Monday, October 10, 2011

How You Can Become a Runner - Part 1

This quote from Runner's World Quote of the Day fits perfectly for today's post.

My goal has always been to introduce other people to running. They might accomplish something they never thought they could. 
 - Grete Waitz, Norwegian marathon runner and former world record holder 
9 Time New York Marathon Winner Grete Waitz Dies Aged 57
Grete Waitz 1954-2011 - 9 time winner of the NY Marathon

Thanks for all the great comments and encouragement last week.  I wasn't sure if there would be any interest in my take on how to start running.  Once again, I am not an expert, but I have learned a lot along the way.  Some things I have learned the hard way and other things I have learned by applying advice I have picked up from other runners or articles.

Not sure if you should run?
Often there is concern if you would put to much stress on your knees and back if you start running.  It's a valid concern.  The best thing is to see your doctor and get his/her opinion.  I was worried about this myself.  I have had back problems before but I found out that my problem was muscle related, not joint related.  I just needed to strengthen my core.  My knees were holding up with the walking and hiking I was doing.  As I became more fit, I got the urge to try running a little and see what would happen.  I found that I could do more than I thought.  If I remember right, I was about 250 when I started trying running.

Build up a good base
Start with walking.  Keep walking a little further each day until you can walk at a good clip for at least 30 minutes.  Don't be discouraged if it takes a while to get up to 30 minutes or more.  Just do a little more each time you go out.  When I started out, I could hardly go a quarter of a mile before I was wiped out.  I would just add a little more each time out and I made progress.

When you get to the 30 minute mark, try short, slow intervals.  I think a great way to do this is either by heart rate or perceived effort (see below).  You want to challenge yourself a bit, but don't feed like you have to go either hard or long.  You may only be able to jog for 15 seconds at first, but hey, your doing it!  Slow back down to a walk and recover.  When you get your heart rate back down or your breathing is back to where it is comfortable, try another interval at the same pace and time.  I could make it about a block before I had to stop, but I was proud of myself and was able to that several times during my normal walk.

Heart Rate Zones and/or Perceived Effort
This is a lesson I learned the hard way.  When I started out doing intervals, I would go until I my heart was pounding and I was out of breathe.  Talking with others, I found out that a heart rate monitor would help.  Last week I mentioned that I bought a Garmin 305.  It not only tracked distance, (which at the time I was most interested in), it also tracked heart rate.  I didn't know if I would use it much, but I spent the extra money for it.  In hindsight, I am really glad I did.  When I charged it up and took it out the next day I just let it track my progress as I did my usual intervals.  When I got back home, I loaded the data into the Garmin software.  When I saw what my heart rate was doing, it was obvious that I was running way too fast.  My heart rate was spiking at the 90% level and I would have to stop.  The very next time out, I slowed down the running portion and doubled my running time/distance.

There is a lot of info that you can read if you google heart rate zones, but in a nutshell, when we workout at about 60% of our maximum heart rate, we can go for much longer because our body can produce the energy we need much easier and for a longer time. It is the aerobic part of exercise.  When we go at a higher heart rate 80-90%, the body has to produce the energy needed less efficiently.  This is the anabolic part of exercise. It is the state the body gets in when we hit the weights hard.  One of the by products of this is lactic acid.  So the idea is to run at a pace that your body can keep up better.  Most of the heart rate monitors will walk you through what you need to do to set things up for your age.  It isn't completely accurate because the   numbers are based on averages. But it is a good start.  on most monitors, heart rate zone 3 is where you want to be.  Most monitors can be set up to warn you if you go above or below your target heart rate zone.

A lot of runners can also "feel" when they are in the right zone.  I can to some extent, but it is rare that I notice that I my effort is a little too high before the heart rate alarm goes off.  You might do better than me in this area, but I find that a heart rate monitor is a great tool.

In Conclusion

I have gone on too long as it is, so I will save the rest of this for next week.  Hope this helps and gives you some confidence that you too can become a runner!  It has made a world of difference for me.

Hang in there and I will too!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of running. I may just have to try it in the future. I am so glad that you have learned so much and are willing to share that knowledge with us. I am proud of you dad.(you know the song. :]) Love you. Keep up the good work.