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Be your own coach: Listen to your heart (seriously) Add to ...

Brent Fougner, director of the Athletics Canada National Endurance Centre – Victoria and eight-time CIAU coach of the year, and his wife Trish Fougner, a sports consultant and former national team runner, offer an eight-week plan to giving your running a spring tune-up.

Over the last two months we’ve outlined a basic training program to use on your way to training for a race. Now that you understand intensity levels, how to monitor your body through heart rate and mastered a variety of workouts, it’s time to take your training to the next level.

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The most important rule of any training program is to take ownership of it and adjust it to your schedule, running goals and recovery rate. Listening to your body is key. One of the best ways to track how you’re feeling and performing is to keep a training log.

Training logs need to include details about any problems as well as your morning heart rate, your total mileage, intensity levels, stress levels and how you are feeling when you are running. For women, it’s also helpful to record when you have your period, as it can have an impact on your training. The training log can help you assess when a rest day or week is necessary. Are you consistently feeling tired day after day? It may be time to take an easy week of training or a few days off. Many athletes work through a cycle of training hard for three weeks and then taking one week easier.

To keep the interest and muscles primed, it’s important to add variety. Do a high-intensity session and include hills or, alternatively, go to the track and try doing a set of intervals to learn a sense of pace. Change your running routes often and meet up with different people for runs. Substitute cross-training or other types of exercise such as hiking or biking.

Besides defeating boredom with the same routine, there actually is a medical reason for changing the routine. The nervous system will change and adapt to a variety of stimuli by building and innervating new muscle groups and pathways. Overall, you’ll be better prepared for any kind of change in your workouts and races.

When training on your own, it is important to be more conservative and cautious in your training. For your overall program, it’s better to have succeeded in a series of weeks of consistent running than hammering two weeks of hard-core training and then sustaining an injury. Listen to your body.

If you’d like more personal tips and advice, write to Brent Fougner at coachfougner@gmail.com , or follow him on Twitter at @coachfougner as he leads some of Canada's top athletes onto the international scene.

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