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How To Go From Terrible Shape To Marathon Running

How To Go Terrible Shape To Long Distance Running

Although it's not my goal to run a marathon any time soon, I always strive to get into better shape.  One of my biggest challenges is that my job requires me to sit the majority of the time.

One of my dearest friends, Gary Pawelko, has been a trainer forever.  Gary is a perfect example of someone who has been committed to staying in the best possible shape since he was in his teens.  Even many years later he continues to always makes time for daily exercise including scheduling special events such as bike and running marathons.

He looks at least 20 years younger than his biological age due to how healthy he eats and how consistently he exercises.  Gary makes a point of avoiding sugar and processed foods as much as possible.

Listed below are some ways that Gary taught me how to get in better shape, many years ago.  Also, over the course of the past 20 years I've worked with a series of trainers who have recommended similar programs.

Start With Your Physician

First of all, before you undertake any type of exercise program be sure to consult with your doctor.  Once you do have your physician's approval to exercise, start slow and build up.  Consider follow a step by step approach which will help you progress from being in terrible shape to being in great shape.

Listed below are some steps which are generally recognized as a way to work back into shape in a slow and healthy manner:

1.  Start slowly by walking.

The key is to walk  slowly in the beginning starting with 5 minutes and adding a few minutes every day.  An ideal goal would be to walk a minimum of 3 times a week working up to 20-30 minutes each section.   Be consistent, but only go as fast as you feel comfortable.  As long as you are moving forward with your program, you're doing great.  If you need to take longer between each step then take longer and don't beat yourself up.  Congratulate yourself for making progress.

Once you have worked up to 20-25 minutes per session of walking, then increase from 3 times a week up to 4-5.  Ultimately the goal would be to walk 35-45 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week.  Once you have achieved the first walking goal you can more onto the next one.

2.  Start to incorporate light running into your walking.

This step must be done very gradually.  Continue your walking program.  Walk for 10 minutes and then add a light jogging for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then walk for 2 minutes.  Repeat the light jogging every 10-15 minutes.  Towards the end of your walking program do 10 minutes of walking to slowly cool down.

Do this program for two or more weeks to allow your body to get used to the light jogging. The goal should be to increase your light jogging from 30 seconds into 1 minute.  You can do your program on a flat surface or on a treadmill or other piece of equipment which allows for running or jogging.

3.  Increase light running program.

Once you feel good about light jogging for one minute at a time, you're ready to extend the length of time you do the light jogging.  Continue to do your walking program 4-5 times per week.

Increase your light jogging from 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, with an equal walking (1:30 running, 1:30 walking) for 15 minutes. Do this a couple times or more, then increase running to two minutes, with walking for 1 minute.

Do this a few times or more, then increase to running 2:30, walking 30 seconds to a minute. If any of these increases feels too hard, slow down and go back to a slower progression.  Don't increase your light jogging pattern until you're completely comfortable increasing it. Continue this program for 2-4 weeks or longer if you prefer.

4.  Extend your running times.

By the time you've finished with your third step you will be running the majority of the time with only very short walk breaks.  The goal in this stage should be to run the majority of the time only stopping to walk if you need to.  During this stage work on your endurance and increasing the amount of time you run as well as the speed.

Some marathon runners will actually run a race taking walk breaks.  Generally speaking the pace is 10 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking. Continue you on your own endurance program until you no longer feel the need to walk.

5.  Push your envelope.

Gradually increase your running until you can run non-stop up to 45 minutes at a time, 4-5 days a week.  If you're brave you may want to sign up to run a 5K race.  A 5K race usually requires a run lasting 30-45 minutes.

Once you have increased your running to 30-45 minutes at a time, designate one run a week as your long run. Try to increase this by 5 minutes each week, until you can do an hour or more.  As soon as you've built up your endurance, add some hills or rough terrain to your program. You can also do this on your treadmill if you have a program that changes the elevation.

After adding hills, do a speed workout once a week. Do intervals of a couple of minutes of medium-hard running, with a couple minutes of easy running. Make these speed workouts shorter than your normal runs.  If you run for 40 minutes, do 25-30 minutes for your speed workouts.

Always be careful to warm up and cool down with easy running for 10 minutes.  If you want to also use weights that a way to help build up your strength.

6.  Keep Things Interesting

Most people struggle with keeping things interesting and avoiding boredom.  There are a number of options you have to change things up. Consider the following options:

1.  Run with a group, or run alone but mix it up.  Sometimes you may want to run alone, other times with a group or for a special run.

2.  If you run inside on a treadmill, always listen to music or some other program which keeps thing interesting.

3.  Find new running paths.  Never run the same routes. Alternate running on a track, in a different neighborhood, on a treadmill, on nature trails.

4.  Keep raising your bar.  After you've successfully run a 5K then sign up for a longer race.  Work towards running a marathon.

5.  Motivate yourself with non-food rewards such as traveling to a new city for a 5K, 10K or a marathon.  Set your sites on running the famous marathons.

6.  Join a running club or sign up at a heath club that specializes in different tracks or runner friendly equipment.

7.  Multi-task.  If you run in the privacy of your own home, apply a leave-in conditioner to your hair before you jump on your treadmill.

8.  Alternate running with other similar activities that keep you motivated to continue running.

Do Your Own Research

Don't take the suggestions above as gospel.  Do your own research and read some great books on reading.

A very good book about running is Zen And The Art Of Running by Larry Shapiro.  There are many other great books out there but this is one I have enjoyed.

[amazon-product text="Zen And The Art Of Running" type="text"]1598699601 [/amazon-product]

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