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Building up to distance running

By Ester Marsh
For the Salisbury Post
Q. I am a high school student and would like to be able to run distance. I can barely run for 5 minutes at a time. What can I do to increase my time and distance of running?
A. First of all, you need to start with a short distance and time. Too many people, young and old, feel that when they start an exercise program they should be able to do exactly what they planned they should be able to do.
Example: Untrained people want to run a mile. They go the Y or health club and run one mile ó or attempt to run a mile.
If they are able to run it at one time, they will not be able to get out of bed the next day ó or the next.
Your chance of getting shin splints or any other injury is very high, as your body is just not used to running a longer distance. You’ll be discouraged and it might be a long time before you are ready to try it again.
If your body is not used to running, you can’t expect it to just start and run and not feel the pain!
Your joints aren’t used to the impact, so they can and will hurt. Your lungs and heart need to get used to the increased activity.
This is what I recommend:
For your warm-up, do walking and light stretching. Make sure you stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads and hip flexors. Whether you are using the treadmill or the track or the sidewalks, the following principle applies:
Jog until you get winded, then walk. When your breathing is back under control, start jogging again. Do not worry so much about your distance; it will come later. Do this for no more than 15 minutes.
Make sure you stretch well after you are done with your “wogging” (jog/walk) program. Next time do the same and go to 20 minutes. If it is 16, 17, 18, or 19 minutes that is OK, too!
You might even have some setbacks. You might only be able to go 12 minutes the next time. Don’t give up ó try again.
Try to do this for a minimum of three days a week. If you can work your way up to five days a week, that would be great! See if you can time how long it takes for you to get your breath back.
When you are getting better, you need to cut that time of walking. What you will notice is that with time and practice, your running time will be longer than your walking time. Before you know it, you’ll be running the whole time!
If this is still hard to do on your own, the Salisbury-Rowan Runners have a great beginner running program.
If you are interested, call David Freeze at the East Rowan YMCA at 704-279-1742.
As long as you give your body time to get used to running, the sky is the limit. Let me know when you do your first 5K.
Good luck! Now, gotta run!

Ester Marsh is associate executive director of the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA. Contact her with health and fitness questions at 704-636-0111 or ehoeben@rowan ymca.com.

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