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March 16, 2000

The Run Around

Effective workout plan is all about balance

By Matt Carpenter

Running, like a house, needs a good foundation. My running foundation is shaped like a triangle. The letters R,C,Q are the corners of the triangle, with C as the top, and R and Q as the base.

C stands for Consistency and is on the top because I feel it’s the most important element to a good running program. It takes time to improve. Lots of runners with great intentions fall into what I call the “workout of the week club,” where they’re always trying the latest and greatest workout. Because they never do the same workouts, they’re unable to judge results, nor are they giving their body time to adapt to the workouts.

R stands for Recovery. Most of us have heard of the “easy-day, hard-day” approach to training, where you alternate hard and easy running days to avoid injury, but we fail to realize the significance of it. Someone at the Olympic Training Center once asked me if I got better from my training. “Of course,” I said. He replied, “No, you get better from recovering from your training.” He was right. After we stress our bodies, we must rest. When they recover, that is when we get better.

The third point on the triangle is the hard one — literally. Q is like a two-sided coin; one side is Quality, the other is Quantity. When you flip a coin, it’s very hard to come up with heads and tails at same time. In running, it’s risky to mix quality with quantity. Don’t go too long on your fast days and don’t go too fast on your long days or you could end up hurt.

When you have a balance of R, C and Q, you’re in balance with your running. Too much R and you will not improve very much. Too much Q (either side) and you probably will end up hurt. Too much C and you might get bored. Likewise, not enough R also can bring about injury; not enough Q also will keep you from improving; and not enough C will not allow for proper adaptation to your training.

Reply to all

Lorna P writes: Running IS supposed to be fun, exciting, exhilarating and we should look forward to it, right? I’ve tried it a time or two since moving here from Minnesota and my lungs burned for days, my shins hurt like the dickens, and even my back and shoulders hurt. How does one do it without feeling miserable for days afterward?

  • Sometimes we adults can take the fun out of most anything. Watch a kid’s race and you’ll learn how to approach a new running program. They’re excited and having fun — for a while. When the fun stops, they stop! Adults, on the other hand, tend to do things in excess. It takes time to develop the muscles needed for running. Start out with shorter runs and mix in some walking. With consistency, you’ll be able to do more without ever leaving the fun zone.

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