Fitness - How Should You Run? How Much Should You Run?
When you are trying to start with running, you are most likely going to
have a lot of questions.
really help my fitness?
How much should I run as a minimum?
Should I go
fast and short or slower and longer?
Is there a difference between getting fit and getting healthy?
What is the
best way to get fitter?
I'll try to address some of these questions here and will provide some
(hopefully!) useful links for you as well.
Does Running Really Help My
The main muscle you train
when running is... your heart. Running is one of
the best ways to train your cardiovascular system. Without getting all
scientific about it and boring you to death, in short, when you
run, you make your heart stronger.
And a stronger heart helps in many different ways. It helps make you
calmer. It helps you sleep better. It even helps reduce your stress
levels. Oh, and let's not forget you reduce your chances of all kinds
of terrible diseases!
There are many important benefits
of running and improved fitness levels is just one of many!
How Much Should I Run as a
Minimum to Boost My Fitness?
Let's start off by saying that something is better than nothing.
Don't get caught in a trap where you won't do any exercise because you
don't have much time to improve.
Having said that, the general advice to achieve fitness goals
is to run three times per week. Or more.
From my own experience I can tell you as well that when I have a period
in which I can consistently run at least three times per week, I am
more likely to achieve improvements and get faster over time.
Running three times per week also allows you to introduce some
variation to your running schedule, something I'll address next.
When Running for Fitness Should I Go Fast and
Short or Slower and
This is where it becomes really interesting and the difference schools
of thought come into play.
Let me first ask you a question: do you want to become fit or do you
want to become healthy?
Yes, there is a difference.
describe fitness as a state in which you can be competitive and fast.
describe health as a state in which you don't have physical problems,
you have a healthy weight, you sleep well, etc.
What are you after?
Either way I would always advise you to start off with slow
and easy running.
Make sure you build up a base,
you build up some stamina.
Then, depending on what you want to achieve, fitness or health, your
training approaches will vary.
Then I would advise you to add in quite a bit of faster running, in the
form of both tempo
Intervals will help make you faster. Guaranteed. They are, what they
call, anaerobic workouts. Although they are great for speed, they are
Anaerobic means "without
oxygen". What your body is doing when you are doing
anearobic exercise is burn
glycogen and take blood sugar from your body.
Doing an excessive amount of anaerobic workouts is not safe, in my
opinion. It may get you fit, but not healthy. It is linked to issues with
metabolism, excessive injury risk, headaches, fatigue etc.
Now, I am not trying to scare you away from doing intervals. But don't
do intervals as your only way of training. Build up a good aerobic base,
then add in interval workouts, one a week, maybe two in some weeks very
close to a race.
way, you give your fitness a boost in a short period of time, but rely
on healhier exercise patterns for the rest of the time. So base
running, easy pace
running, remains the cornerstone of your running!
When you are after health, after lower weight, less stress and better
sleep? Then just keep on going slow and easy. Running slow and easy,
you'll run in an aerobic state. In this state your body will mostly
burn fat as fuel.
helps improve your metabolism, it helps build up a strong endurance and
helps build a stronger heart, stronger blood vessels, improve your lung
All good stuff!
both fitness and health?
It is possible to combine running for fitness and running for health.
The key is balance. Let me give you an example of how I build up my
Suppose I have a race in six
months time. Then the first three months will be dedicated
to running at an easy pace. I might do a weekly tempo run, but
generally, I'd refrain from doing any faster running. Those first three
months are all about building a base and and setting up my season.
In month four to six, closer to race day, I'll introduce more tempo
runs and intervals. Those months are really dedicated to getting fitter
The key is alternating the faster and the slower running. Having
periods in which slower running is the most important, and having
periods in which the faster running becomes more important.
Running for Fitness or Health - Where to Start?
Whether you are running for fitness or for health or for a combination
of the two, make sure to start slow. Try to get
into a bit of a routine by running about three times a week.
can be painful starting out. There is a way however to make it a bit
easier for you: use a combination of running and walking.
The Beginner Running Programs on this site are all run/walk programs,
running programs which alternate
running and walking. For beginning runners, I think this makes a lot of
And judging by the feedback I get, the popularity of the pages in my
statistics and the number of people who sign up for the beginner
running programs, I am not the only one who thinks so!
When you are
completely new to running, I'd advise you give one of
these programs a try.
You may not want to use one of these run/walk programs. You may already
have some experience with sports. In that case, my running training section might
be more interesting to you. If you do head over that way, make sure to
check out my
increasing mileage safely page.
So, all in all, running is a great way to get both fitter and healthier.
I hope I have made clear what the differences are between the two and
how you can achieve a combination of the two.
It is not trivial.
Many of us think there is no huge difference between fitness and
health, but there is and understanding it is one of the keys to a
successful, long-term running career!
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