I’ve written this little guide to help you get the most out of the Mojo Coaching Program. Please read through it, thoroughly. Doing so will maximize its effectiveness. And please request to join the Facebook group here.
This is what’s covered in this document:
*Where to start (Which week?)
*Chronograph watch and metronome
*How to use the watch and metronome app
*Customizing the program
*Why you might repeat some weeks
*Why you might skip some weeks
*What to do if you have to miss a workout
*What if my muscles get sore?
*What to do if you get sick
*What if it’s rainy?
*What if I miss a week or two?
Where to start:
Please take the fitness test here. Then use that information to select the correct week to start. Many people will not need to start at Week 1 of the Walk to Run Program. You might need to start with any week or even start somewhere in the First 5k Program.
I’ll describe the three functions you’ll need. You’ll need a timer/stopwatch to keep track of time periods, you’ll need something that beeps a certain number of times (which you set) per minute to help you learn the correct cadence, and you’ll need a device that will beep at two different intervals to let you know when to walk and when to start running again.
You can find apps on your phone to do all three of these functions, but it is FAR BETTER to purchase these devices and then use your phone apps as a backup. Whatever you do, do not try to use two apps on your phone at the same time. It is an exercise in futility, and you’ll spend most of your workout fiddling with your phone. I describe the three devices you need, below.
Stopwatch – You will need some means of keeping track of time. All smart phones have a stop watch feature, but you can also pickup a cheap chronograph watch for $15, and that is far superior to constantly having to deal with your phone. Before long, you’ll no doubt want to buy a running watch, but that can wait. If you want to get one, you can get a basic Garmin Forerunner for
Metronome – I like the Seiko DM50. You can order one here. There is a good phone app called Run Tempo that’s easily worth the 99 cents, but I would definitely go ahead and buy the metronome. It’s worth every penny. Again, you don’t want to be constantly fiddling with your phone.
Gymboss – If you’re starting at the very beginning in the Walk to Run Program, then you’ll be counting steps for a few weeks; so, you won’t need a way to time intervals beyond just the timer/stopwatch, but when you transition from counting running steps to running a minute or more, you will find a Gymboss helpful. A Gymboss is a small digital interval timer that clips on your shorts. Info here. A phone app as a temporary alternative is Simple Interval Timer or SIT.
Very important – You will need to buy either the Gymboss or a metronome. Don’t try to use two phone apps, simultaneously. It never works well, and you’ll just get frustrated. Since none of these is expensive, honestly, I’d buy both a Gymboss and a metronome. In the end, you’ll be happy to have them both. Then, use the phone apps as a backup. The phone apps can work well, but they can be glitchy, and you’d have to use your headphones, too.
You will need a means of timing your running and walking segments, and you’ll need a device (metronome) for timing your foot strikes (cadence). You can use your phoI recommend using a metronome app and purchasing a chronograph watch. There is a 99 cent metronome app called Run Tempo that I like. See it here. Or you can just use a free one. Just be sure to get one that is very basic. You’re not going to use it to keep time when playing music, just to run. That’s why the Run Tempo one is worth the 99 cents. It’s made for runners.
How you’ll use the watch and metronome (app)
In the first weeks of the Walk to Run schedules, you run a prescribed number of steps and then walk a prescribed time. You’ll use the watch to time your walk. In later weeks, when you’re running a farther distance, you’ll be going by time for both segments. At that point you may want to switch to the Gymboss, which is a clever little device costing about $30, which can be set to beep at intervals. For example, you can set it to beep at alternating intervals of one minute and then three minutes, then one, then three, or any other interval. You could use an app for that, but then you wouldn’t be able to use the metronome app on your phone.
The metronome beeps at whatever frequency you set it on. Optimal running cadence (cadence is frequency of foot strike) is 180, but you may start at 170 and work up. You can download free metronome apps on your phone or purchase a 99 cent app called Run Tempo. I recommend starting your metronome at 170 to 180 at the beginning of the workout and keep it going for the whole workout, at least in the first weeks. Later, you can just use the metronome once a week to make sure you’re maintaining high cadence. Just a note here, the high cadence is not with the intent of running fast, not at all. The intent is to take small steps to keep the intensity low, but the higher cadence forces you into better form, which is easier on your body and will make knee problems highly unlikely. If you haven’t listened to Beginner Runner Village Podcast Episode #13 on Cadence, you’ll want to go back and listen to that.
Customizing the Program
As you know, there are four programs, each with 12 weeks of specific schedules. I want you to self select where to start. That’s important because you might not need to start with Week 1 of a specific program. Many people don’t realize there is an infinite number of levels of overall fitness and running fitness; plus, due to age, weight, past injuries, health issues, experience, work, and family situations, it is key that every person workout at an appropriate pace and level.
That is a completely individual thing, and only you can know for sure what is right for you. If I were to have the opportunity to conference with each of you, individually, I could help guide you as to where to begin and how to customize this program appropriately to your individual needs, but that would require me to raise the fee for this program, and, frankly, most people are perfectly fine doing that on their own.
It’s critical that you be willing to repeat weeks if your body or your life causes the need. There are situations when you should either repeat weeks or skip weeks, and that is explained.
One of the keys to any runner’s success is working at the ideal pace for that individual, and there are many considerations.
First, let’s look at the things you need to take into account that might cause you to repeat some weeks
First of all, please don’t look at ‘repeating’ weeks like repeating a grade in school, like a bad thing or a failure or an error. Let’s get this straight, life happens. I hope oyou love running – or learn to love it – but it’s not going to be your whole life. It’s not even MY life. Second, it’s critical to accept that some things are out of our control, sometimes external things, like jobs or family, and sometimes internal, like your fitness level, aches and pains that you simply must listen to. So, please go into this program with the attitude that you will make smart decisions and be perfectly willing to backtrack in the program or repeat weeks. I’m giving your permission – no – I’m encouraging you to do that ANYTIME you think it might be a good idea. THIS is one of the most significant things you must accept and THIS is why you will SUCCEED. Just sayin!
Current fitness level. There could be three different people on the same week of the same program, but one might need to repeat that week three times before moving on to the next week. Why? Maybe that person has had a problem with injuries in the past. The smartest way to move forward, then is to use extreme care in building intensity. Another person might be more focused on building fitness, gradually, and prefers to take her time. Still another might have odd working hours and perhaps is on her/his feet all day, working ten hour days. That person might need to repeat every easy week twice because the harder weeks might make them tired on their feet at work or the work. Or due to age, one person might need to, say, do each week twice before continuing. This would be appropriate for the newer runner over the age of 60.
Goals. Some people have no desire to ever race. Running is just a means to stay fit. Nothing wrong with that, but in that case, they might prefer to repeat each week two or three times. Another person may want to race, but the goal race isn’t until six months away. Depending on which program they’re in, repeating some weeks might be a good idea to stretch out the program until the goal race. If you are in that situation, you might want to email deb for advice with figuring out which weeks to repeat.
Age. I touched on this in #1. Because of age, you may want to repeat weeks. A good rule of thumb is to repeat any week that feels like a big challenge. Some challenge is good, but we’re not looking for much intensity. After all, this program is meant to prepare you for the first race at a new distance. Work on speed, later.
Weight. Most newer runners will say their weight is an issue. Now, if that’s you and it’s just that you want to be able to eat without worrying as much about calories, then you, of course, don’t need to modify the schedule, but if you’re 20 lbs or more overweight, then I recommend repeating each easy week, twice. When you look over the schedules, you’ll see that some weeks are harder than others, not so much in the Walk to Run Program, but in the later programs, especially First 10k and First Half Marathon, because these tend to have build-up weeks and fall back weeks. The fall back weeks are the easy weeks.
Let’s look at some things that might cause you to skip some weeks.
Some people come to this program in very good fitness condition, but they just haven’t been running much. (This applies to the people in the Walk to Run or First 5k Programs, only. Anyone coming into the 10k or half would have been running plenty). Those people would still need to start at the very beginning or within the first few weeks of schedules, but they might be able to skip every other week until they got to a week that felt a bit challenging. They, they should start doing every week.
Another situation might be someone who hasn’t been running much, lately, but someone who had run a lot earlier in life or in school. These people will naturally advance faster; they might well find they need to skip weeks from time to time.
When you miss a workout
Another consideration is your work schedule, if you have a full-time job, and most do, there will be times when you just can’t get your workout in. Or, it could be something that comes up with the family to interrupt your training. When this happens:
Never double up, trying to do two workouts in the same day. Bad idea.
If you missed one of your harder workouts for the week, it’s okay to switch it to another day, BUT do not rearrange your workouts in such a way as to put two harder days back to back. This would be asking for trouble in the way of an injury. Better to just repeat that week, or, if you’re finding you’re not terribly challenged, just do two hard workouts that week, instead of three, and move on to the next week. The point is that you MUST have a rest day between every two harder days.
When to strength train or cross train
Do any intense cross training on the same day as one of your hard workouts, either before or after. It makes little difference. If you do it first, your legs will be a little more tired, but your workout will still be just as effective. If you do it after, the strength training or cross training will be harder, but it will still be effective.
Do not do anything intense on your rest days because then you’re really not resting, and they won’t be effective. The only exception is that you can do an upper body strength workout on your easy days, and you can certainly do ‘gentler’ active recovery on rest days.
Active recovery is exercise or cross training that has you moving around, getting your heart a little elevated but nothing at all intense. Yoga and tai chi would fit into this category as well as an easy bike ride or an easy swim. Anything that gets you out of breath – even slightly – or makes you sweat – belongs on your hard days.
There is a huge difference between dynamic and static stretching. Dynamic stretching is moving and static stretches, you hold for from 20 to 45 seconds, even more if it’s a troublesome area for you.
Static stretching used to be a great focus for runners, but we now know, based on loads of research in the last 10 years that static stretching can be overdone and can actually inhibit movement when done before a run. What we didn’t know before is that it’s best not to be too tight, but it’s also best not to be too loose. The people in the middle experience the least injuries. That said, running can make you tighter; so, I recommend at least a few basic static stretches but done only about three times per week and only after thoroughly warmed up, and by thoroughly warmed up, I mean after your workout.
Dynamic stretching gets your blood pumping, gets body loosened up and seems to make you more comfortable in the early miles. It’s moving all your body parts through their full range of motion for several repeats without stopping to hold any stretch at all.
The importance of warming up
That’s kind of a catch-all term. When I say warm up, I mean doing some form of walking or walking/running combination or very easy jogging. It varies with the program because, for example, very easy jogging would be more than a warmup for the beginner but an appropriate warmup for more advanced runners.
Warming up is just getting your body warm, giving your arteries time to get expanded to get the blood comfortably pumping. Your heart rate will go up when you first start to exercise, but then it will come back down once you are warmed up, and this is when you’ll start to feel more comfortable.
Once in a while people have said to me that they didn’t have time to warm up. NO! This is never acceptable. If you don’t have time to warmup and then do your workout, then just do the warmup part. You cannot do it the other way around.
The warmup is perhaps the most important part of the workout. It is certainly no less important than the harder part because without proper warmup, you won’t perform as well or feel as well during the harder part.
What if my muscles get sore?
Your muscles most certainly will get sore. That tells you they’re getting stronger. Your muscles actually get tiny little micro tears when you workout. When you rest and recover, they heal and become stronger than before. This is why the rest days are at least as important as the other days. Muscle soreness is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). As long as it’s your muscles that are sore, don’t worry. If anything else hurts, stop and find out why. Never ever adopt the “No pain, no gain” mantra. That is just plain foolish. No good coach will ever tell you that, anymore.
What if I get sick?
If you catch a cold, the rule of thumb is that if it stays above the neck and you don’t have a fever, go ahead and train. It might even make you feel better, often does. Often, it will clear your head, but of course, use your own judgement here, and always defer to doctor’s recommendations.
If it’s worse than described above, just take a couple days off until you’re better. If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll just be sick longer. Rest up.
What if it’s raining?
No problem. Run on unless it’s lightening or there is a severe weather alert or some other weather related danger. It is an old wives tale that running in the rain will make you sick. In fact, the opposite is more true. If people stay in the house/office more when it’s rainy for a few days, there’s more likelihood that they’ll get sick because they’re stuck inside where there are more germs from other people who might have a cold.
What if I miss a week or two?
Just drop back a week or so in the program. Please understand, I think schedules are hugely important. They give you a good framework for progression, but it’s critical to be willing to drop back if needed. Better to drop back a week or so – or just to repeat the last week – to be on the safe side.
It all depends on how much you miss and how challenging that last week was before the week (s) you missed.
What do you have to lose? Nothing, really, but if you push yourself too hard, you have everything to lose and the only thing you could possibliy gain is getting through the program a little faster, but for what? You’re going to be a lifelong runner. You’ve got all the time in the world.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Who won? The tortoise. It’s not about getting to a finish line. It’s about managing to stay healthy, as healthy as possible, and keep running for the rest of your life. That, my friend, is the race we’re trying to win. Smart and wise always wins that race. The foolish people are the people who insist on pushing hard and end up on the sidelines while we run by. I want you on the road with me; that’s my goal.
If you are already a runner, please listen to all the Mojo for Running Podcasts. Yes, go all the way back to #1. If you are a beginner, please listen to all my Beginner Runner Village Podcasts. There are about 30 hours of running education included in those podcasts.
Welcome to the program and please join the private Facebook group here. There is always a lot of conversation and community activity there. I know you’ll enjoy being a part of it.
***If, after reading this, you have questions, please send them to me firstname.lastname@example.org.