This post is the one I needed to read when I was doing C25k in the summer of 2013, hopefully containing the basic information that new runners need, to understand why the the nannying old fogeys on this site are forever going on about slowing down and not pushing too fast and hard.
In the days before becoming EDIT: IN DEFERENCE TO MY ESTEEMED FELLOW MENTOR, I WILL HEREBY INSERT THE WORD " co" nannying old fogey in chief, I ran the whole of the C25k training plan as fast as I could. It started in W1, when I thought “This is too easy” but I humbly cast aside my male arrogance, acknowledging that whoever devised this training plan knew more about running than me and rather than abandon it completely, decided, with just a mere dash of male arrogance, that I would ignore the advice of just a gentle jog and go as fast as I could.
THAT IS NEWBIE RUNNER MISTAKE NUMBER ONE
So my newbie question was “Surely pushing as hard as possible makes you a better runner?” Well, the answer is “Yes”…….but also …...“No”.
In the first few weeks of C25k you will notice that your breathing and recovery times improve rapidly and maybe even that your muscles are becoming more defined and stronger. Those improvements are coming about by a gradual adaptation of your muscles, nerves, bones, heart, lungs, brain and all the other tissues in your incredible body. Your lungs take in oxygen more efficiently, then transfer it around more numerous blood vessels via the pumping of your more efficient heart. In time you become better at utilising fat and carbohydrates to produce energy for the rapid muscle contraction that propels you while running.
The adaptation to muscles and bones comes about as a result of the impact stresses of running. Muscles develop micro tears when you run, as a consequence of that impact. On your rest day, your body goes about adaptation, repairing those muscle fibres and strengthening them. Without rest, no repair, no strengthening, increased injury risk. Gentle non impact exercise on your rest day will aid the repair by increasing blood flow to the damaged areas, without adding to the damaged muscle fibres.
If you are over thirty years of age, then your bone mass and its effective strength, are in steady decline to the end of your life. That decline can be slowed though, by exercise, and running, because of the impact, is particularly good at slowing loss of bone mass. The impact stresses trigger similar adaptations as in your muscles, but the processes are much slower, so bone adaptation may be many weeks behind your muscle strengthening. theconversation.com/taking-...
These adaptations are progressive, gently increasing your injury resistance, which is why training plans, such as C25k are also progressive.To trigger these adaptations we need to stress the muscles and bones beyond their normal range, in what is known as progressive overload, which is why it is important to push hard sometimes and why we can answer “Yes”, to the newbie’s question above.
So where, you may ask, does the “No” answer come from?
If you are new to running, or last ran many years ago, then you will provide adequate stress to your body by running C25k at a gentle jog. That pace will trigger the adaptive process and slowly begin to build the base that, as a new runner, you have not yet acquired. This according to many sources takes 10 to 12 weeks, although full development continues for many months and years. runnersworld.com/for-beginn... As a new runner you do not have that base and if you push too hard you are risking injury which can put you back weeks.
All musculoskeletal injuries are caused by part of the body being asked to do more than it is either designed or conditioned to do. Muscles tear, bones develop stress fractures and tendons and ligaments get strained, or at worst, detached.
Once you graduate, you can pop over to the Bridge to 10k forum, where you will find that most people are following a training regime similar to the pros, based around running hard for approximately 20-30% of their weekly running, with the remainder, 70-80%, run at an easy pace, which is one where you can easily hold a conversation as you would when walking. runnersworld.com/running-ti...
Counter intuitively, it is this slow pace that builds stamina and the solid aerobic base that you need to move forward, but is also the perfect pace for the new runner doing C25k.
Runners who are working on a progressive, performance oriented training regime are running along a knife edge between triggering the maximum adaptive responses from their body and hitting the overload button. There is no need to consider such a programme, as a new runner,when C25k provides a safe way to build the initial base, from which you can further progress.
Your aim with NHS C25k is to build your basic stamina and endurance runningarea.com/2017/10/bas... There are other more performance based 5k plans, if that is your aim, but I would not recommend anything other than the slow and steady progress on offer here.
If you feel you want to push yourself a bit, to safely maximise the adaptive process, then after doing the first two runs of the week at a gentle jog, you could try upping the pace a bit in the last half of the last run in each week. You might not want to follow that advice if you are on W5 or W6.
Oh, and if you are wondering whether you are too slow, as mentioned in the title of this post, the answer is “No”. Read this. womensrunning.competitor.co...
Following all that, if you are not yet convinced that the slow and steady approach is necessary, read the two stories below of runners who were honest enough to admit their own errors in doing too much too soon.
Take it easy guys, keep running, keep smiling.