The Polar Flow app offers a personalised training programme for runners to stay motivated. Photos: Polar Singapore
The beauty of running has to be its simplicity. If you can walk, chances are you can run.
While running as an activity is straightforward, running as part of your lifestyle may not be.
Let’s face it: We have tons of commitments and obligations when we open our eyes every morning. What’s your motivation to run?
For many of us, it’s to get fitter, lose weight, and look leaner. Also, to take part in popular races like Shape Run, and feel that priceless sense of accomplishment upon finishing.
And then what?
It’s easy to stop running altogether after you’ve completed the race, patting yourself on the back for a milestone unlocked.
To truly reap the benefits of running, you’ll need to be in for the long haul, consistently training and motivated. And we’ve discovered the perfect way to achieve that.
Head to Polar Flow (flow.polar.com), a web app that develops customised training programmes for free. To get started, set up an account and hit the Programs tab.
Here’s an overview of the cool functions.
Create a personalised running programme
To improve your running, know this: Routine is the enemy. It’s important to vary your pace, distance and terrain each time you run. Even if you’re not currently training for a race, you can tap on this programme to keep in good running shape. Don’t stagnate!
The Polar Running Program lets you choose from four target distances: 5km, 10km, 21km (half marathon) and 42km (full marathon), and input your event date plus start date of training. The programme runs for nine to 15 weeks depending on your distance.
Before it's generated, you’ll need to answer a few questions about your current physical activity level, like how often you exercise a week and for how long, as well as how strenuous you think your workouts are. The intensity of the programme will depend on these factors!
You may not think about this, but it’s important to develop a plan that’s sustainable at every part of your running journey, to avoid burnout and injuries. The Polar Running Program helps you visualise in three stages: base-building, build-up and tapering.
The base-building stage focuses on creating a strong running foundation, by starting out with short distances. The plan includes mobility and strength training exercises to prep your body for the demands ahead.
During the build-up phase, expect your training frequency to increase, with a couple of long runs thrown in. On top of mobility and strength training moves, you’ll also be led through core exercises to strengthen the major muscles that support and stabilise you during a run: abs, obliques, lower back, glutes and hips.
In the final few weeks, training volume is reduced to let you recover before the big day. By allowing sufficient time for muscles to repair, you’ll see big gains when you start pushing yourself again.
When paired with a Polar GPS watch, the Polar Flow app lets you view your weekly training intensity at a glance.
Optimise your workouts
Any qualified trainer will tell you that your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard you’re working out.
The Polar Running Program doesn’t stop at providing a detailed plan. It also gives recommended intensities for each session, based on five heart rate zones: very light, light, moderate, hard and maximum. These intensities vary according to the type of runs. Long runs are typically done in light to moderate zones, while interval runs require bursts of hard and all-out effort in between.
While you can guess your intensity zone from how much you’re panting, training with a heart rate monitor is the most fool-proof way to find out. The Polar M200 GPS Running Watch and Polar M600 GPS Sports Watch are built to complement the Polar Running Program. Besides tracking your speed and distance, both watches have built-in heart rate monitors, and offer live guidance during your training sessions; for instance, signalling when you need to speed up or slow down, so you can stop doing timer countdowns and seriously focus on running.
By syncing the Polar GPS watch with the app, you can view detailed reports on your training progress.
With those watches, you’ll be able to view your performance stats via the Polar Flow app. Follow it well, and you’ll receive weekly “stars” as a form of encouragement. Based on your data, the clever app also estimates your finish time, just so you know what to expect on race day.
Learn to do cross-training exercises
You’ve heard long ago that you need a mix of non-running workouts in your routine. These are meant to strengthen and condition you without taxing the joints. Think low-impact moves like stretching, twisting and bodyweight training.
No clue how to start? Just click on the supportive exercises listed in the plan: mobility, strength training and core. Each one takes you to a professionally done video, with model demonstration and audio instructions to guide you through a series of exercises, step by step in real time. There's no reason to sit back anymore! (Here's how a basic stretching workout for runners looks like.)
The exercises come in three levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced – so feel free to step it up or tone it down.
Make your plan work for you
When you miss a workout, the Polar Running Program automatically reassigns it to another day.
Following the training programme is ideal. But life happens. Unless running is your life (we hope not!), chances are you will have to forgo a few training sessions at some point.
If work and other commitments are making you anxious or agitated, you’re better off running another day. Research at McMaster University in Canada found that the heart attack risk among runners tripled when they felt angry or upset while exerting themselves. Reason: Both physical and emotional stresses have similar effects on the body, such as raising the blood pressure and heart rate, and reducing blood supply to the heart.
So don’t worry about having to skip a session. Anyway, the Polar Running Program automatically reassigns the workout to another day, so you’ll have to make up for the lost training eventually. Yes, it’s that smart!