5km Training Plan – Week 1

One of the best periods in my running career to date was when I was just getting back running after almost 2 years side-lined with injury. A calcaneal spur on my left heel resulted in surgery and no running at all for nearly 6 months. While I didn’t forget how to run, I found it incredible how difficult starting back was. In spite of staying fit through cross training in the swimming pool, my body felt every step of those first few weeks returning to action. What many people don’t realise is just how slow that process was. I began with a simple 4 minute slow run on a football pitch in UCD and increased by only a single minute each day in order to ensure my body was adjusting to the strain of running. Running is an incredibly tough sport when you are just beginning. It can cause huge strain on ligaments, muscles and bones, especially if they have been underutilised for many years. That is why I have always focused a huge amount of energy on consistence, training hard when my body allows but taking the necessary rest at the same time. Consistency is king when you are starting out, it is vitally important to ensure that your body becomes used to the thrashing, and becomes almost immune to it.

The training I did in those first two months were vital to ensuring that I returned from my absence strong, and it went smoothly, so smoothly that I thought it would be a great reason to share with any others hoping to either return to running from a long break or simply take it up for the first time. While not step for step the same training, the plan below will give you a great outline on how to go from zero to maintaining consistent running patterns. Only a short few months later I was back running in International races and winning national championship titles. If you are thinking about starting out again why not give it a go! Remember though, that every runner is different. If you are having trouble with the plan you should talk to a coach at your local running club.

While the plan may seem very easy at first, you learn as a runner that simplicity is often the best way forward. Some simple reasoning behind different parts of the plan are explained below.

  • The plan begins with very short periods of jogging interpolated with periods of cross training such as swimming, stretching, aerobics, walking and gym/core work. The benefits of this is to ensure that you are extending the time you spend exercising without putting 100% strain on your body with running. As we move through the plan, the percentage we spend running vs cross training begins to changeover.
  • When starting back, and similarly with much of my winter base training now, my coach would have me focus only on time. Doing 5 minutes rather than a kilometre ensures you are not focusing on how fast you are running, something you do not need to worry about at this stage.
  • Nearly all of my early running in this period was on grass. While this can be tricky during the Irish winters, getting on a soft surface as much as possible will result in greatly reduced strain on your legs.
  • When stretching, focus on active stretches where you are moving all the time over static stretches where you say stretch for 30 seconds at a time. Active or dynamic stretching best prepares you for the exercise ahead. Static stretching plays a role in recovery session such as in the evening after a session.
  • Test Days: Even now I like to break up any period of training longer 3 or 4 weeks with a test day. You will do a test at the end of both 3 and 6 weeks to give yourself a shorter term goal and ensure that the work you are doing is working for you.