Thursday, January 13, 2011

Running With The Crowd

by Kris Pitcher

My speed registered 3.0 MPH on the treadmill with a modest 5% incline. I was killing time at the gym, sneaking in a few extra minutes of cardio. Now, long-legged never entered a descriptive of me so my shorties were moving right along. Happily decompressing from my day I began to hear footsteps all around me. First pattering, then pounding. I felt the need to quicken my pace. It's prime time and you can bet every treadmill is full.

I look left, jogger. I listen to the whizzing belt to my right and see a blur as I look that way, a runner. Soon the buzz and the pounding fills the air like a stampede and I picture myself running down a city street. "Hey?!" I yell. "What's everyone running from?"

"Don't know!" The lady next to me answers through her gasps. "Well, where are you running to?!" I ask her. "I don't KNOW, I'm just running!" She struggles to answer from the herd.

Men late in their 70's, moms working off their baby fat...from their 12 year old, guys in their late 20's who spent the last 10 years on the couch eating like they were still on the team...and every one's running! I don't get it. Actually, I DO get it.

When people return to exercise, they do what they know, what they remember - they run. Well, no offense to any of you runners out there...but you do not have to run. Running is not where you should begin. And I'd like to tell that to most of these people at the gym so that maybe, just maybe, they'll still be there 30 days from now.

I can see, hear, and feel (thanks for the sweat spray) that their intensity is too high. Working in our target heart rate (HR) zone is important. There are many medications which effect HR so speaking with a professional is a smart place to start. A general guideline is working between 60-80% of 220-your age. My maximum HR (220-age) is 179 (although I am not technically 41 yet, there are still plenty of numbered shopping days left), 60% is 107 & 80%is 143. My target HR zone is 107-143. Got that?

How do I manipulate my HR? Oh, you're asking such smart questions! By the intensity of my exercise. On the trusty treadmill, I have speed and incline. I can walk at 3.0 MPH, and raise the incline to add another dimension of intensity. (No inclining to 15% then hanging on to the handrails by the way - that defeats the purpose of bearing your weight, cheater.)

So, what's the problem if I'm working at oh, say 170? The problem is the fuel source or system my body uses for energy to do the work. My goals are to burn fat, and to increase my cardiovascular capacity - when I work outside my zone, those things aren't happening.

But even more than working outside their target HR zone, people returning to exercise who begin with running are likely to injure themselves. We know that injury leads to dropout, and that's just not the goal. I can hear them all now, "Yeah, I knew it wouldn't work!" "I just failed at this again..."

Wanting to run is fine. Learning to run is great. Gradually. Not all at once. If you're running with the crowd, think about what your goals are. Get yourself a HR monitor and see if you're working at the appropriate intensity. Manipulate your HR with both speed and resistance when doing your cardio. And don't just follow the herd.

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