Ask Coach Jenny
Q: I had a wonderful holiday season but really let my fitness go to the wayside. I’m not one for setting resolutions, but do you have any tips for where to start and how to get moving again? I was running four times per week for 4-6 miles and I’d like to run a few 10K’s this spring and lose the five pounds I put on during the holiday season. Thanks, ~Jana
A: Hi, Jana. I’m glad you had a wonderful holiday season. Although taking a break from fitness may seem unhealthy, sometimes it can refresh your motivation to get moving again. As you start back up, the secret is to avoid the number one mistake most people make this time of year with fitness goals: doing too much too soon. Your mind will want to quickly return to what your body used to be able to do. If you take that road, it can lead to burnout, frustration and injury.
Here are tips for getting back into your running regimen efficiently and without the risk of injury along the way.
1. Start from where you are. A 25-30 minute workout may not seem like much, but if you’ve been off activity for a while it will be plenty of stress for your body. Start back with a realistic schedule of shorter 25-30 minute workouts at an easy effort where you can have a conversation. Save the high-intensity workouts until you’re back in the swing of things. Here is how your first three weeks should look:
Weeks 1-3: Three running workouts of 25-30 minutes + 3-minute walking warm-up and cool-down.
If you were off running more than a month, I’d recommend alternating run-walk intervals during this phase (ex. 4-min. run, 2-min. walk, repeat for the duration of the 25-30 minutes).
Fill in with low-impact cross training (cycling, swimming, elliptical) or strengthening workouts (yoga, strength, Pilates) one or two times per week. It will be tempting to increase the time or intensity, but hold yourself back, as this phase is just like building the foundation of a house – it takes time. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel at the end of this phase. (I promise.)
2. Build slowly. Once you’ve successfully worked yourself back into the regular habit of running and exercise, your body is ready to build slowly back to your regular routine. Here is one strategy to do this:
Weeks 4-6: Run three times per week for 35-40 minutes at an easy effort level and include one or two cross-training workouts in between (strength or low-impact cardio as mentioned above).
Weeks 7-8: Run four times per week for 40 minutes at an easy effort level and include one or two cross-training workouts in between.
Weeks 9-11: Run four times per week, twice for 40-45 minutes and twice for 45-60 minutes. Slowly increase the longer distance workouts by five minutes each week (50, 55, 60).
Weeks 12-16: Run four times per week for 45-70 minutes with two workouts shorter and easier effort (45 minutes), one faster for speed work and one long endurance workout.
This may seem like a long progression time, however, I guarantee you’ll have a solid base from which you can build, race and perform at your best come springtime.
3. Inventory your fuel. Weight loss should follow the same principles as your training. That is, if you lose too much too soon by hypo-caloric diets, you’ll set yourself up for low energy levels, decreased performance and storing fat. An easy way to lose weight is to be mindful of your diet and take inventory of what you’re eating day to day. Write down or log your foods for two weeks on a site like LIVESTRONG.com’s MyPlate. This will give you a good idea of what you’re burning each day and what you’re taking in.
Create a small deficit between your caloric intake and expenditure by reducing your calories by no more than 15 percent. If you are eating 3,000 calories per day, that would mean eating 450 fewer calories per day. The combination of exercise and caloric reduction will help you safely lose weight and keep it off. As you begin to decrease calories, eliminate the wasted fuel as well (processed easy food, white food, fried food) and replace with clean options (fruits, veggies, lean meat). Again, three weeks of modified eating and you’ll feel a great deal better and create the momentum to making better dietary choices.
4. Be accountable. Finally, create an accountability system for yourself. That could be running with a buddy or a group, or posting your goals on social media. Research shows that people that exercise socially stick with it longer and perform stronger as well. Getting back to your running program is easier than you think if you take your time and enjoy the ride along the way. Happy New Year!
What are your running goals for this year? Share with us in the comments.