Deciding on Your Next Challenge: What’s Next After InTraining?

Great work! I hope you’re feeling proud of your accomplishments. You will likely think of yourself as a different person – if you didn’t know before, you definitely know now, if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it.  But now that the program is over, you may find yourself asking, “Now what?”

From a physiological standpoint, your successful completion of InTraining brings both good news and bad.  The good news is that the cardiovascular (heart and lung) fitness you have worked so patiently to develop over the past 13 weeks is relatively easy to maintain.  All you have to do is carry on doing what you have been doing – exercising aerobically three times a week for 30 to 40 minutes.  You do not have to perpetually push yourself further.  If, however, you want to continue to improve your fitness level, you’re going to have to continue challenging your body.


Deciding on Your Next Challenge

Regardless of whether you want to maintain your current fitness level, diversify your exercise program or improve your 10K time, the important point to remember is that you are already a fitness success. By now, you understand that setting a goal and having a clear plan of how to get there are the keys to success.

Many of you may already have your next fitness goal in mind, but for those of you who don’t, here are a couple of suggestions:

Cross training

Cross training means participating in a variety of training activities.  Almost any activity that gets you huffing and puffing qualifies: skiing (both cross-country and downhill), cycling, swimming, in-line skating, ice skating, hiking, climbing, circuit training and aerobic exercise to music are all excellent choices.  By taking part in one of these activities in addition to running or walking, you can increase your overall fitness and build strength in general instead of in areas specific only to walking or running.

The benefits of cross training include resting certain muscle groups while using different ones.  Cross training also helps athletes avoid boredom.  The variety of different exercises can be a psychological boost.

Cross training will also reduce your risk of injury.  Following the 13-week walk/run program will give your body, from your heart to your Achilles tendons, the best possible chance to adjust to the stresses and strains of running.  There would be no need for such a program if the stresses and strains weren’t there.  But running can be hard on your body, especially if you were born with some biomechanical imbalances (high arches, for instance, or a misaligned kneecap), or if you have ever been injured.  Participating in other aerobic activities serves many of the same goals as running—producing good cardiovascular fitness in addition to increased strength, endurance and weight control—but shifts the stress around, so that it isn’t all borne by the same parts of the body.  With some sports—notably cycling, swimming, in-line skating and cross-country skiing—the musculoskeletal stress is quite low.  Thus by cross training, you’ll get stronger, you’ll be fitter and you’ll also give your ankles, knees and hips a break from the pounding action of running.

Run or walk with others

A great way to maintain your enthusiasm for walking or running, if you haven’t done so already, is to run with a partner or a group. Running or walking with other people not only gives you a social occasion to look forward to but makes you accountable: you are expected to appear.  Joining a running group can pay off in many ways.  People who join running groups are often as disparate as the creatures gathering around a jungle watering hole, but when it comes to running they are equals sharing a passion for a similar activity.  Running is a great social equalizer: when you’re moving down the road together, nobody cares if you’re a brain surgeon or a janitor, a lawyer or a coffee shop barrista.  You are a brother or sister in the cause, and just as the people you run or walk with are the impetus for you overcoming your inertia, you are what gets them going. Sometimes there are other payoffs as well, including social activities apart from running, such as brunches or dinner outings. You never know, you might even meet someone special.  (Running groups are not a pick-up scene for singles, but it’s not as though love has never blossomed somewhere between miles 6 and 7.)  Most community and fitness clubs as well as running stores offer a variety of running and groups.

Make running a time for you

Group running isn’t for everyone. Some people find that being alone is what makes running worth all he effort.  People who feel crowded between their work and home lives often resort to running because it’s the only time they have to be alone with themselves. Sport psychologis David Cox believes that running after you leave work and before you arrive home at the end of the day could be one of the best things you can do for your sanity.  “The literature suggests that most people who burn out need some kind of decompression between work and home, and exercise can operates as a great buffer between the two.  Sometimes a run after work and before you start to interact with your family can have a really positive impact on your home life.  It allows you to decompress in a safe way and is a lot healthier than going to a bar or going home and mixing a drink.”

If you want to continue running or walking and also want to continue to improve, try repeating the InTraining program.  It is cyclical, and by repeating your current program, or by progressing to the next level, a natural training effect will take place and you will become fitter and feel even better.

Walk10K Graduates

If you’d like to stick to walking, you can either repeat the program as suggested, or take a break from the change-of-pace intervals and follow this basic maintenance program:

Week 1:  Day 1:   30 min. walk      Day 2:   60 min. walk       Day 3:  80 min. walk

Week 2:  Day 1:   20 min. walk      Day 2:   40 min. walk       Day 3:  60 min. walk

If you’d like to LearnToRun, you’re now ready to try the LearnToRun10K Program.

LearnToRun Graduates

You’re ready for the Run10K or Run10KStronger Program, even if you have no inclination to run faster at all!  Simply follow the workouts and keep the pace comfortable.  The rest will take care of itself.

If you’d rather not do the change-of-pace intervals in the Run10K or Run10KStronger Programs, then follow the basic steady maintenance program outlined below, and jog as you feel.  If, at times, you feel like walking, then please do so.   Use combinations of “4-and-1’s” or “9-and-1’s” as you feel.  (4 minutes running – 1 minute walking or 9 minutes running – 1 minute walking).

Week 1:  Day 1:  20 min.   Day 2:  40 min.   Day 3:   60 min.

Week 2:  Day 1:  20 min.  Day 2:  30 min.   Day 3:   40 min.

Run10K and Run10KStronger Graduates

You can repeat thes programs over and over again, putting as much into it as you like.  You will improve by either becoming faster or more efficient and comfortable.

If you have begun to wonder what it might be like to prepare for running longer distances, such as a half- or full-marathon, you are ready to test yourself with the 8-week RunFarther Program in Appendix E of the Beginning Runners’ Handbook, available at

If you want to take a break from the change-of-pace intervals, you could simply try repeating the following basic maintenance program:

Week 1:   Day 1:  30-40 min.    Day 2:   40-50 min.    Day 3:    60-70 min.

Week 2:   Day 1:  20-30 min.    Day 2:   30-40 min.    Day 3:    40-50 min.


Find out about upcoming running events in your community by logging onto one of the following websites:               BC Athletetics’ website provides a detailed calendar of running events across the province.                       Vancouver Island Runners’ Association is a great resource for runners living on the Island.          The focus of the Interior Running Association (IRA) website is running events in the Okanagan.               The BC Secondary School Cross Country & Track is a great website for secondary school students and their parents interested in running and track and field events.            PacificSport provides athlete services for developing and high performance athletes. If you’re interested to learn more, visit their detailed website.


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