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No more excuses: How to get back into your running routine

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Brent Fougner, director of the National Athletics High Performance Centre Victoria and eight-time Canadian Interuniversity Sport 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

Feeling a little rusty after those cold, dark months of not running as far or as often as you'd like to admit? It's time to start feeling efficient again running your favourite trails and routes with a body that's ready to go. Let's set some new goals and get you back on track.

The first step is to evaluate your current state of health. If in doubt, you might need to consult your physician. You can't just pick up where you left off; this is especially harder as you age, unfortunately. You'll need to create a new foundation of running prior to beginning any challenging workouts.

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Before we dive in and tell you what to do next, we need to ensure you understand the various training zones.

Zone 1 is a relaxed or recovery run, known as RR. This is a continuous running zone and the range in which you can comfortably maintain a conversation and is your warm-up and warm-down pace. Zone 2 is steady state (SS) at marathon pace that still allows you to maintain a conversation. Zone 3 is max steady state (MSS) and is faster and at the level of a half-marathon or up to 10K-race pace. An example of this training would require 1 minute of zone 1 for each five minutes of zone 3 effort. Breathing is still controlled but becoming more difficult as the run progresses. The final zone is Zone 4 or interval pace (IP). This would be running at 5-km-race pace or faster and up to maximum heart rate. This zone would involve running intervals of equal time of faster running zone 4 and easy zone 1.

Your initial training program should start in zone 1 and zone 2 to establish a base. This is not the time to be comparing former times or checking your watch. You should be gauging your effort on your breathing and comfort level. Your volume per day and week will depend on your current running levels. For example, if you have been physically active over the winter, then starting with three to five runs per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each session will get you started. Each run should start and finish with five to 10 minutes in zone 1 and be comfortable, but can include zone-2 running in the middle. If you are already doing five runs a week, then two of those runs should be completely in zone 1.

To compliment your training program, a functional-movement assessment by a certified physiotherapist or trainer will give you a baseline of your current movement patterns. This information will include a recipe of exercises to correct your weaknesses and reduce the risk of injury. (Visit for more information.) Listen to your body and be sure to address any nagging pains. If a pain persists for more than three days, reduce your training and see a physician. It's like a car, if you don't fix the weird sounds or if you push it more than it's capable … it'll break.

Stay motivated, be disciplined and listen to your body and your former racing form will come back to you.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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