Good, old-fashioned road work is one of the best (and most cost effective) ways to get in shape and increase your cardio health — just don’t overdo it.
For many of us, a few runs per week go a long way to our weekly exercise regime. It is a fantastic way to clear your head, catch up on your latest podcasts or finally spend some time with that new album you’ve been saving. The thing is, though, you need to be somewhat tough on yourself and implement and unbreakable schedule. The best way to do that? Listen to your body.
If you’re a novice, three runs per week is a fantastic place to start. Depending on your personal fitness level, you may struggle on the first few but once you invest some time and willpower you will begin to reap the dividends.
How long should you run? A good rule of thumb is to pick a route convenient to you, measure its length (there are hundreds of mobile apps that will do this for you) and then take note of your times. When your time begins to increase, you are getting better. You should notice your post-run fatigue diminishing too.
Intermediates and even experienced runners will will often run between five and six times per week. The general rule is that three to four runs per week will maintain your performance levels, while five to six will increase your speed.
Frequency, though, isn’t necessarily as important as pace and intensity. You will have to carefully manage your intensity, or running tempo, so as to reach your end goal while still performing and not waning. This will only come with practice.
The higher the intensity, the more your body will learn to manage lactate levels, your gait and your VO2 max.
One thing to note, however, is that if you increase your intensity make sure to lower your training volume so as to minimise the risk of injury. Running on concrete is incredibly taxing on your joints so, where possible, factor in some running on grass, track or even treadmills.
And please, if you do nothing else, consider investing in some decent running shoes. Your future knee joints will be very thankful.