I Trained for a Half-Marathon Using an App…
Back in 2018, I began using the Nike+ Run Club App to track my running journey. I’m not sure why I chose that app over any other app, but at the time I knew I didn’t have much idea about how to run effectively and was looking for some kind of an expertise to assist me on this new endeavor.
Now, if you have been following me on social media for a bit of time, you will know I am really into running. I ran often during my time in the United States Marine Corp, but I wasn’t a big fan of it until a few years ago after my USMC career. Why now? Well, in the Corp, our runs usually began at an ungodly hour of the day (0430) in a variety of environments and for stretches of distance that seemed to go on forever. I just never was a fan of it — seemed so unnecessary at the time. Little would I know that those runs and the reasons why would become so spot on once I began running a few years ago. I often post about my running journey on my social media pages along with little tips and learnings I’ve acquired a long the way. I also post my mood and feelings on certain days, because not every day am I in the mood to be running. Nevertheless, if you found this post because you too are interested in running or wondering what the Nike Run Club (NRC) app is all about, you’re in the right place.
Initially, it all started when I was trying to find ways to juggle taking care of my newborn son and also the demands of supporting my wife’s new job. Between the two, it didn’t leave me much personal time for the things I used to do at the end of the day (ie- weightlifting). One morning, I got up 30 minutes before she needed to leave for work and I thought, “what can I do here in this amount of time that will give me a good workout?” I went to the gym in our building and stepped onto the treadmill and I decided I would do one mile and see where that led me. I got on and ran that mile and some change in a little under 18 minutes. I did some pull-ups and some sit-ups and felt good about what I was able to accomplish in that short amount of time. That night, I wanted to cease the momentum, so I started looking up running apps. I saw so many people talking about the NRC app, so I downloaded it and the next day, I tried it. I used the “First Treadmill Run” Guided Run featuring the coaching of Coach Chris Bennett of Nike. While I was running he celebrated the fact that I had committed to making a run today and talked about the beauty of running. He then began walking me through how to think about my time on the treadmill. He talked about my running form and how my posture and placement on the treadmill could help make my run easier and more effective. He talked about my breathing and my mindset and how those things can make the time on the treadmill unbearable or more intentional and purposeful over the course of the time I was there. He then talked about the functionality of the treadmill and how raising the elevation can not only add a little more anaerobic activity to my run, but also simulate the experience of running outdoors into the wind. In that first run on the app I learned some really key things.
After a few more runs using the “Guided Run” portion of the app, I then looked into some of the training plans and selected the training for a 10K race. I love running the Turkey Trots each year during the Thanksgiving Holiday, so I thought this would be a great way to test out the app and its effectiveness. I selected the 10K training regimen and put in the details of the race along with some particulars about me at the time (ie- height, weight, longest distance run, pace, how many times I run per week) and it immediately generated a schedule for me. What I loved about it was that the plan wasn’t assuming that my running expertise or rigid in its approach of preparing me for my race. It started off with some very basic runs — a 2 mile long run, a timed tempo run, and a speed run of 4x 400mm runs. The next week, it adjusted my workout regimen accordingly based on those results. The next week it adjusted them again based on the results from that week. It even accounted for days that I couldn’t get down to the treadmill or outside to run and allowed me to move those workouts to other days. It also adjusted the next week to fit days that seemingly worked better for me in prior weeks.
But, the thing I loved most about the app is the coaching. If you have ever started something new — whether, its running or a new job or hobby, having someone experienced and wanting to see you have success is invaluable in those early stages. Chris Bennett’s calming, upbeat voice, which has the same sort of enthusiasm that a fresh first-year Kindergarten teacher has when reading a fairy tale to a group of children. Its as if he were born for the job as the world’s most thoughtful running guru. The tone of his guided runs is perfectly calibrated so you feel like you’re with a coach who really ‘gets’ it, which makes sense because Bennett has a hefty foot-to-ground résumé. He captained both high school (Christian Brothers Academy) and college (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) track. He’s coached teens who were also dealing with problems at home (divorce, abuse) and through the highs and lows of high school (homework overload, young love). And he can run a four-minute mile! He joined Nike in 2014 as a head coach, and started the Nike Run Club series in the summer of 2017. “I had walked out of a meeting and the conversation was, ‘Why don’t more people run, and why do a lot of people who run think running sucks?’” says Bennett. “More people don’t run because it’s really hard to start a run. And most people, when they do start running, they run the wrong way. So all you have to do is get someone to run the right way.” (Lest you think that means a certain technique or form, the “right” way, at least according to Bennett’s remote coaching, means running relaxed.) Bennett figured he could motivate more runners by running “with” them. Soon after, he recorded the first four episodes as a batch: First Run, Next Run, First Speed Run, and Comeback Run.
Overall, the goal of the app, is to prepare the body best for the race and it adapts to the runners progress. This was good, because at the time I was very goal-oriented and that causes a lot of stress and anxiety for me when I don’t meet those checkpoints and numbers.
So, did I progress? Absolutely!
Not only did I complete my first half marathon, but I also left each marathon and that race looking forward to my next race and next workout. Not only that, but:
- My cardio improved tremendously. I found myself with better breathing and a better measured heart rate when at rest. Metabolism improved where I ate more of the things that my body needed and could feel when I ate things that weren’t beneficial.
- More strength in my lower body from the runs and workouts. Like many adamant amateur bodybuilders we can tend to put more emphasis on one body part over another. I was an upper body person. After running for a year, I found myself having less heaviness in my back and thigh area and more overall energy during off days.
- Learned something new about myself and training. I love learning and learning in an environment where it isn’t prohibitive or condemning. I’ve been in both environments and this wasn’t it. I felt good about completing each week and looked forward to each workout. With this training I never felt like I was pushing past my limits, but in reality I was.
Did I complete my half-marathon?
You bet I did!
While I was running alone, I never felt alone. I felt connected to a running community, but through my work towards joining them on race day and giving my best effort on that day. Sort of like showing up to a test prepared as best as you can and understanding that its a journey and not an ending. I felt so proud and after a couple months of rest, I began preparing for my next race.
Is Nike Run App good to train for Marathon?
Yes, it is! The guided runs by Coach Bennett are probably the best part of the training program. I also appreciated the tailored weekly schedule. I definitely believe that you need to have either a level of commitment to the training or attention to detail (ie- good calendar) to be able to stick with it over the training time frame. However, if not, you aren’t losing any money by doing so as you would with a personal coach or paid plan.
I hope this Medium post has helped you and has answered your questions about the training plan for my marathon! If you have questions, please ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to get back to you.
Please join me on Instagram to follow along with my running journey and see the cutest 3 year old boy you have EVER seen!