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Getting Started Running - Without Aches and Pains

Posted Jan 15 2010 11:50am

This time of year, many adults look for activities that can improve the quality of their lives.  Over the past 20 years a growing number have chosen running, resulting in the largest running population ever.  Why would tens of thousands of sedentary citizens decide to engage in such an exertive exercise? Some have learned from friends that running is the best fat-burner, while others talk about how running shortens the time required to get in a good workout. Most long-term runners site the vitality boost and attitude enhancement not experienced in other activities. These are only a few of the continuing stream of rewards from a run at any pace (even with a lot of walk breaks).

Sadly, many beginners get bad advice or don't have a plan. If a little running feels good, they'll run a lot more, get injured or burned out. It has become my mission to help beginners or “come-backers” avoid the aches, pains and extreme fatigue by gradually increasing, while balancing exercise and recovery.

The injury-free strategy is to gradually insert more running segments into a walk. The human body is designed to adapt naturally to running if the increase is gradual and there is adequate rest between runs. The following has been compiled from my book GETTING STARTED, which is available, autographed from my website.

The body maintains current improvements and is stimulated to improve best when running is done every other day. Missing an occasional run is OK. But if you want to sustain consistent improvement, you must commit to three running days a week. The day between, should be a gentle exercise day to allow for recovery and re-building (no running). 

The First Four Weeks

Walk first. Gradually increase an easy walk to 30 minutes, about every other day. Walk with a comfortable stride. Long strides can aggravate the muscles behind the leg and the shins.

Week 1
Mon—off or gently walk
Tue-walk 10 min then run for 5 seconds/walk for 55 seconds for 10 min, then walk 10 min
Wed-off or gently walk
Thu-walk 9 min, then run for 5 sec/walk for 55 sec for 12 min, then walk for 9 min
Fri-off
Sat or Sun-walk 15 min, then run for 5 sec/walk for 55 sec for 14 min, then walk for 10 min

Week 2
Mon—off or gently walk
Tue-walk 7 min then run for 5 seconds/walk for 55 seconds for 16 min, then walk 7 min
Wed-off or gently walk
Thu-walk 6 min, then run for 5 sec/walk for 55 sec for 18 min, then walk for 6 min
Fri-off
Sat or Sun-walk 15 min, then run for 5 sec/walk for 55 sec for 20 min, then walk for 15 min

Week 3
Mon—off or gently walk
Tue-walk 10 min then run for 10 seconds/walk for 50 seconds for 10 min, then walk 10 min
Wed-off or gently walk
Thu-walk 9 min, then run for 10 sec/walk for 50 sec for 12 min, then walk for 9 min
Fri-off
Sat or Sun-walk 15 min, then run for 5 sec/walk for 55 sec for 25 min, then walk for 15 min

Week 4
Mon—off or gently walk
Tue-walk 7 min then run for 10 seconds/walk for 50 seconds for 16 min, then walk 7 min
Wed-off or gently walk
Thu-walk 6 min, then run for 10 sec/walk for 50 sec for 18 min, then walk for 6 min
Fri-off
Sat or Sun-walk 15 min, then run for 5 sec/walk for 55 sec for 30 min, then walk for 15 min

Many new runners stay at the level of week 4 for a month or indefinitely. Others use the same progression but increase the running to 15 seconds/with 45 seconds of walking for weeks 5 and 6. Continued progression would involve stepping up to 20/40 for weeks 7 and 8, and finally 30/30 during weeks 9 and 10. There is almost a zero rate of injury among those who gradually increase in this way. Many beginners who follow this program continue to increase the length of the long run, and finish a half or full marathon within one year.

NOTE: to easily use the run/walk ratios above, try the Gymboss vibrating timer.

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