The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is now six weeks away (30 September), and we’re into the second part of our GO-YA (Get Off Your Arse) programme. The idea is to enable you to run, and enjoy it, and even attempt the half-marathon in good shape. One thing most people get wrong when they pick up running is that they want to run to get fit. But if you’ve spent most of your adult life being sedentary, you actually need to be fit first to run. Here’s how to get fitter, and improve your mileage over the next 30 days.

Week 5

Day 1 Rest day. Till you improve your running style, stick to normal running shoes. Don’t fall for either of the two extremes—minimalist shoes (that mimic bare-feet running) or excessively cushioned shoes.

Day 2 Easy 1-minute walk alternating with 5-minute running. Repeat the cycle six times. During each walk break, you need to catch your breath and prepare yourself for the next bout of running. Practising regular walk intervals from the beginning teaches you to conserve energy and finish strong.

photo Day 3 Repeat Day 2. Your running pace should be such that you can speak a maximum of three-four words at a time, not more.

Day 4 Thirty minutes of easy and comfortable running. Set a pace that you can maintain without getting absolutely exhausted. Add roll-up drills: Standing upright, lift one knee upwards towards your chest, while also moving the opposite hand in the same motion you do while running. Repeat 15-20 times. Repeat with the other knee.

Day 5 Rest day. Do strength-training by doing basic exercises at home. Master the correct form of the push-up, crunches, squats and lunges.

Day 6 Warm up for 5 minutes by doing a brisk walk, followed by non-stop running for 30 minutes at a good pace that you can sustain. Post-run, do the hamstring stretch. Lie on your back. Bend the left knee and clasp your hands behind the left thigh. Slowly straighten your leg, toes pointing to the sky, but don’t lock your knees. Pull your knee up towards your chest as much as you can comfortably. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times. Repeat with the right leg. Do this daily after the run.

Day 7 Easy 1-minute walk alternating with 5-minute running for 1 hour, 50 minutes. Focus on the time on feet and not on speed or distance. As tempting as it may be, don’t race during training, save yourself for the main event.

Week 6

Day 1 Rest day. A simple tip on aches and pains: Treat the cause, not the effect. Usually, overtraining is the cause. If there is pain, you need to slow down and listen to your body. You might need to do more walking. The body might also need to rest more.

Day 2 Easy 1-minute walk alternating with 6-minute running. Repeat the cycle six times. Keep a record of your training: distance covered, time spent, weather, intensity of workout, and how you felt. It will help you understand what works for you.

Day 3 Forty minutes of non-stop running where you can utter at the most one full sentence, but get breathless if you attempt more. This will help you decide your realistic race pace for a half-marathon.

Day 4 One-minute walk alternating with 6-minute running for 30 minutes. Repeat the old exercises, especially the side-to-side drill, grapevine drill, marching drill, high knee drill, quadriceps strengthening exercises, calf stretch, ITB stretch, piriformis stretch and quadratus lumborum stretch. Add the straight leg shuffle drill: Walk with long strides while keeping the knees straight, like a goose march. Do this for 1 minute.

Day 5 Chill, have fun.

Day 6 Warm up for 5 minutes by doing a brisk walk, followed by non-stop running for 30 minutes at an easy pace. Add the quadricep stretch: Stand straight. Bend the left knee and hold the left ankle with the left hand, bringing your heel towards your buttock. Slowly start pulling your bent knee back. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat thrice with the left leg, followed by the right leg.

Day 7 A 10km run. Today you focus on distance. Start slow for the first 5 minutes and then pick up speed.

Week 7

Day 1 Rest day.

Day 2 Easy 1-minute walk alternating with 7-minute running. Repeat the cycle six times. It’s good to start slow, till your heart rate is up and your body feels prepared. Never start a long run at sprinting speed.

Day 3 A 2km time trial. A slow jog for 5 minutes. Recover completely over the next 3-5 minutes. Follow this up with a fast run for 2km. The half-marathon expected race pace is equal to the time taken for 2km divided by the sum of 1.2 multiplied by 2. Walk-jog for 20 minutes to finish.

Day 4 Easy 1-minute walk alternating with 7-minute running. Repeat the cycle four times. Add the backwards running drill. Stay on your toes and try to run backwards in a straight line for 80m. As you become comfortable, increase the speed.

Day 5 Rest. Tip of the day: Run on softer surfaces like trails or parks instead of concrete to avoid knee pain. Physical inactivity or muscle imbalance, poor running technique and bad shoes also cause knee pain. Fix them.

Day 6 Forty minutes non-stop running at goal pace, the ideal running pace during a competition. Tip: The correct running shoe size should be 1/2-1 size bigger than your formal shoes.

Day 7 Easy 1-minute walk alternating with 7-minute running. Repeat the cycle 12 times. If you experience chest pain, dizziness or light-headedness while exercising, stop immediately.

Week 8

Day 1 Rest day. Tip: Please be careful not to over–stretch before a run. Stretch only those body parts that are stiff. The recommended stretches before a run are heel drops, low back forward bends and side bends. Stretch a lot after your run, when your muscles are warmed up and ready to be stretched.

Day 2 Easy 30-second walk alternating with 8-minute running. Repeat the cycle six times. Excessive running does not make you better, it only leads to injury. To improve running, increase the distance covered by a maximum of 10% per week.

Day 3 Repeat Day 2.

Day 4 Easy 30-second walk alternating with 8-minute running. Repeat the cycle four times. Practise old drills. It is important to focus on technique rather than just repeats, and that’s where drills help.

Day 5 All the strengthening and running drills done so far.

Day 6 A 50-minute run at goal pace.

Day 7 Easy 30-second walk alternating with 8-minute running. Repeat the cycle 14 times. By now, you should be feeling exhilarated.

Rajat Chauhan is a practitioner of sports and exercise medicine and musculoskeletal medicine, and founder of Back 2 Fitness. This is the second in a three-part series. If the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is your target, don’t forget to look out for his column next month.

Write to Rajat at treadmill@livemint.com

To read the first article in the series, “From the couch to the track", visit www.livemint.com/marathon2012.htm

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