Phase two – Setting a schedule.
The UK’s Health and Exercise Advisory board (HEA) recommends performing aerobic exercise 3 times a week for a duration of not less than 20 minutes to make improvements in aerobic fitness. It’s suggested, where possible, that these workouts are performed on non-sequential days e.g. Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Before we even take our first running step, it’s a good idea to plan when we are going to run. Certainly we need to meet the minimal requirements set down by the HEA if we are expecting to gain benefits from exercise. Look at your schedule and make 3 “running appointments” per week so you know when you are due to workout. Treat these like any other appointment – just like a meeting with a work colleague. Do your very best not to break them, and soon you’ll be on the way to making exercise a life long habit.
Avoid over committing your self in the early stages of your new running endeavour – stick with the 3 sessions of 20 minutes a week initially. This way, you are less likely to miss a session, whereas, even with the best will in the world, those 6 sessions of 45 minutes you planned out will fall by the wayside and your dreams of becoming a runner will be over before they have begun. Once we have established out schedule and feel comfortable with it, we can then add to it.
Phase three – Let’s get started!
Running for 20 minutes can be a daunting prospect for a novice runner, whose last experience of running was doing laps of a football field in the rain while at school! Because of this, we are going to break down our 20 minute minimum session time into running and walking. Our aim, over the next few weeks is to run more and walk less until we reach a 20 minute total of running time with no walking. Once we can run for 20 minutes in a single session, we’ll start to increase the length of our runs, run faster or more often. We’ll cover running progressions a moment…
Before we head out the door and start hitting the pavement, we are going to spend a few minutes getting our bodies ready for the exercise to follow. Chances are, your body is about to go from a dead stop (having been sat in a car or at a desk, or even laid in bed for an extended period) to exercising so we need make the transition from non exercising to exercising gradual. This will enhance your running experience by making the first few minutes of your run less stressful, may prevent injuries and helps get your mind ready for exercise as well as your body.
Because running is essentially a whole body exercise, it’s well worth spending a few minutes warming up all the major joints…the ankles, knees and hips. One of the best ways to do this is by performing some step ups at the foot of your stairs. After a couple of minutes of step ups, you should feel a little warmer and your breathing and heart rate should be elevated. Next we need to gently stretch out the muscles of the lower body, especially he hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. If you are unsure of what stretches to perform, do a search on the internet or seek advice from a fitness professional. Spend a 10-20 seconds on each muscle group in the lower body before heading out the door. We’re now ready to head out the door…!
Our first few sessions are going to begin with walking rather than running. Walking will contribute to the warm up and overall workout but will also act as a recovery when we get tired from running. When walking make sure you stride out purposely with your head held high, shoulders held down and back and arms relaxed, swinging freely. Drive your heels into the floor and push off your toes, walking briskly. You should feel slightly out of breath, having to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose and you may even begin to sweat lightly. For many exercisers, this “power walking” will provide workout enough in the early stages of our new fitness regime. If this is the case for you, keep with the walking 3 times a week for 20 minutes per session until you feel ready to attempt running. I suggest heading away from your start point for 10 minutes, then returning along the same route for your first few sessions until you have an idea of how much distance you can cover in the allotted 20 minutes.
If, after a few minutes of walking, you feel comfortable I want you to break into a run. When running, concentrate on a heel/toe action, light foot falls and keeping the upper body relaxed as well as a regular breathing rhythm. Don’t set off at a sprint, but a comfortable run which you can maintain for at least 1-2 minutes. After you have run for 1-2 minutes (more or less depending on your individual fitness level) slow back down into your power walk. You should aim to stride out as you did before and do your best to maintain the good walking technique we used a few moments earlier.
Repeat this walk/run/walk sequence until you have been exercising for 20 minutes. The intervals of running and walking are completely intuitive – run or walk for as long as feels comfortable. If you are feeling tired walk more, and if you are feeling okay run more. Remember we are only just starting out and we have plenty of time to increase your speed and/or duration.
Once you have completed your 20 minute session (well done by the way!) have a gentle stretch to try and minimise any post exercise muscle soreness. Mildly sore muscles are to be expected after performing a new exercise routine – at least in the early stages. Don’t worry if your muscles feel a little bit sore for a day or two after your workouts…you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s merely your body saying it has done a bit more work than usual.
In part 3 of this series, we’ll look at how to progress you workouts…
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