5 Months to 5 Miles Relay Training Program

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Created by the Cooper Fitness Center

Relay Training Plan Basics
Weeks 1-4: Preparatory Phase
Weeks 5-8: Endurance Phase
Weeks 9-12: Endurance/Strength Phase
Weeks 13-16: Strength Phase
Weeks 17-20: Sharpening & Tapering Phase

The world-renowned Cooper Aerobics Center has created a unique training program called “5 Months to 5 Miles” to help five-person teams prepare for the 5-Person Relay or the SMU Cox Corporate Relay Challenge Presented by Behringer Harvard.

“5 Months to 5 Miles” is a progressive month-by-month regimen that is flexible enough to accommodate the schedule of the busiest corporate professional.

Training Plan Basics

The 20 week plan begins July 18, 2011; however, participants can begin any time. The plan is appropriate for three levels: non-runners (B=Basic); runners currently able to run 2 to 3 times per week up to 30 minutes (I=Intermediate); or those consistently running four to five times a week, up to one hour per run (A=Advanced); or for those who wish to follow a structured plan.

Relay Training

The plan includes optional runs or cross training: a fourth run for Intermediate or fifth run for Advanced; and alternative cross training for all levels. This plan requires that each run count. Total time duration listed includes a very easy 3-5 minute warm-up and cool-down. For Intermediate and Advanced, aim to separate higher-intensity efforts with a rest or recovery day, or a cross training day (for example between Tuesday and Thursday) and the long run. Bottom Line: make the training plan fit your schedule and adjust the days as needed!

The cardinal rule for a new runner, or someone returning to exercise: be patient. You’re brimming with enthusiasm and looking for tips. Your body needs time to adapt. Activity may be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll begin to see results. It’s important to build gradually.

  • Run more slowly than you think you should, and insert walk segments.
  • The first 3-4 weeks don’t run as far as you think you should.
  • Run more often than you think you should, or have time for, but short distances.

Weeks 1-4: Preparatory Phase

If you are following the full 5 Months to 5 Miles plan, the following section begins July 18, 2011; however participants can start the program at any time.

Training Pace

To be sure you’re running at the desired pace is to use a heart rate monitor, but many simply learn how their bodies feel at certain paces. The following information describes the approximate percentage of max heart rate, or the “feel” of each type of the various factors at a given pace.

Easy: Easy occurs about 60-72% of your maximal heart rate (MHR). It is a good recovery pace between faster workout days, and is a “normal” aerobic training pace. When this “talk” pace is held for longer runs, it’s a useful way to rely more on fat for energy. The long runs are about putting in time on the body than pushing intensity. They help you become accustomed to fluid loss and other stresses. Easy pace is where all training begins—and should remain several weeks before introducing faster running or walking. Focus on light foot turnover and rhythmic breathing.

Threshold: About 80-85% of MHR and provides quality training with limited stress. For many, it’s slower than 5K pace by about 20-30 seconds per mile. As “tempo runs,” they should feel comfortably moderate, or moderate to hard for more Advanced runners. Threshold pace can be also be used for hill repetitions or intervals. This pace can help improve the ability to clear lactic acid waste from the blood. Avoid training in this intensity more than one to two times per week.

Interval: This is an uncomfortable or a hard effort over short distances, about 85 to 90 or to 98% of MHR for brief periods and should not be longer than 3 to 5 minutes. Intervals can help train the body through prolonged periods at a high effort. Pace should approximate effort you could not keep up longer than 15 minutes. This is not all-out running. Faster than this pace will cause fatigue and high risk for injury, plus compromise your next training day.

Repetition: Faster than interval pace, these very hard efforts are used to get your body moving smoothly at a fast pace. Racing requires running economy and speed. This pace can help improve the mechanical aspect of training to replicate race-day. These should be limited, and attempted by advanced or more experienced runners, and require full recovery between each repetition so that each one is completed at the same pace.

Each pace helps ensure a safe training regimen over the next 20+ weeks in the most efficient way. Basic runners: just put in the time at an easy to moderate foundation pace! Intermediate and Advanced runners: Long and foundation runs should be about 50-75% of total weekly mileage, threshold runs about 6-8%, intervals around 5-6% and repetition pace roughly 5%.

Every fourth week is recovery! Reduced training allows the body to adapt and prepare for coming weeks. 5K tune-up races will be included in the schedule. If you can’t find a 5K on those weeks, run a 1.5 to 3 mile time trial instead.

Weeks 5-8: Endurance Phase

If you are following the full 5 Months to 5 Miles plan, the following section begins August 16, 2010; however participants can start the program at any time.

Weeks 5-8 of our relay team training plan are presented below as we continue to build aerobic endurance foundation for all three levels of runners. The runs in this block are still primarily easy, low-effort or moderately-low effort endurance runs. Basic (novice) runners can continue the walk/run routine or try longer jogging segments between short walk segments. The endurance phase is the longest and most important essential building block for every runner, as it conditions the cardiorespiratory system, muscles and emotions, especially for those getting back into the habit of regular exercise after a layoff. Don’t sabotage your success by trying to run too fast too soon. If you are just now forming your team, or joining the relay training program, with 16 weeks of preparation before race date there’s still plenty of time! Select the level most appropriate for your fitness level, and lace up your shoes.

Endurance Phase Pace: Easy and Easy to Moderate

Easy occurs about 60-72% of your maximal heart rate (MHR). It is a good recovery pace between faster workout days, and is a “normal” aerobic training pace. When this “talk” pace is held for longer runs, it’s a useful way to rely more on fat for energy. The long runs are about putting in time on the body than pushing intensity. They help you become accustomed to fluid loss and other stresses. Easy pace is where all training begins—and should remain several weeks before introducing faster running or walking. As you get stronger, view easy run pace as a pace you could hold many miles or hours. Focus on light foot turnover and rhythmic breathing. Moderate pace should still feel relatively easy, but as you put more time on the legs, and core temperature increases (sweat more), your breathing is still comfortable, you can still talk, and are not uncomfortable. If breathing becomes too labored or too intense, slow down and take control of the effort. Intermediate and Advanced runners have opportunity for a Fartlek and Tempo sessions (refer to the Workout Key from last month). If you are not ready to try these yet, just do your Foundation Run for the time prescribed and enjoy!

Relay Team Tip: Why Runners Should Cross Train: Overuse injuries can be caused by instability in the joints–hips, knees, and ankles–resulting from poor strength in the stabilizing muscles. Weak muscles on the outside of the hip (hip adductors) can cause the pelvis to tip toward your unsupported side when your foot lands, placing strain on the hip and/or knee joint. Resistance training can help. Tightness can contribute to some injuries. Iliotibial (IT) band friction syndrome is a typical issue for runners. Stretching can loosen tight connective tissue. Replacing one weekly recovery run workout with easy bicycling or pool running can help reduce repetitive impact of the lower extremities without sacrificing fitness. Impact forces are usually the origin of nearly every injury.

Rehabilitation: Cross-training can help get back to exercise quickly and reduce risk of recurrence. About half of running injuries are re-injuries. Eccentric strengthening of the calf is a very effective way to correct Achilles tendinosis, an inability of the calf muscle to absorb force. Non-impact activity can maintain aerobic fitness while running is limited. Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi successfully used this strategy when injuries hampered his lead-up to the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon. Replacing runs with a few weekly bike workouts enabled him to build fitness to finish second, earning a trip to Athens.

Fitness: Due to impact, the most gifted runners can handle no more than about 15 hours of running per week. Athletes in non-impact sports such as swimming or cycling routinely double this amount. With non-impact cardio, you can gain a little extra fitness without increasing risk.

Power: Resistance training, particularly plyometrics, can increase power, translating to greater stride length, reduce ground contact time, and result in faster times. A Swedish study where runners replaced 32% of running with plyometrics for nine weeks improved sprint speed, economy, and 5K times. The control group who maintained a normal training schedule showed no improvement.

Efficiency: Dynamic flexibility is the ability to run with minimal internal resistance from muscles and joints. Dynamic stretches are movements that enhance flexibility, mimicking the way muscles and connective tissue stretch during running. Regular skipping and giant walking lunges (i.e. walking with ridiculously long steps) are examples and can enhance efficiency of your stride.

Weeks 9-12: Endurance/Strength Phase

If following the 5 Months to 5 Miles plan, the third block begins September 13, 2010. Teams still have time to start the program!

Weeks 9-12 of our training plan are presented below as we continue to build aerobic endurance foundation for all three levels of runners. The runs in this block are still easy, low-effort for the basic plan, targeted for new runners or exercisers. Basic runners can still continue the walk/run routine or jog longer segments. Moderately-low to moderate effort endurance runs are still the cornerstone for Intermediate level runners. Advanced runners now have more challenging efforts included this block.

The endurance phase is the longest and most essential building block for every runner, as it conditions the cardiorespiratory system, muscles and emotions, especially for those getting back into the habit of regular exercise after a layoff. Don’t sabotage your success by trying to run too fast too soon.

If you are just forming your team or joining the relay training program, with 12 weeks of preparation before race date, there’s still plenty of time! Select the level most appropriate for your fitness level, lace up your shoes and get going!

Endurance Pace: Easy to Moderate

Easy occurs about 60-72% of your maximal heart rate (MHR). It is a good recovery pace between faster workouts, and is “normal” aerobic training pace. When this “talk” pace is held for longer runs, it’s a useful way to rely more on fat for energy. The long runs are about putting time on the body than pushing intensity. They help you become accustomed to fluid loss and other stresses. Easy pace is where training begins, and should remain several weeks before introducing faster runs or walks. An easy run pace is what you could hold many miles. Focus on light foot turnover and rhythmic breathing. Moderate pace should still feel easy, but as you put more time on the legs, and you sweat more, breathing is still comfortable, you can still talk, and not uncomfortable. If breathing becomes very labored, slow down and control the effort. Intermediate and Advanced runners have opportunity for a Fartlek and Tempo sessions (refer to the previous Workout Key). If you are not ready for these yet, do Foundation Runs for the time prescribed and enjoy!

Relay Team Tip: Learn to Develop a Sense of Pace

The most important thing any athlete can learn is a sense of running or jogging pace. Controlling pace is the essential key to effective training and conditioning. An easy way to start pace training is on a track or measured course with a digital watch. Set the watch to beep at a specific distance, such as ¼ mile, ½ mile or mile split time. Choose a comfortable pace. As you run, listen for the beep at the split mark you set. You quickly learn to either pick up the pace if the beep comes before you pass your start line, or slow down if it comes after. Pretty soon, you develop a sense of rhythm for that pace, and you’ll hear the beep close to your start point. After time, you can develop different paces “at will”. As you get better at pacing, you’ll relate pace to how you feel, and this is called “perceived exertion,” and you won’t need a watch, markers or possibly a heart rate monitor to regulate pace.

Try out your internal sense, checking against the watch or heart rate monitor to learn how to adjust for hills or terrain. When you learn to run while holding set paces, you are managing your training and fitness. Pace is the key factor in conditioning that controls physical improvement. Running too slow doesn’t stimulate the body enough to get the best improvement, but is necessary when first starting to run to prevent injury. Running too fast requires too much recovery time, and training becomes inefficient.

The most important pace for building endurance is called “tempo” pace. This pace is the fastest you can run without building up lactate in your blood. Threshold pace is great for advanced conditioning. You get in maximum effort without needing extensive recovery time. Everyone’s threshold moves up and down according to training (or lack of it!). Learn to recognize tempo pace and use it as a benchmark, relating it to training or race paces. This is the cornerstone of improvement. If you don’t build up a good lactate load, you didn’t use your full potential. Everybody has a maximum pace they can keep up over the bulk of a race. If you run just a little faster than this pace, it causes the muscles to fatigue, lose power, feel exhausted and your mind says you can’t keep going. This is “red line” pace. Knowing when you are at red line and how far and how long you can go when you’re over it are keys to planning and managing paces.

Tools like lactate measurement and heart rate monitors were once available only to Olympic level athletes. Now every runner can take advantage of professional knowledge and training tools, such as heart rate monitors or technology such as Garmin’s, to develop winning a race or producing personal records. The right paces use full potential through different parts of the race, even if other runners are passing or if you are in front. Developing a sense of pace takes discipline, patience, confidence and experience to hold the correct pace for you, and one that will get you to the finish having run the best race you are capable of in your fitness development. Understand what pace it takes to run a 5k or 5 miles, and how that differs from whatever distance you choose to achieve the conditioning that controls physical improvement to help reach your personal goals.

Weeks 13-16: Strength Phase

Block four begins October 11, 2010. If you are just forming your team or just found the relay training program, 8 weeks of preparation before race date is still plenty of time! Select the level most appropriate for your fitness level, lace up your shoes and get going!

Strength Phase
Weeks 13-16 of our training plan is presented below as we continue to build endurance and strength for all three levels of runners. This 4-week block moves to more moderate effort for basic, new runners/exercises. Basic runners may continue a walk/run pattern, or jog longer duration, shorter walk segments. Intermediate and Advanced level runners incorporate more run specific strength, and begin to sharpen speed skills with challenging efforts.

Endurance is the essential building block for every runner. If you are not ready to step up training with more challenging runs, such as including hills and/or faster paces, don’t sabotage your or your team’s finish by trying to run too hard or too fast if you are not ready and risk injury. Keep running easy to moderate foundation runs in that case.

Paces for Weeks 13-16
Easy
Easy occurs about 60-72% of maximal heart rate (MHR) and is a good recovery pace between faster workouts and “normal” aerobic training pace. You could hold an easy pace many miles. This “talk” pace is for longer runs and relies more on fat for energy. Long runs are here, putting time on the body, not pushing intensity.

Moderate
Moderate is a medium rhythm tempo pace and introduces faster runs (or walks). Focus on light foot turnover and rhythmic breathing. This pace should still feel comfortable during shorter to moderate length runs, but as you put more time on the legs, you begin to sweat more, breathing increases, but you can still talk. Short “Fartlek” segments, easier Tempo runs and a XT session once a week can fall here (refer to Workout Key). If breathing becomes quite labored, slow a bit and control effort. If you are not ready for increased effort yet, keep doing easy Foundation Runs for the time prescribed and enjoy!

Threshold
Threshold pace is moderately-hard faster rhythm, used for Fartleks and Tempo Runs. This is quality training with limited stress and roughly 85%-90% of Max HR. Breathing is labored, but is slower than a fast 5k pace by about 20-30 seconds per mile. “Tempo runs” should feel moderate to moderately hard for basic and intermediate runners. Advanced runners can use a moderately hard to hard effort by holding the fartleks or tempo segments for a longer duration. You can use threshold pace for short hill reps, and for the one to three minute intervals.

Fast
Fast pace: Repetition and Interval Pace is hard, to achieve 95-100% of Max HR for brief periods. Intervals are three to five minutes, and shorter for basic or intermediate runners. This is not all-out sprinting, but very uncomfortable, breathing labored, near red line, legs burning. Intervals faster than this pace introduce fatigue and possible injury; and certainly compromise the next training day. Remember: you’re not running this pace for your relay! You are running 4 to 6 miles. Fast pace running, in limited doses, builds physical and mental strength and power. Racing requires economy and speed, both of which this pace can improve by forcing mechanical aspects to mirror race-day, especially on hills, or in a 5k or the last half mile of a 5 miler. Recover between intervals or reps as directed. Establish a pace so you are able to run the last one the same pace as the first. If not, you started too fast!

Block Four Team Tip: “Act like a champion to be a champion”
A champion isn’t always the individual that’s crosses the finish line first. You’ve been working out for 2-3 months and feeling pretty fit now, right? It’s time to begin testing your physical and mental skills. Do you still have concerns? You might be asking yourself, “Will I have a great run, or will I let my team down”?

Race day can be both exciting and stressful for beginner and experienced athletes alike. Every sport has champions. Running a relay can be very important. It may be the “push” you needed to engage in a fitness program, or learn valuable skills, such as team dynamics, or, may spill into other areas of life. You may have come to the realization that no matter how hard you train, being the champion athlete or relay team that crosses the line first, or runs a Personal or Team Best may elude you this year.

A champion of life is the real winner. Being a champion of life is the ultimate reward and easy… act like a champion. Learning how to achieve mastery over ourselves, our thoughts and emotions is the most difficult part. You don’t need to beat all opponents, or even get the best time! But a champion of life works constantly at being the best they can be just by practicing being mentally sharp, strong, and gracious by helping and encouraging others achieve a personal path to success.

Try out your internal sense, checking against the watch or heart rate monitor to learn how to adjust for hills or terrain. When you learn to run while holding set paces, you are managing your training and fitness. Pace is the key factor in conditioning that controls physical improvement. Running too slow doesn’t stimulate the body enough to get the best improvement, but is necessary when first starting to run to prevent injury. Running too fast requires too much recovery time, and training becomes inefficient.

A champion of life demonstrates four qualities:

  1. Life, like sports, is about creating a positive image, what you’ve achieved, and realizing success by mastering your habits, thoughts and words, which translates to confidence.
  2. Never quit learning.You learn when happiness is created by helping others achieve success. Be a student of life and your sport skills will also improve.
  3. Mental toughness is being able to summon emotional strength at the right time with grace and dignity. We are defined not by the fight, but by how we fought, and what we overcame to get to the start, and cross the finish line. That is a Champions reward.
  4. Champions act! Begin to think and act like the champion you are!

Weeks 17-20: Sharpening & Tapering Phase

Block five begins November 8, 2010. This is your final 4 weeks of preparation before race day!

Sharpening & Tapering Phase
Weeks 17-20 is our final phase of the relay training plan for all three levels of runners. This 4 week block now moves to more moderate to higher intensity effort. Basic runners may continue a walk/jog or run pattern, or steady jog for the 5 mile distance or duration of your segment. Intermediate and Advanced level runners sharpen speed skills with challenging efforts. Endurance is still the essential building block for every runner. If you are not ready for more challenging runs, or faster paces, and risk injury, keep running easy to moderate and have fun!

Paces for Weeks 17-20
Easy

Easy is about 60-72% of maximal heart rate (MHR) and is also a good recovery pace between faster workouts. You could hold this easy pace for many miles. This “talk” pace is for short easy runs, or for longer runs putting time on the body, not pushing intensity.

Moderate
Moderate is a medium tempo pace and introduces steadier runs (or walks). Focus on rhythmic breathing. This pace should still feel comfortable during shorter to moderate length runs, but as you put more time on the legs, you begin to sweat more, breathing increases, but you can still talk. Short”Fartlek” segments, easier Tempo runs and a XT session once a week can fall into moderate pace (refer to Workout Key). If breathing becomes quite labored, slow a bit and control effort. If you are not ready for increased effort, keep doing Foundation Runs for the time prescribed and enjoy!

Threshold
Threshold pace is moderately-hard faster rhythm. It is a pace used for Fartleks and Tempo Runs. This is quality training with limited stress and roughly falls into the 85%-90% of Max HR. Breathing is labored, but slower than a fast 5k pace by about 20-30 seconds per mile. “Tempo runs” should feel moderate to moderately hard for basic and intermediate runners. Advanced runners can use a harder effort by holding fartlek segments or tempos runs for longer duration. Use threshold pace forshort hill reps, and for one to three minute intervals.

Fast
Fast pace: Repetition and Interval Pace is hard, to achieve 95-100% of Max HR for brief periods. Intervals are three to five minutes, and shorter for basic or intermediate runners. This is not all-out sprinting, but very uncomfortable, breathing is labored, legs burning. Remember: you’re not running this pace for your relay! You are running 4 to 6 miles. Fast pace running, in limited doses, builds physical and mental strength and power. Racing requires economy and speed, both of which this pace can improve by forcing mechanical aspects to mirror race-day, especially on hills, or in a 5k or the last half mile of a 5 miler. Recover between intervals or reps as directed.

Block Five Relay Team Tip: “Get Ready for Race Day”

  1. Get Organized: Get enough sleep the night before the race. Pack everything you need the night before. Pin your race number on so you won’t forget it. Make sure the last person on your team has the timing chip. Arrive early and warm up properly—light jogging back and forth along the first 200 yards of the part you will be running. Work out transportation to your designated relay point in advance. There is nothing more disheartening for a relay member to reach the hand off point, unable to find their team mate! If possible, run your segment of the race during a training run so you’ll know what to expect on the course with no surprises.
  2. Don’t Overdress or Underdress: Start your relay segment feeling slightly underdressed. Your body will heat up during the race, and clothing that was comfortable for training may now feel too heavy. If the weather is cool, try layers. You can always remove a hat and gloves and tuck them in your shorts. Wear what you have practiced in training. Race day is not the day to try brand new shoes or clothing you’ve never worn. Buy shoes at least 2 weeks before race day to ensure they are broken in and won’t create hot spots or blisters for the distance you are running. Be prepared for the weather – race day can be freezing or hot and humid. Prepare clothing for any scenario.
  3. Eating: Don’t eat or drink anything your have not tried in training. This is not the time to experiment – training is to see what does and does not work. If you are one of the last 2 or 3 relay team mates, try eating early with plenty of time to digest.
  4. Starting Pace: Avoid sprinting out of the relay box! Starting too fast, you may begin hyperventilating and blow the pace that is right for you or practiced. Begin a bit slower, then build into your race pace and finish strong.
  5. Drink: In warm weather, drink fluids even if it is only a 4-6 mile segment. Get used to taking in fluids during your training runs.
  6. Have fun! Remember to smile as you reach your team mate or as you cross the finish line! Encourage each other and celebrate at the post race party! Begin making plans for next year’s relay team. After the race, eat something healthy as soon as possible. Take it easy for a couple of days with easy running or cross training.

 

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