One day, about five years ago, a friend told me she was going to get back to running. She had just turned 60 and hadn't run since she went through menopause. Before that she'd loved running and had even done it competitively.
Her plan was to start by walking for an hour every other morning for a month. The following month she planned to start timing 5 minute increments. During each five minutes she would run for 30 seconds, then walk for the remaining 4 minutes and 30 seconds. The following month she'd add another 30 seconds to the running. At that rate, by the end of 11 months she'd be able to run an hour. I was fascinated! "I could do that!" I said, and I did. There were three of us and we did it together. And it worked! And it was EASY!!! And I really looked forward to my running mornings.
Month 1: walk one hour, every other day
Month 2: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 30 seconds, walk 4.5 minutes
Month 3: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 1 minute, walk 4 minutes
Month 4: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 1.5 minutes, walk 3.5 minutes
Month 5: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 2 minutes, walk 3 minutes
Month 6: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 2.5 minutes, walk 2.5 minutes
Month 7: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes
Month 8: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 3.5 minutes, walk 1.5 minutes
Month 9: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute
Month 10: break hour into 5 minute intervals, run 4.5 minutes, walk 30 seconds
Month 11: run for one hour, no break
These days it fits my life to just run a mile every day. But if I wanted to get back to running an hour a few days a week, I know I could do it using that old technique.
This doesn't just work for running!
One friend I have, a man in his sixties who was obese and had been sedentary for years, finally started exercising by walking part way up the hill outside his house. He would carry a small rock. When he got tired he put the rock down to mark how far he had gone and then walked back home. At first he was literally just taking a few steps before he was out of breath and breaking a sweat. But eventually he could walk up the entire hill quite easily a couple of times a day and now he looks great and he's so happy! He told me that the key was being kind to himself and making the decision to not feel bad about slow progress.
In my last post I described a study that shows how too much exercise can cause your body to compensate by slowing your metabolism, making you more tired the rest of the day, or making you hungrier. Starting slowly gives your body time to adjust. Exercise should make you feel energized, not exhausted.
Whatever you do, just make sure you get some exercise. According to the World Health Organization "physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality... Regular moderate intensity physical activity -- such as walking, cycling, or participating in sports -- can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression."
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