It is pretty common place to hear people talk about “running” to get in shape and lose weight. All we need is one nice day and the streets are filled with novice runners who hit the pavement to burn fat and boost their fitness. It is also a good bet that many of these people will come back complaining of ankle, shin, knee or hip pain. Many will get frustrated and most will quit.
I am not a fan of programs that take sedentary people and profess to have you 5K ready in four weeks. As Lou Schuler, co-author of the New Rules of Lifting for Life states, “You don’t run to get fit. You get fit to run.” It isn’t that I don’t think structured workouts with measureable increases don’t work; the absolutely do and it is how I structure workouts for my clients who want to run. That is when they are ready to add jogging/running into their exercise programs.
You could go out and walk 3.1 miles today. Running 3.1 miles is a different story not only from a cardiovascular perspective but your joints will take a massive pounding! What many people fail to understand is that while running will improve your aerobic fitness, your connective tissue and joints will also improve. However, if you are sedentary or weight loss is your primary goal it is better to start off
with a different strategy that will eventually, have you running.
What I like to do is help my clients set goals; both long and short term. Think of long term as a destination (Las Vegas) and the short term as the different routes you will take to get there. For those who want to run, I challenge them to pick out (and pay for) a 5K. Committing by plunking down your entry fee puts a little extra skin in the game. Next comes the training.
I like to start my clients out with an aerobic exercise prescription that will cover the frequency, intensity and time they feel is manageable. For example, I had one client who had a goal of losing 40 pounds begin by exercising on an elliptical machine three days a week for 30 minutes per session. The intensity was moderate and this was all I prescribed for 4 weeks. Once we knew they could handle the load with no ill effect or injury, we added in 6-8 strength exercises. Eight weeks into the program the client was 10 pounds down and feeling great.
Once I have a client train continuously for eight weeks I will reassess and talk with them about when it is time to up the frequency, intensity, time or mode (elliptical, bike, treadmill, etc). For the client above it is tempting to add in some jogging intervals but that could result in a negative outcome; why mess with a good thing when everything to this point has been nothing but positive? Truthfully, when the client hits the 20 pound mark I will introduce jogging intervals to add intensity, greater calorie burn and a new challenge but despite the desire to throw them into a running program today, I am sticking to the plan.
What else do you need to consider before adding running to your routine aside from building a significant conditioning base and losing some pounds?
Proper warm-up (movement prep and muscle activation)
How to design different cardio intensities and modes
Proper cool down/recovery (stretching and soft tissue work)
This can be daunting for many. If you are considering adding running to your program but aren’t sure how to begin, consider contacting the professionals at Integrated Wellness Concepts or our partners at Forward Fitness. Both can help assess your fitness level to prescribe the right amount of exercise and progress you appropriately and safely. We can also consult online so geography is not an issue.
Integrated Wellness Concepts
Are you considering starting a running program? Please leave a comment with your thoughts on how to start a running program!