After seventeen years of training as a distance runner, we still dislike the word “exercise.” It’s like bad-tasting cough syrup, conjuring up images of dreary hours on a Stairmaster at the gym. The wonderful thing about sport is the variety of activities to choose from: running, dancing, swimming, cycling, basketball, tennis, mountaineering and kayaking to name a few. Whether it is summer or winter and no matter the person’s age, gender or background there is a sport that will make him or her happy.
Happiness is the key to success in any endeavor. When an activity is pleasurable working hard seems a lot more like play. Getting up before dawn to exercise is more appealing if the activity is a reward in itself. The body is an amazing machine. Start moving and it will respond with increasing levels of fitness, move towards a healthy weight and increase your energy and stamina. But remember that none of this happens overnight. Have realistic expectations and be patient.
Since we are runners, most of our training advice will be specific to that sport, beginning here. What we love about running is its portability. It requires little equipment — primarily a pair of good shoes — and it can be done anywhere.The best way to start a running program is with a combination of running and walking. Even if you were a standout track star in high school or college, it will take time for you heart and lungs to readjust and for your joints to get used to the pounding.
We would also recommend getting fitted for a good pair of shoes at a specialty running shop. We like small, locally owned stores that employ area runners. At the store they will evaluate your biomechanics and watch you run before recommending shoes that offer the correct amount of support. Most runners buy their shoes one-half to a full size larger than their dress shoes since the feet spread when running. The heels should not slip, but there should be a half thumb’s worth of room between your longest toe and the end of each shoe. Also while you’re at the running shop pick up some moisture wicking socks as well since they make a big difference in preventing blisters.
Expect for it to take two-to-three weeks to progress from walking to running. Begin with alternating two-minute intervals of walking and running for twenty minutes. If this feels too hard, you may have to increase the length of the walking intervals or start with a shorter session. Gradually increase the length of the running intervals, but continue to walk for a minute or two at least every five minutes. The walk breaks will give your muscles a chance to recover and adapt to the demands of running.
Starting out, it’s a good idea to include at least one day of rest between each run. Muscle soreness peaks between 36 and 48 hours before it begins to dissipate.Eventually, you should be able to run comfortably for twenty minutes without a break. Don’t worry about the distance. Speed comes with efficiency and that, like fitness, takes time.
Take joy and pride in the fact that you are now a runner. Your first 5K run may be closer than you think!
Words by Nina Russin