy so much, they stick with it forever.

Download Coach Jenny’s Zero to Running Training Plan for free.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.