LIONS CLUB OF BALLINA > Training guide

Training guide


In this training programme there are three key elements that are designed to get FIT:

  • F - Frequency (how often),
  • I - Intensity (how hard)
  • T - Time (how long).

To improve as a runner the basic FIT formula is to:

  • Run 3-5 times a week (frequency),
  • Comfortable pace (intensity)
  • 3 to 5 kilometers (time of roughly 20-30 minutes).

This formula fits very well with the basic health advice of 20-30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least three times a week.  Being based on this principle, the programme aims to help you gain optimum health benefits, without being too daunting.


Little & often is better than "crash & burn"

To achieve the maximum benefit to your health & fitness, you should exercise in a regular & sustained way.  Speed is secondary.  The key is to achieve 30 minutes of continuous movement three times per week.  This means using a combination of walking & running.  You will slowly build up the running part & reduce the walking part.  At first you will find that walking & running will enable you to cover roughly three kilometers in 30 minutes, while by the end of say 8 week you will be running five kilometers in the same time.


In the early stages of the programme exercise for only 18-20 minutes.  This has been scheduled so that you can spend time warming up before you exercise & spend time cooling down afterwards.  It is vital to resist the urge to just start running & at the end of the session, to just stop.  This action will cause pain the next day.  Take the time to help your body get used to the exercise.


To warm up, spend at least 3-5 minutes at the beginning of each session walking briskly.  At the end of this brisk walk you can then slowly ease into your first run or jog.


To cool down, at the end of the programme, just slow your pace to a moderate walk & then an easy walk, over a period of 3-5 minutes.

By adding the warm up & cooling down to your schedule you will find your exercise sessions hitting that crucial 20-30 minutes of fitness-giving continuous exercise


As running is a specialized activity it places stresses & strains on several areas of your body.  It is essential that you look after the muscles & systems you are using to avoid unwanted aches, pains & strains.  A few quick stretches before setting off on your run do not constitute a good warm up.  Stretching a cold muscle may do more harm than good.

The best warm up for this level of training is simply a brisk walk.  This slowly raises your heart rate & body temperature, while boosting your circulation & directing blood & oxygen to the muscles you are about to work.

If you are free of injury & not performing any high intensity or explosive actions, you are then fine to simply ease up the pace from a brisk walk & move straight into your routine.  However, if you are a little stiff it is fine to do some light stretches & mobility exercises after your brisk walk, before taking up the effort.  But if you are going to stretch, do ensure that your muscles are warm & stretch slowly without bouncing.  Also, before you start running, don't forget to steadily build your heart rate & breathing up again with another brisk walk.

The essential stretching is done at the end of the exercise session.  To prevent stiffness you must stretch the muscles that running tightens.  Stretching after your exercise also enables you to improve your flexibility because it takes advantage of your muscles being thoroughly warm & more responsive to being lengthened.

Static stretching on the floor or using walls as support is a good way to start & then slowly work up through the body, stretching each muscle at least once.  If you take the time to stretch properly at the end of each session you find that it will really pay off in terms of making your running easier & more efficient.  It will also leave you feeling much more comfortable the next day without pain.


Of all the aspects of the FIT principle, intensity is the hardest to prescribe.  This is because your intensity or pace when running is very subjective & as your fitness improves, what was once nearly impossible will seem no longer a challenge.


Some people use heart rate monitors to measure their effort while running, but these tend to be used by more experienced runners.  For simplicity be guided by your own feelings.  How hard do you think you are working? Create your own scale of perceived effort.  Over time, as your fitness improves, you will find that you can run faster without increasing your perceived effort.


The prescribed brisk walking should be just that - brisk.  Stride out, swinging your arms & feeling your heart rate & breathing become elevated.


In the running sections of your exercise you should initially move up into a gentle trot, this being only a little faster than a quick march.

A good gauge to your effort is your breathing.  It should be elevated but you should still be able to talk comfortably while running.  When running you will need to exercise self-control & resist the temptation to run too fast.  This is especially important when you're only running for 1-2 minutes at a time at the beginning of the programme.

Remember running is an aerobic exercise that is designed to train your heart, lungs & circulation to deliver oxygen to the working muscles to burn fat & carbohydrate.  If you push yourself too hard, you will be running a series of sprints instead & this is anaerobic exercise.  The result is that you will not be using oxygen during your exercise & so you won't be burning off fat.

A good way to know that you are running too hard & exercising anaerobically is when you find yourself gasping for breath & feel your muscles aching & getting heavy.  This is due to lactic acid building up in the muscles (a product of anaerobic exercise) which will cause you to fatigue & feel sore afterwards.  Just back down the intensity of your running so you can continue with your programme without having to stop to get your breath back.