SO MANY RUNNING TRAINING PROGRAMS, WHICH TO CHOOSE?

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Couch to 5K, Run Less Run Faster, 80/20 Running, McMillan Training, Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk method — all these major training programs offer something different to each runner. Here’s what you need to know:

Couch to 5K: This beginner program promises to take the non-runner from 0 miles to 3.1 miles of continuous running in just nine weeks. The program calls for three workouts a week for about 20-30 minutes each.

By starting slow and not building too fast, this training program tries to strike the right balance between motivation and progress. It cautions against skipping ahead if you feel the workouts are too easy. You can also choose to measure your workouts by either time or distance.

The first workout calls for repeats of 60 seconds of jogging, followed by 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes, not including a warmup walk. By the end of week five, you’re running for 2 miles or 20 minutes without walking.

An accompanying mobile app ($1.99 on iTunes and Google Play) keeps track of your workouts using your phone’s GPS and includes voice commands to tell you when to walk or run.

Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk: This program flips the switch on the idea that runners are only supposed to run and provides a walk break ratio for all runners – from beginners to advanced. The idea is taking strategic walk breaks provides quicker recovery, better control over fatigue, reduced injury risk and improved finish times.

Galloway’s website says shifting from non-stop running to strategic walk breaks results in an average of a 7-minute faster half marathon and 13-minute faster marathon. The site includes training programs for every race from a 5K to a full marathon with lots of tips along the way.

A calculator on the site helps you figure out your own personal walk-break ratio and where your training and race paces would be based on a one-mile trial run.

A number of training apps under Galloway’s name for various distances run anywhere from $3.99 to $19.99 in the iTunes store. Galloway also offers individual training programs for all distances at a cost of $297 for new registrants or $197 for alumni of the training program.

McMillan Training: Enter a recent time of a race or even just a fast mile and McMillan’s calculator will spit out predictions for other distances as well as training paces for everything from easy runs to long runs and tempos to intervals. It also provides heart rate targets if that’s something you keep track of.

That’s all free. For an additional fee of anywhere from $60 to $175, you can purchase a customized program for various race distances. The site also offers personal coaching for the cost of $150 a month for 12 months to $225 a month for 3 months.

80/20 Rule: Based on accompanying book by Matt Fitzgerald ($10 on Amazon.com), the idea of this training plan is that most runners do too many workouts in the moderate-to-intense range without even realizing it.

Instead, 80/20 calls for you to slow down so about 80% of your runs at an easy pace and 20% at a faster, moderate-to-high intensity rate. Using evidence from studies and elite runners, Fitzgerald says running 80% of your runs at a slower pace will make you faster come race day.

So how do you determine what pace you should run with this program? You have to go based on heart rate or perceived exertion, which you can figure out based on your breathing.

The program calls for up to six or even seven runs a week, with moderate or high-intensity runs never being back to back.

Run Less Run Faster: This program promises you can become a faster runner with just three runs a week supplemented by two days of cross training. The idea is that by eliminating lower quality runs – aka junk miles as some call them – you can train faster and, therefore, become faster. The book costs $12.50 on Amazon.

The three runs each week follow a formula of track repeats, tempo runs and long runs – all hard workouts. And you figure out your pace for those workouts by your most recent 5K time, which provides a range of paces depending on what run you are doing that day.

In between those runs, you do a minimum of two days of cross-training, with swimming, cycling and rowing being the recommended workouts. The program provides a number of sample cross training workouts, which include tempo and hard efforts sandwiched between easy warmups and cooldowns.

Katharine Lackey is a Va.-based editor who fell in love with running just a few short years ago. After her first 5K, she quickly became addicted to races and progressed to her first and second half marathons within a year. Read more about her adventures at www.katrunsdc.com.

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