With the holidays and all the festivities upon us, it's a good idea to take a minute out of the celebrations and think about which fitness goals to go for in 2018. If you've never been much of a runner but you've always secretly wanted to give it a go, we've got a beginner running plan that will whip you up into shape in no time. Not only will you burn major calories and get that lean, toned look in your legs, but you'll also strengthen your cardiovascular system and give yourself a whole lot of energy.
POPSUGAR spoke to Michael Olzinski, MSc, Purplepatch endurance coach and Equinox run coach, who has years of experience training all kinds of runners, from beginners (like me) to triathletes. He's also an ultramarathoner himself, so he knows a thing or two about running hard and smart.
"I absolutely think that running is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable forms of exercise that we readily have access to at any time," he said. However, the problem is that most people don't choose a running plan that's achievable, and they end up hating every second of it. "I seem to face a lot of runners who simply do not seek that sense of accomplishment or satisfaction, simply because at the end of it, they associate some form of pain."
Whether it's knee pain, tight hamstrings, or lower back tightness, Mike's created a plan that minimizes discomfort in beginner runners and "removes that stigma of 'running equals pain,'" so that you can really enjoy yourself and bust your ass in the safest way possible. Here are the three biggest tips Mike offers as you're gearing yourself up to start running in the new year.
Start Small (and Miss Small)
"If you give yourself smaller, bite-size runs to begin with, then you are less likely to fail or get discouraged," he told POPSUGAR. "If you simply just start with two to three weeks of two or three 5-10 minute runs, you are most likely to be safe and absorb those runs pain-free."
He says he likes to start off having people adding 10 minutes of running to their workout program in conjunction with other activities. For example, go for a short run after your cycling class, just to get used to the movement and allow your body to adjust.
Break It Up
Rather than just getting out there and running for as long as you can, Mike advises you "find a time or distance you are comfortable with and get started by building up the number of intervals or repeats you can do with good form." Say you're feeling really good when you run at a solid pace for two minutes. Instead of extending that two minutes to five or eight, "try doing two minutes for six repetitions, then eight, then 10."
Doing these types of intervals will help you perfect your form, "meaning you get more nice steps in your run as opposed to tired or lazy steps." And the more comfortable you feel with interval training, the easier it will be to run long distances in the future.
"I would put this as number one on my list," Mike said. "You have to do other modes of exercise to prepare your body to handle the stress of running." He doesn't see running as "a simple activity that anyone can just jump in and master." It's advanced, it's explosive, it's "coordinated plyometric ability." So you need other types of exercise to help you get stronger in your runs.
Mike recommends two or three strength-training sessions each week and other forms of movement you love, like yoga, rock climbing, cycling, dancing, etc. "I would take anything that you feel comfortable with and use it to keep your body healed and healthy."
As for how often you should train and what kind of sessions you should do, Mike puts it simply: "My absolute favorite beginner running program would be on a weekly three-and-three style of training, where you do three varied types of runs and three other days of cross training, like strength work or your activity of choice."
This program guarantees one much-needed rest day each week, and it also gives you a variety of runs and workouts to keep your body improving. "Try to take one or two days between runs, and don't go back to back when you are just getting started," Mike advised.
These are the three types of runs you should do each week:
- Interval Run : "Take a comfortable interval (or time) and start to work on your ability to execute those well. For example, do four sets of two minutes of strong running with two minutes of rest."
- Off-Road Endurance: "I would start with 20-30 minutes jogging really slowly, like you could have a conversation with a friend. Then each week, you can gradually add four or five minutes until you are going for 45-60 minutes at a comfortable and social pace."
- Mixed Run: "This is a great run to mix in with another workout. The average runner will take about 70 strides or so per minute, so even if you just do 10 minutes, you are making 700 total strides! You body can adapt to that incredibly well. A great example here is to do a nice, focused strength workout, then hit 15 minutes on the treadmill at the end, when your body is nice and warm and your muscles are lubricated and synchronized."
The great thing about this program is that you can actually do two workouts on the same day — like a strength-training session and a mixed run afterward — which will give you one extra rest day each week.
Make sure you're getting plenty of rest each night and eating a well-balanced diet. You'll be signing up for a 5K in no time!
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