Looking to get fitter, start running or just try and lose some flab?
There’s nothing more difficult than transforming yourself from a couch potato into a fitter, leaner and keener person. While you might sit and wish that you had the motivation to get going, suddenly pushing yourself to the limit (and beyond) is a well known route to failure. A spurt of enthusiasm may take you, and you might dig out your trainers and start running for as long and as fast as you can, but the likely effect will not be to inspire you to keep up the good work, but contrarily, is much more likely to put you off for some considerable time to come.
If you’re looking to kick start a healthier lifestyle, then taking it slowly and setting achievable short term goals will have the significantly more beneficial effect of encouraging yourself to stick to your new regime.
For those of us who haven’t actually run anywhere since school days, getting yourself into the running mindset can be a little tricky. But running is not only an excellent cardio-vascular work out, with the added benefit of toning and strengthening muscles in your legs, arms and abs to name but three, but its also free. So no excuses about not being able to afford to commit to joining the gym, no particularly special gear required, just grab a pair of comfy bottoms, some trainers, and get going.
Plan out your progress with little milestones on a weekly basis, so you can feel good about the achievements you are making, and so you can look back after a few weeks and be wowed at your progress. Its important to start every run with a brisk 5 minutes walk to warm up, and the same after your run to cool down. It’s a great way of stretching and preparing your muscles for the workout, and will help to minimise aching the following day.
If you really are a couch potato, then start slow – there is no point in trying to aim for the stars and end up face first in the mud! Aim to work out for 30 minutes and start with 3 times a week. This gives you plenty of rest days (try not to work out on consecutive days), which gives your body a chance to recover and strengthen. Next, break the 30 minutes down into 5 minute sections, again, something which will serve to make the whole workout seem much more achievable. For the first week the 30 minutes should be completed as follows:
- 1st sector: 5 mins: brisk walk
- 2nd sector: 5 mins: jog for 2 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 3rd sector: 5 mins: jog for 2 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 4th sector: 5 mins: jog for 2 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 5th sector: 5 mins: jog for 2 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 6th sector: 5 mins: brisk walk, taking longer than usual strides to aid stretching
Once week 1 is completed, during the following 2 weeks, gradually increase the jog period and decrease the walk period in the 2nd -5th sections until you are able to comfortably jog for 4 minutes and walk for just 1 minute in each of those 4 sections. Always start and finish with the 5 minute brisk walk, and never be tempted to skip either, you’ll feel the difference in your muscles afterwards, and will end up tempted to ditch a day, get out of the habit, and find yourself on a downward spiral again.
At week 4 the time has come to increase your jog time, and also increase the total length of time of your workout. Your stamina will have improved significantly by now, so don’t panic, you’ll be able to manage it. And if you find yourself struggling, just increase the walk time in the 2nd-5th sectors until you can comfortably manage the target times.
- 1st sector: 5 mins: brisk walk
- 2nd sector: 10 mins: jog for 7 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 3rd sector: 10 mins: jog for 7 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 4th sector: 10 mins: jog for 7 minutes, walk briskly for 3 minutes
- 5th sector: 5 mins: brisk walk, taking longer than usual strides to aid stretching
Take a moment to look at what you have achieved during week 4 – you’re now jogging for a total of 21 minutes instead of planting your butt in a sofa! Congrats!
During weeks 5 and 6, gradually increase your jog time in the 2nd -5th sectors until you’re running for 9 minutes and walking for just one. After week six, you’re firmly set on the road to success, and all you need to do is to continue to increase sector times, reduce walking times, and within another 4-8 weeks you’ll find yourself jogging happily for 20 minutes straight out, which will equate to approximately 5km!
Amanda Mcmanus gets off her butt as often as possible, and when not feeling the wind in her hair, runs Cocoon Collection, a UK website which offers 30th birthday gift ideas and unique birthday presents.