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Background

I am an ex smoker (male, 26, 173cm (5'8")) – smoked about ten years with varying intensity – and since some month really getting into sports. I started mountain biking, shortly after I began swimming and just got into road biking. Biking is a lot of fun, but takes much time and preparation, I usually bike for two to three hours, and need at least one hour of preparation before (planning the route, prepare drinks, get dressed).

So when I walked the dogs last Thursday, I spontaneously decided to run the route instead of walking. It was a 3.8 km route (2.36 miles), mostly cross-country, up and down a small hill. Because one of the dogs is mainly concerned about digging up potatoes and checking out dung piles I often had to run on one spot to wait, but I tried to keep moving.

Up until yesterday (Sunday) I had heavy legs and walking stairs was a bit painful. I was quite surprised that I can cycle 100 km without major pain in the legs, but those few kilometers of running killed my legs.


Anyway I decided to run again today and decided to go for 5.1km today (3.16 miles). I looked up what time I had to reach according to the Deutsches Sportabzeichen List (German Sportsmedal) and it is required to run 5km in 23 Minutes for my age.

I actually got the first half of the course (cross country again, but mostly flat) in time, but after that I had to pause and walk. To avoid stitches I had to slow down with my pace and it took me (with walking breaks) 33 Minutes to finish.

Goals

My short term goal is to reach this 23 Minutes on this specific 5km course (without pausing of course). My long term goal is to be able to run longer distances, not necessarily speed. Still my main goal is overall fitness and mainly biking.

Question

How often should I be training per week to reach my goals regarding running and would it be a problem if I eg run at one day, bike the other, and run on the next again?

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Couch to 5k is a decent program, I don't see why it doesn't apply in your situation too. If you feel the first couple of weeks are too easy considering your current fitness levels (since you cycle), feel free to skip them. –  VPeric Sep 11 '12 at 8:05
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Cycling is a good adjunct to running, but running and cycling activate the leg muscles in different ways, and also activate different supporting muscles. You also have the impact to to body that you don't get as much with cycling. As far as your 5k test, I think that you just started out too fast for your running fitness, which is common.

One basic recommendation would be to look around and find a "couch to 5k" program. This is a progressive program designed to take people from not running at all, to being able to run a 5k without stopping.

In your case, I would also recommend a program created by a cross country coach named Barry Pollack, dubbed the 3:2:1 program. In this, you have 6 runs per week, 3 short, 2 medium and one long. Your medium run is double your short runs, and your long run is 3x your short run.

For a 5k in 23 minutes, you are going to need to run 7:24 per mile. That is going to take a bit of running, but is certainly doable. Initially, you just want to go out and run at a comfortable pace, with the goal of being able to run the full time of the workout. Once you can comfortably finish the long run, bump up the time some. A decent starting point would be somewhere between 5-10 minutes for your short run, and do a schedule of something like short-med-short-med-short-long-off.

Even though 5-10-15 doesn't sound like much, it's a good starting point and steadily increasing over time will give you great benefits. Once you have 6 months or so of steadily increasing time, then you can start adding intervals, tempo runs, things of this nature to build your speed. Just remember that it is consistency over time that builds running ability, and getting too intense too fast is a good recipe for injuries.

You can also cycle on the same days you have run workouts. I would just complete whichever workout you are emphasizing first, so if you are going to cycle on a long run day, do the run first.

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thanks for the answer, very thoroughly. –  Baarn Sep 11 '12 at 13:13
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