Born to Run

It helps to build strong bones, strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness and burns plenty of kilojoules. But how to get running can be a daunting prospect – marathon woman Erica King tells how

In the previous issue of Thrive, Erica King wrote about how, in 2002, working dozens of hours a week at her dental consulting business and “feeling overweight and tired at 38”, she wanted to find new meaning in her life.

She decided she needed a new challenge and – as you do! – picked training for and running the New York Marathon, even though she was not a runner. Nine life-changing months later, she achieved her goal. As a “complete non-runner” at the outset, Erica couldn’t do 100 metres without puffing. It took her nine months to go from zero to crossing that finish line in New York.

There are myriad health benefits of running and jogging: they help to build strong bones, as they are weight-bearing exercise, strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness and burn plenty of kilojoules. But getting started – and to keep
going – can be a daunting prospect.

ERICA’S TIPS FOR GETTING ON THE RIGHT TRACK:

If you have always wanted to be a runner and incorporate this into your weekly fitness routine here are some winning strategies that will make all the difference for you to achieve this super-life-enhancing goal.

Running is such an efficient and effective fitness strategy. The time outside with just your thoughts or some favourite tunes is absolutely invigorating. My number one tip is to take it slowly. Stop when you feel “puffed” and never be hard on yourself because you will be a runner with patience and kindness to your body and soul.

The run/walk approach will transform you into a runner in matter of weeks.

THE RUN/WALK STRATEGY?

As the name implies, this approach involves alternating intervals of running and walking. For example, you can start by walking for 8 minutes and running for 1 minute, and then repeat the cycle once for a total of 18 minutes. As you get
fitter, slowly increase the amount of time you run and reduce your walking.

Run at a pace that doesn’t leave you breathless. If you go out too hard, too soon, you won’t be able to start running again after your walking break. “Slow and steady” is your mantra.

RUN 30 MINUTES AFTER EIGHT WEEKS

Remember those elusive 30 non-stop minutes? This program will get you there in eight weeks. Warm up for 5 minutes before each workout with a brisk walk and some dynamic stretches such as high knees and walking lunges. Walk for 5 minutes
at the end of your workout to cool down. Aim for three sessions per week.

Week 1: Walk for 5 minutes, then run for 1 minute. Repeat three times.

Week 2: Walk for 4 minutes, then run for 2 minutes. Repeat three times.

Week 3: Walk for 4 minutes, then run for 4 minutes. Repeat three times.

Week 4: Walk for 3 minutes, then run for 5 minutes. Repeat three times.

Week 5: Walk for 2 minutes, then run for 7 minutes. Repeat three times.

Week 6: Walk for 1 minute, then run for 9 minutes. Repeat three times.

Week 7: Walk for 1 minute, then run for 12 minutes. Repeat three times.

Week 8: Workout 1 – Run for 20 minutes continuously. Workout 2 – Run for 25
minutes continuously. Workout 3 – Run for 30 minutes continuously.

EXTRA TIPS:

  • A great strategy for beginners is to run every second day so that your body has good recovery.
  • Add some hills into your runs to build leg strength as you build confidence.
  • Add some short bursts of faster running to improve your cardiac fitness. This can be mixed in with your longer runs and just once a week is enough.
  • Please run in supportive shoes with lightweight socks. This will significantly reduce impact on your joints.
  • Notice your breathing and try to settle your breath into a rhythmic pattern. Music at 130 to 150 beats per minute can really help with this strategy.
  • Keep your head looking straight ahead, body upright – no slouching, think about pulling in your stomach and lifting your legs from your large glute muscles.
  • Arms swing forward close to your body not across your body to conserve energy.
  • Lift your feet consciously to improve your pacing. Smaller short steps feels strange to start with but you will progress much faster by using this strategy.
  • Always take a few minutes after your run to do some static stretches and if you have a foam roller this is your new best friend to reduce muscle soreness.
  • Once a week or after a run where you feel muscle fatigue, my favourite reward is to have a lovely warm bath with some soda crystals or Epsom salts. Great for body and mind relaxation.
  • Always take some water with you to sip on or map out a route where you know that you can access some bubblers. Just a few sips makes the world of difference to endurance. This is even more essential when you run in hot and humid weather.
  • If you run on an empty stomach you will burn extra body fat – who doesn’t want to do this? Then reward yourself when you finish with a delicious meal combining equal amounts of carbs and protein.

The most critical factor is to have fun and enjoy this time just for you!

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