The Second Week, the first Three Miles!


Feeling a little stiffness a week into an exercise routine is normal. "Soreness can be a sign that your muscles are adapting," says John Henwood, a 2004 New Zealand Olympian (10,000 meters) who's a coach in New York City. But if you're so achy you're shuffling, it's likely you were a little too enthusiastic out of the starting blocks. "When you begin a running program, your muscles are fresh, and you may have a rush of adrenaline, so you might be a little too ambitious," Henwood says. "The next week, you can feel the consequences."

Art Liberman, coauthor of The Everything Running Book and founder, says experienced runners can fall into this trap if they expect to pick up their mileage or their speed where they left off. "It can be easy to do too much before you're ready for it," he says. "You don't realize it because initially you might feel great." Liberman suggests starting with—and sticking to—a conservative goal, such as run/walking for 20 minutes. Ending a run feeling like you're capable of doing more boosts confidence and is better than feeling beat up and discouraged. As you build mileage, don't increase distance by more than 10 percent per week.

Maybe it's because three miles is the classic "easy run," or that it's practically a 5-K, but being able to cover this distance comfortably is often viewed as a sign that you've "arrived" as a runner. Just remember: Getting to this point can take anywhere from one to five months, depending on your fitness level and previous running experience. Veterans returning to the sport won't take as long to reach this comfort zone, says Tony Ruiz, distance coach of the Central Park Track Club in New York City and a 2:34 marathoner. Brand-new or overweight runners usually need more time to adapt. "When you are learning a new activity, your brain needs to build neural pathways that will give the muscles a sense of memory," Ruiz says. "Eventually, you aren't thinking about each step you take. The movement becomes natural, which is when it can become relaxed."

That said, if you only know one pace—all out—three miles won't ever feel easy. Turning every run into a speed session will make every workout a challenge—and set you up for injury.
Posted on January 4, 2011 .