Walking, Running Strategies

If you are just beginning, walk before you jog. Walking for thirty minutes will prepare your muscles for jogging. When you can walk continuously for thirty minutes, you are ready to jog. On your first walk-jog workout, walk for seven minutes and then jog for three. Jog at a fast walking pace. Repeat this three times for a total of thirty minutes. When you feel ready, walk for five minutes and then jog for five. In a few months you may be able to jog the entire thirty minutes.

JOGGING AND RUNNING: Jog in an upright position, stomach in, heel to toe, taking short, smooth strides. Pick up your feet, lifting your front knee and extending your back leg. Keep your elbows bent, your forearms and chin parallel to the ground. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm. Some people measure their heart rate at intervals throughout their workout, others wear heart-rate monitors. Jogging three to five times a week at eighty percent of your maximum speed is enough to reach a high level of cardiovascular fitness. If you feel winded, slow to a walk. Don't ignore discomfort in your shins, knees, or back. Pay attention to your body.

BALANCE YOUR PROGRAM: Doug Lentz, director of Chambersburg Physical Therapy, reminds us that running improves the lungs and heart but may result in muscle imbalances. Running stresses the back of the leg, but does little for the front leg muscles and upper body. Recent research suggests that weight training strengthens the legs to keep them balanced. Strength training increases fast-twitch muscle fiber in much the same way that sprinting does. David Costill, Ph.D., director of Ball State University's Human Performance Laboratory, agrees that weight training may substitute for speed work, minimizing the risk of injury. There aren't the jarring forces with weight training, according to Costill. Work each of the major muscle groups in the legs including quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and calves. Use your SportCord for both lower body and upper body strength training. Upper-body resistance work allows one to run faster and further. If the upper body fatigues, a runner expends more energy and actually slows. Once fast-twitch fibers are gone, they're gone for good. Don't allow them to atrophy says Costill.

Another way to strengthen the legs is to ride a bike. Joan Benoit Samuelson had a debilitating knee injury but trained furiously on a stationary bike and won a gold medal in the Olympic marathon. Frank Shorter, another Olympic marathoner, extolled the benefits of cycling. Other studies demonstrate that runners who cross-trained with cycling improved their quadriceps strength by twenty percent in only four weeks. A runner can use cycling to rehabilitate an injury and maintain performance for as long as six weeks.Pedaling is also a good cool-down. A University of Northern Iowa study demonstrated that pedaling a stationary bicycle at forty percent of maximum oxygen consumption removed more lactic acid from the muscles faster than massage or passive recovery. Using an Aquajogger is one of the best ways to rehabilitate, and at the same time maintain or improve your cardiovascular endurance.

ERGOGENIC AIDS: Special carbohydrate-loading liquids and energy bars lead the list of ergogenic aids. Marathoners routinely sip sports drinks and choke down energy bars while on the run. Some believe creatine monohydrate aids endurance while others rely on caffeine. Sniffing peppermint, menthol, or eucalyptus can energize you according to studies at Duke University.

FAD DIETS: There are a variety of untested theories. Twenty year old world ten thousand meter record holder Wang Junxia of China scarfs down a diet of worms, caterpillar fungus, and a soup made of turtle blood. Wang's coach has sold this elixir to aspiring runners and made over one million dollars.

RUNNING FASTER: According to Owen Anderson, Ph.D., you can run faster by speeding up your stride. Twenty percent of runners "overstride" and produce a "braking" effect, decreasing running efficiency. Exercise physiologist Jack Daniels, Ph.D., found that the best stride rate for most distance runners is ninety strides per minute. To increase your speed, count your steps as you run. Gradually increase your steps to a maximum of ninety strides per minute. At first your stride length will decrease. To normalize it, run hills. Hill training strengthens your legs which helps you regain your stride length. Taking quicker steps will force you to apply more force to the ground more quickly, thereby increasing your speed.

RUNNING ENHANCES HEALTH: Dr. Walter Bortz of Stanford Medical School described running as an option for young people; but for older people, it's a must. His article in Fortune magazine profiled an eight year study comparing five hundred runners vs. non-runners aged fifty and over. In the beginning runners had a two-to-one advantage over non-runners in a variety of health measures. After eight years, there was a five-to-one advantage for the runners.