Running training program - Week 5

Way to go for all of you who have finished up Week 4 of the running training program and by now those runs should be feeling a bit easier. I always say that the hardest part of running is just getting started and the initial 2 weeks are perhaps the worst; that is kind of the make it or break it point. But once you crest that period the motions will start to feel more fluid, you'll be less sore, and from there your breathing will be less labored as you get in better cardiovascular shape!

I hope the first interval workout you did last week went well, and the goal for this upcoming week is to tap into both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness systems. This means that for one workout you will work more on your speed and the other will focus on endurance. We will do this by going shorter, faster, and with more recovery for one session and then longer intervals with less recovery for the second.

Day of rest or light weights
Tuesday: Short speed session for a total of 30-50 minutes (After a warm-up you will do 6-8 hard efforts for 30 seconds followed by 2 minutes of easy jogging between each one; be sure to let yourself recover before starting the next and then finish the rest of the run with a cool-down)
Wednesday: Easy run for 35-50 minutes
Thursday: Easy run or cross-train for 35-50 minutes
Friday: Day of rest or light weights
Saturday: Longer interval session for total of 30-50 minutes (After a warm-up you will do 4-6 hard efforts for 3 minutes each followed by 2 minutes recover between each one; finish the rest of the run with a cool-down)
Sunday: Long run for 40-70 minutes - be sure to take this one easy

For the shorter workout day you will be right about your maximum speed. The longer session you want to then pace yourself, especially in the first few intervals, so that you finish going hard but still feeling strong rather than fading. Learning to properly pace yourself takes time and practice, but you'll soon discover how to find your rhythm. Track your week in your runner's training log and keep it up; be sure to check back for more updates!

Week 6

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Incorporating Anaerobic and Aerobic Training is Key

Tapping into different muscle groups and cardio systems is the best way to not only get in the best shape that you can be but to also keep things from getting too boring. This is why any athlete in training won't be doing the same old routine each and every day. Not only is it monotonous but after a while you're body will actually adapt to the workout program and not only won't improve but will actually find ways to cheat and use less energy. You don't want to get stuck in a rut, and I admit it is easy to fall into a comfortable routine and just zone out. But if you do this you're not going to do yourself any favors and instead you want to keep spicing things ups.

The two fitness systems are the anaerobic and aerobic capacities. Your anaerobic system is the one that you use for short bursts of maximum efforts;
think sprints and plyometric jumps. You will only be using the fast twitch muscle fibers and the longest amount of time this system works alone before switching over to aerobic is about 20 seconds. The aerobic system then is what you use for sustained cardio exercise and works off of slow twitch muscle fibers; you can use this one much longer than the other. Both need to be addressed for a well rounded fitness training program but different people have different bodily make ups and varying ratios of slow twitch to fast twitch muscle fibers. That's why some people are more apt to be sprinters and high jumpers and other are marathoners.

Yet to get the most from your workouts you should try to mix in different exercises and types of training to hit these different capacities each week. For instance one workout should be geared toward faster, shorter sessions such as intervals of 30 seconds all out and then nearly full rest until the next one. You could also do plyometrics to tap into your fast twitch muscles. Then a second workout that week could be intervals of longer time or distance such as 3 minutes hard and then enough rest so that you can do the next one but not so much so that you are fully recovered. This will build endurance and stamina. You could also do a longer tempo effort which is at threshold level, just under a race effort, for 20 minutes or more.

A complete training program is going to stress all of your systems and maximize as many muscles as you can. This will not only keep you a well rounded athlete and improve your overall fitness and abilities but it will keep things fun and exciting as well.

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Motivation from within to achieve your workout goals

Fitness and achieving your goals really is a personal thing. While you can enlist the help and expertise of a trainer, in the end it comes down to you. You are the one one who has to put on those shoes and work up the sweat whether you head outside or go to the gym. No one, no matter how much they can speak words of encouragement and motivation, is going to do it for you. Self motivation is key, just like achieving anything else, but that isn't necessarily inborn in everyone. Or at least it is directed to different sources for each individual. I may be motivated to get in my daily workouts but if you asked me to get up each day and solve peoples' tax problems I'd be groaning with the best of them. People have different interests and that is fine, that's what makes the world go 'round and keeps us from turning into a planet full of droids.

But in getting back to workout programs, getting in shape, and losing weight, a big factor does come from self commitment, and what you put in is what you'll get back. All too often I'll hear people complaining to their gym trainers or coaches that they just don't want to do it, or they out right refuse to do the exercises, the full amount of time, or the second set of reps. This happened just the other day when a lady was complaining she 'just didn't feel it' and when asked to just do a five minute warm-up she said no. The trainer put in a token effort to persuade her but finally just conceded and moved on. But this isn't right for a few things; one, the trainer should know that warming up is important to prevent injury and also just gets things started of right; two, if the woman is going to PAY someone to train her why waste the money if she's going to do her own thing anyways; and three, it is just disrespectful and the trainer should have told her that if she didn't want to do the fitness program she has planned then she is more than welcomed to go elsewhere or do her own thing. The fact is, I'm sure this lady is the same one who complains that she isn't getting the results she wants and says, "I workout with a trainer and I still can't lose that weight." She'll blame everyone but herself and in the end won't make progress because she isn't will to put forth the effort.

I apologize for the generalization; I don't really know this lady outside of what I observed and perhaps 99% of the time she is a model exercise client and I just caught her on the one time she put up a fight. But I've seen it on sports teams; there is always the person who doesn't want to do the training and argues with the coach, looking for the short cuts when they come. This is hard for the coach because they are never going to be able to provide their best to someone not listening and it's not fair to the team and others who do care enough to do all the work.

I understand that everyone has 'those days'; it is true that there are times your body is overly tired, over worked and stressed, and does need a break. But that's when you work with your coach and trainer to identify WHY. And if you are for the most part one to follow directions, the times you actually do say you are tired then others are much more apt to believe you and take you for your word than if you continually complain. Fitness and achieving your goals can be helped along by proper guidance and motivation from others, but at some level the biggest driving factor has to come from within.

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The right music can amp up your workouts
Well fitness fans I was at the gym today doing my weight training workout and couldn't believe my ears as to the music of choice blaring across the speaker system. I don't understand why in the world anyone would choose to blast songs like Kissed By a Rose in a gym where people are trying to pump themselves up to get in a better sweat session. I'm a fan of Seal, and yes he has some great stuff, but at the same time when I'm lifting weights or doing my cardio I want something uptempo and fast that gets me moving and shaking!

It got me thinking back to an article I wrote a while ago, that I will add at the bottom of this post, on how listening to loud, fast music can actually boost your endurance and strength. It's not that much of a shocker because the tunes help you zone out and will take your mind off of say the pain or tired feelings in your muscles. If I'm on the treadmill or anywhere working out indoors a distraction is a must; a good pump up song can work wonders for the old motivation. If I'm outdoors and running, however I am still a bit old school and don't like being plugged into my iPod. The reasons for this are because I never started running with headphones and also I must have weird ears because I have a hard time finding earphones that actually stay in place and won't fall out. It's usually too much of a hassle to deal with and especially if I'm doing a hard workout I don't like anything else in my way.

But back to the main point, the right kind of music while you're working out can actually boost your performance. So in keeping with such I thought I'd list some of my favorite motivating songs:

1) The Distance by Cake
2) Machine Head by Bush
3) SOS by Rhianna
4) Move Along by the All American Rejects
5) 4 Minutes by Madonna
6) All My Life by Foo Fighters

Okay, well I know there are many more but that's all that are coming to mind right now and as a distance runner that one Cake song has been a theme song since the first time I heard it! So pump up your workouts folks and take the excuse to blast those tune! And feel free to give a shout out to the best songs that get you moving!

Can your iPod improve your workout?

In this technologically enhanced age, it seems everyone, whether running, biking, stair climbing, lifting weights, or even simply walking to the bus station is plugged into their portable music device. The only line that seems to be drawn is taking it into a yoga class; but even that may change with the soothing sounds of Enya soon flowing through those ear buds. Of course everyone has their own music choice, but when working out, the play list is generally reserved for something fast-paced, loud, and energetic.

That could be a good thing, as a study out of the University of Western Ontario in Canada cites loud pump-up music as the reason individuals were able to perform their exercises better than when done in silence. Women who were relatively active at the time of the study were sent through three different test cycles; one without any music, one at their preferred volume level, and one at a higher decibel level but not loud enough to do any lasting hearing damage.

For each phase the candidates were asked to cycle as hard as they could on a stationary bike and then preform leg press and bench press repetitions until fail. During the cycling portion, the study revealed that music at any level boosted performance, but it was the louder music that had the biggest effect during the weight lifting portion.

The women, who averaged 26 reps without music, upped that to 29 reps with the softer music, but were able to increase their total to 36 reps with the loudest music. "Music seemed to help participants push through the psychological aspect of the test that is telling tom that 'it's too hard' or 'just quit,' as well as push a little extra through the pain caused by lactic acid build-up [in the muscles]," Janet McMordie, a graduate student heading the study and working on her master's in kinesiology.

So, whatever gets you moving, download your tunes and workout to the beat. It will not only help the time go by but actually improve your performance. Those songs can even get you motivated when you are tempted to simply bag the whole workout. Generally, once you at least get started, the beat will have its effect, and so too will your endorphins, and you'll most likely want to keep going. Some of the most popular songs of choice by others are:

* Boom Boom Pow--Black Eyed Peas
* Jai Ho--A.R. Rahman
* Poker Face--Lady Gaga
* The Distance--Cake
* Lose Yourself--Eminem
* Somebody Told Me--The Killers
* Promiscuous--Nelly Furtado
* Since U Been Gone--Kelly Clarkson

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Knowing when to take a break...or at least cut back
I am the first to admit it, I'm a bit obsessed when it comes to running and working out. It is a joke that anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me will partake it; there may be a question as to what I'll be doing on any given day but I can say with nearly full certainty that I'd have gotten in a run no matter what. I have ridiculous stories that can attest to this very fact (running in place in some pretty funny locations) but my mind will not be at peace unless I've gotten my sweat session in. This, I admit, is probably not the healthiest outlook in that it is actually better to take a day off now and then, but for my own peace of mind I forgo it. There are some that say it's just that I'm addicted to exercise, and that may be; but I guess better this than crack, right?!

But the point that I will eventually get to is that sometimes you have to back off. I finally allowed myself to do this (albeit it was wrought with some anxiety and discomfort) but I could tell and feel in my runs and workout program that I was tired and need a bit of a break, or at least to ease up. I tend to err on the side of 'more is always better', but the truth is that there is a point that needs to be drawn in the sand. Where you're just over training and instead of progressing and building up muscle you're actually tearing it down and getting catabolic.

The body is a complex creature and this pertains to training and sports performance as well. On any given day you are never certain just how you'll 'feel' or do; in distance running for example, you could be in the best shape of your life but come race day you could be left feeling flat, off, and finish far below what your workouts would have predicted. So in training and working out it's always going to have an element of unknown; one training program may work for one person but not another. Everyone is different and it is up to you to then learn your own body and be able to read its signals.

It took a lot for me to admit that I needed to back off; but sometimes the hardest part of training is knowing when to cut back or even *gasp* take a day off. I chose to cut back, and you know what, I've been feeling better on my runs. When it comes to your own training, if you are like me and feel compelled to do exactly what was planned to a tee come hell or high water and no matter how you feel, sometimes the hardest and best thing to do is to listen to your body. You will be able to come back stronger and feel better; if you dig yourself into a hole too far and become too depleted you may be left so tired that you'll have no choice to then take a significantly longer time off.

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Running training program - Week 4

You should have finished your Week 3 of the running training program and getting ready for the next! This week the goal is going to start easing into specific workouts that are going to target different systems to get you faster, build your endurance, and ultimately a better athlete and in tip top shape. You don't want to put too many stressors on yourself all at once so we are going to gradually incorporate these workouts along with increasing the amount of time you are running and working out. The key is to balance the upped volume and workload so that you keep progressing but not end up getting injured.

So there are going to be three small changes this week. First, we are going to increase the time on the runs by 5 to 10 minutes. (The exception is if you have already been doing the maximum amount in which case some of the days will be the same.) This includes the longer run as well, so make sure you go the furthest on that one. Second, if you have been cross training for some of the days you want to replace one of them with an easy run so that you are then running at least four days a week. And finally we are going to be doing a pyramid interval workout one day as well as a one pick up run another. For the interval workout follow the guide laid out in the plan so that you are doing a series of six harder efforts; if you have been running longer than the 30 minutes of the plan you will then just increase the time on the warm-up and cool-down. Those that have still been doing some walking, keep trying to get yourself running as close to the total amount of time and on the interval workout day try to make each hard effort at least a full run.

Monday: Easy run or cross train for 30-45 minutes
Tuesday: Pick up run for 30-50 minutes with 3-6 strides
Wednesday: Day of rest or light weights
Thursday: Easy run for 30-45 minutes
Friday: Pyramid interval workout for 30-50 minutes
Saturday: Day of rest of light weights
Sunday: Long run for 35-65 minutes

Make sure to refuel and rehydrate after all of your workouts so that you'll be able to recover faster and feel better for your next run. After your interval workout write in your training log how you felt during the different paces and note if you felt you finished strong or perhaps went out a little too fast on the first couple and faded. This is important as you begin to learn how to best pace yourself so when it comes time to race day you are the one passing people at the end instead of being passed. It's all a learning process as you get more in tune with your own body. Keep it up and be sure to check back for updates!

Week 5

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Top 5 Fitness Foods

It seems that there is a new diet out virtually every day telling you what you should eat, what you have to avoid at all costs, and what is going to make you lose weight or get in your best shape the fastest. We are a world that is obsessed with what we put into our mouths and at the same time it seems that our war with food only exacerbates the problem. But for those who exercise regularly many of the standard 'food rules' don't apply. Namely the myth that carbs are the enemy is one that particularity sticks in my craw. Carbs are a necessary fuel source and should you skimp on them you will be left feeling sluggish, tired, and your workouts will suffer. That being said, here are some foods you've got to chow down on if you haven't already!

1) Quinoa: Yes it may sound funny, but it is actually one powerful whole grain. While brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and whole grain breads should be staples in your diet, quinoa further packs in more protein than the rest with 4 grams for each serving of 6 ounces. It also has vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, and fiber. You can easily swap it for rice to accompany your dishes and it can even be eaten cold with a salad. Another reason to fill up on whole grain carbs is that a study out of Penn State University showed that when they are regularly eaten instead of refined grains people were able to drop twice as much belly fat.

2) Eggs: It doesn't matter if it was the chicken or the egg that came first, the bottom line is that each one will give you 6 grams of protein and only about 70 calories. For everyone working out, egs contain the necessary amino acids to help you recover and then build muscle mass and come back stronger. They get a bad rep because they have around 212mg of cholesterol but if you consider the stats of all those Big Macs people readily wolf down this little guy pales in comparison. Eggs are also a great source of vitamin K that is going to do well to build up those strong bones. Eggs are an easy, no fuss way to refuel with protein be it in the form of an omelet, scrambled, or even hard boiled.

3) Bananas: Yes, we will do well to ape those monkeys and eat these yellow fruits. What makes these yellow treats better than other fruits is their high amount of potassium. This is particularly important for avid exercisers because the balance of your electrolytes are crucial. Even more so for endurance athletes, and a banana is a quick pick me up while out on a run or on the bike. As you sweat, you can replace the lost potassium to keep your electrolyte levels balanced and can even stave of a cramp. Bananas are great right out of the peel, blended into a smoothie, or even in a split...hey, that ice cream has calcium in it doesn't it!

4) Salmon: If you haven't heard it by now, salmon is rich in the Omega 3 essential fatty acids that are not only going to protect that heart of yours but even help mental focus. Salmon also has vitamin A, B, and D and of course it is rich in protein. If you haven't figured it out by now, protein is important for muscle repair and for people doing intense training you should aim to get in about 0.45 to 0.72 grams of protein for each pound of body weight; this is more than the recommended amount from the USDA of just 0.36 grams for each pound. So whether you grill it up, bake it, or even get it out of a can, get your fishy on!

5) Sweet Potatoes:
And we finish our list with yet another all important carb source. Along with that these tubers will give you vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and iron. Iron is another vital nutrient for anyone working out; if your levels of iron get too low you could become anemic meaning you will be left with severely low energy levels. Other great sources of iron are spinach and red meat, but with sweet potatoes you won't be getting the extra fat or cholesterol the red meat would supply you with. You can eat these in a variety of ways but they are especially tasty if sliced up and then baked in the oven for the perfect french fry swap.

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Blast calories and get fit with a pyramid interval workout

Interval training are great workouts to get faster, lose weight, and increase your fitness level faster than than doing a steady, sustained cardio effort. By incorporating bouts of higher intensities in your fitness training program you will not only gain strength but boost your metabolism which will in turn burn more calories. There are numerous ways to add intervals into your workout program and one such method is in what is called a pyramid workout.

In a pyramid workout each hard effort interval will increase in time or distance, like climbing up a ladder, and then you will work your way back down.
This is excellent at getting you working out at different paces; you will be able to go faster and harder for the shorter intervals and the longer ones will have you working more at a threshold pace that will improve your endurance. This way you will be tapping into both of your systems, aerobic as well as anaerobic for the shortest intervals.

An interval workout is a great way to get in an effective workout in a relatively short amount of time, and in as little as 30 minutes you can be well on your way to a faster, leaner, fitter you. Follow the guideline below and for the shorter intervals you will obviously be going faster and as the hard effort times increase you will adjust your pace accordingly. By the end of each hard effort you should feel like you are working at about an 8 or 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. The recovery should be just that, and don't worry if you are going slow; as long as you keep moving the goal is to allow you to rest before the next hard interval.

6 minute warm up
1 minute hard
1 minute recovery
2 minutes hard
2 minutes recovery
3 minutes hard
3 minutes recovery
2 minutes hard
2 minutes recovery
1 minute hard
1 minute recovery
30 seconds hard
5:30 minute cool down

In just 30 minutes you will have worked hard and blasted calories. For anyone looking to get in better shape or lose weight, doing interval workouts is one of the best way to achieve both!

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Strength Training: Two Different Approaches

When it comes to strength training, some people may think of maxing out on the bench press or curling dumbbells large enough to take out a small building. But that is not always the case; in fact for the majority of people looking to get in shape or lose weight that is not going to be the case. When it comes to lifting weights in the gym there are two different methods that will get you two different results.

There are those that are looking to bulk up and increase muscle mass;
these are more often than not men who are aiming to impress others with their ripping muscles and bulging biceps or athletes competing in such sports as football or others where size and power are essential. These exercisers will then be the ones focusing on all out power lifts, going for higher weights and less repetitions, and then taking a full rest to recover between sets. They will generally start out with a heavy weight load and a set of say 10 reps, then cut down on the number of reps while going up in weight so that by their last set they may only be doing 3 or 4 reps but the weight load is at their maximum effort. This is then going to give them the results and significant increase in size they are looking for; but for the many people looking to tone up this kind of training is not necessary.

Many athletes, long distance runners included, and fitness fanatics will hit the weight room to gain overall strength and increase muscle tone by opting for less weight load but more reps. This will give you a leaner look versus the buffed out and cut appeal. Workouts like these may only have you lifting say 5 or 10 pounds for bicep curls, which may not seem like all that much, but you will then be doing sets of 12 to 15 reps. By the last few you should be feeling the burn. Along with this approach it is often common to then limit the amount of recovery between exercises and do what is called circuit training. In circuit training you will combine exercises, say bicep curls and tricep dips, to be done one after the other for each set. By doing these strength moves back to back you will also keep your heart rate elevated and in turn be burning significantly more calories should you have instead done a full rest between each move.

Doing circuit training is a great way to boost your metabolism, increase muscle tone, blast fat, and get you overall stronger and leaner.
Women who are afraid of getting too bulky from lifting weights should not avoid the weight room because that is a myth and in fact you will be missing out on the many benefits of weight training; a faster metabolism among them. So if those Arnolds hefting those huge weights seem daunting, don't shy away from lifting your own weights; just stick to higher reps and less rest and you'll be torching calories and getting into your best possible shape!

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Running training program - Week 3

Way to go for all of you in the running training program who have made it through Week 2! I hope that you are feeling a bit stronger and less sore from your runs and that you are beginning to find that you are getting fitter. The first few weeks of starting any new fitness routine are generally the hardest as your body gets used to the effort. From Week 2 you should have started to get your turn over going faster with some pick up runs and for this next week we are going to still include those but add in a long run. It is best to only add in one new stimulus each week in order to keep you moving in the right direction and not wind up injured.

The goal of Week 3 is to get one of your runs at least 5 to 10 minutes longer than any of the runs you've done thus far. A long run is a great way to build your base strength and increase endurance. Further it will burn more calories and should you be looking to lose weight that is going to help you to do so. For this week you will still have two runs that are pick ups, one that is a long run, and the two other days will be those of either easy runs or cross training days. If you have only been doing three days of running up until this point, keep it as such for one more week. If you have been doing mixtures of fast walking and running or jogging keep trying to increase the amount of time running and less of walking and hopefully you will be jogging the entire time soon!

Monday: Day of rest or light weights
Tuesday: Pick up run for 25-45 minutes with 3 to 6 strides
Wednesday: Easy run or cross train for 25-45 minutes
Thursday: Easy run or cross train for 25-45 minutes
Friday: Pick up run for 25-45 minutes with 3 to 6 strides
Saturday: Day of rest or light weights
Sunday: Long run for 30-55 minutes

Make sure you're doing a good warm-up and easing into your paces and finish each run feeling strong. Come back for more tips and of course the next week of training!

Week 4

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Improve endurance and fitness with long runs

The long run, or similarly times of longer cardio exercise, are a great ways to improve your endurance, increase fitness levels, and also lose weight. The basis of a longer run is to go for a time that is more than any of your other runs during the week. If you are just starting to add these into your workout routine they may only be a few extra minutes or miles longer, but you will then gradually build from there. The pace or effort of these runs will be about the same as your easy runs, even a bit slower if need be so you can finish the additional time, and on a scale of 1 to 10 you should feel like you are working at a 7.

As you progress in fitness and in the running training program you can then begin to incorporate faster paces, and even pick ups into your long runs to give them specific training and workout purposes. Prolonged cardio exertion is going to set a solid base fitness level and will even translate into better speed and performance times as your body gains strength. What's more is if you should be looking to lose weight, extending the amount of time you are running or working out will burn more calories and is going to make dropping those pounds come quicker.

When you are deciding the time or distance of your long run, you want to start out with only slightly more than that of your current easy runs. This is to make sure you aren't setting yourself up for an injury by adding too much too soon. Start out by designating your long run day to be about 5 to 10 minutes longer than the most you've done up until to this point, and then add about that same amount of time each week. By slowly building up the amount of time you are working out, not only will the time seem more manageable (don't underestimate the mind trying to psyche you out!) but you will be more prepared to handle the distance and feel much better both during and after. Finally, the best way to end a long run and then set yourself up for a better workout next time is to start the recovery process early by both refueling and rehydrating. It is critical to drink liquids that contain electrolytes and eat something that is a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates within the first 30 minutes of ending any of your workouts. This is especially true after a longer one when your glycogen levels and muscles are most depleted.

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Running training program - Week 2

Congratulations for making it into Week 2 of your running training program! Hopefully you are enjoying the time during Week 1 spent logging those miles and aren't too sore. Some soreness is to be expected if you haven't been running regularly, but they will subside as you get in better shape and keep up your consistency. For this second week the goal is to begin implementing bouts of faster running into your regular runs. This will get your turn over and feet moving faster, tapping into your fast twitch muscle fibers, and setting you up for workouts in the future. The aim is to then have two runs in which you will be adding strides into what is known as a pick up run. Depending on how long you are going and how much you've been working out up until this point you will then choose the appropriate amount of strides per run; stick with the lower numbers for shorter runs. Make sure each pick up is faster than you normally are going but that you are still able to maintain your proper form.

Monday: Easy run 25-45 minutes
Tuesday: Day of rest or light weights
Wednesday: Pick up run for 25-45 minutes with 3-6 strides
Thursday: Easy run or cross training for 25-45 minutes
Friday: Day of rest of light weights
Saturday: Easy run or cross training for 25-45 minutes
Sunday: Pick up run for 25-45 minutes with 3-6 strides

Add these workouts to your training log and be sure to come back next week for Week 3!

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Introducing faster paces with pick up runs

If you are just starting out with a new running training program, looking to lose weight and get in better shape, the key is consistency and also patience. Consistency because it takes time to build a base of cardio fitness and if you aren't putting in time on a consistent basis your body will never be able to adapt and improve. Should you run sporadically one day, skip a week, then go for a single run again before skipping another few weeks, each time you go out you will be left feeling sore and achy. This will not only make running much less enjoyable but you won't be able to increase muscle strength or your oxygen capacity to allow you to go further and faster.

So along with sticking to your regular running routine you also need to be patient because you will be sore for the beginning and improvements will come as long as you stick with it and wait it out. That being said you shouldn't' be too overzealous and eager to get fit all at once. This will set you up for injury and then you'll be left taking time off and then having to start over all again. Once you have been doing some consistent running in your target heart rate zone you can then begin implementing bouts of pick ups or strides into your regular runs.

A regular run, or easy run, is one in which you hold a conversational pace throughout; it should be about an effort level of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. The goal of the easy run is to increase endurance and recovery if it is the day after a harder workout. To begin improving your fitness and get faster you have to train faster, but before you go out and do a bunch of intervals or harder workouts you can begin introducing bouts of increased pace into your easy runs.

For instance if you were going out for a 30 minute run you could incorporate say between four and six strides in which you would gradually work into a pace that is just below a maximum effort for anywhere between 20 and 45 seconds before gradually slowing back down back into your previous pace. You would then recover until your breathing isn't too labored and then you could do the next stride. The goal is to get your legs used to going faster and tapping into the fast-twitch muscle fibers. When you are doing each stride you want to focus on running smooth, keeping your upper body relaxed, and maintaining your form.

For the second week of your running training program you will be including a few pick ups or strides into your easy runs. You will allow yourself a warm-up of at least five minutes before the first stride and then adequate recovery time before the next. Make sure you end your run with a short cool-down as well. Should you not be at the point of running the entire time yet, then make your strides during the running portions and try to go faster than you would for the regular easier runs. Strides will get you on the path to a fitter you, and the faster pace will boost your metabolism and get you burning calories. But most importantly they will be setting the stage for more intense workouts in the future.

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Warm-up to improve workouts and fitness level

You could be sabotaging your workout right from the start if you skip a warm-up. All too often you will see people who jump right into their cardio activity at full speed right away and then find they are unable to maintain that pace for long enough to get in an effective workout. A common misconception is that if you go for as hard as you can right away for as long as you can you will get the most out of your cardio; you will feel exhausted and spent so that means you worked hard, right?

While you probably did work hard and are panting, you may have only worked out for a very short amount of time. Most likely you tapped into your anaerobic system instead of your aerobic system which is not the one you were intending to stress to improve cardio fitness. Say you put the treadmill on as fast as you could run without being sent flying off of the back end, you most likely were not able to stay on more than a few minutes, if that. Instead if you were to gradually work up to that pace you not only would have been able to run longer, but you would have felt much better by the time you reached an all out sprint and then would have been able to maintain that pace longer and with better form.

Even the fastest runners in the world won't set to the track for a race without warming up before hand. Your muscles need time to get limber and your body needs an acclimation period to get into the right motions. This means that by gradually working into the pace that you are running at, or workout out at for any cardio activity, you will reap more rewards from each outing and improve your fitness far better than doing a few all-out minutes off of cold muscles. Physiologically you will be more efficient at using the glycogen out of your muscles and you will actually be able to go faster and for longer after a proper warm-up. Finally you are more apt to getting injured if you go into a hard workout without warming-up first because your muscles are not loose or limber.

So if you are looking to improve the effectiveness of your workouts and feel far better both during and after them you will do well to warm-up and gradually work into the pace you plan on sustaining.

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Running training program - Week 1

Welcome to the New Year and if that includes a new you with running dreams, weight loss goals, and looking in improve your cardiovascular fitness you can start out on a running training program here. Each week you will find a detailed workout plan that will get you from couch potato to fitness freak! To get in shape the key is consistency, keeping it fun, and building up slowly so that you avoid getting injured or burnt out.

This running training program can be followed by both those who are already in decent shape and looking to get faster with a goal for a personal best racing time, for those that have never run a step in their lives, and everyone else in between. For this reason there will be a range of how long you should be running each day and if you are just starting out you will want to stay on the more conservative amount of miles or minutes run. As you progress you will go up in miles, and for those that have been running you can choose to run the higher recommended miles or minutes. Be in tune with your body and how you are feeling; if you are overly sore or feel like you pulled or tweaked something back off and take it easy. Fitness is a life long journey so don't feel like you need to do it all at once.

For this first week the aim is to increase the amount of cardio that you are doing and implementing running up to five times. New runners will run only three times this week and the rest of the days will be cross training cardio exercise such as going on the elliptical machine or aqua jogging in the pool. These are great ways to stay in shape as they will get your heart rate elevated and mimic the running motion but are easier on your joints. Running too much all at once will put you at risk for an injury, so that is why you will want to cross train for the other days. Each time out you will run or workout at a comfortable pace; one that you can hold a conversation at between breaths. If you have a heart rate monitor you should aim to keep your heart rate between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. On an effort scale of one to ten it should feel like a seven.

If you aren't able to do the full amount of time running yet that is okay; everyone is starting at their own place and will be running at their own pace. Start by doing a brisk walk for five minutes to warm up and then alternate between spurts of running and walking.
If you can only run for one minute at a time before walking again, that is okay; just try to make the total workout time and then as you progress you will increase the amount of time running and decrease the amount of time walking. Before you know it you won't be walking at all!

Monday: 20-40 minutes of easy running
Tuesday: day of rest or lifting light weights
Wednesday: 20-40 minutes of easy running or cross training
Thursday: 20-40 minutes of easy running
Friday: day of rest of lifting light weights
Saturday: 20-40 minutes of easy running
Sunday: 20-40 minutes of easy running or cross training

Finally you will want to keep track of your workouts in a training log. Here you will write down how many minutes you ran or worked out for, and if you have an idea as to how many miles that was you can write that down as well. In the weeks ahead you will be adding in specific weight routines and strength exercises that you will track in your training log as well, but until then you can either do what you have already been doing or rest. You should try to make a note as to how you felt that day, if you were sore from the last run or workout, and then if you are be sure to ease into your next run. This will get you through the first week of training and be sure to keep checking back for both tips and updates as well as the next week of training!

Week 2

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Finding the right athletic shoes for your foot type

If you are working out in the wrong pair of athletic shoes you are setting yourself up for an injury. Running in Converse may make a fashion statement but in terms of the amount of support your foot will be getting it is practically nil. A common mistake for either new or uninformed exercisers is that they overlook their footwear. Especially in weight bearing and repetitive movements such as with running, stair climbing, power walking, or aerobics where you will be putting continued stress on your feet you need both proper support and adequate cushioning.

There are three main kinds of foot types and you will want to figure out which category you fall under and then seek out an athletic shoe that will fit your needs. These categories are: overpronators, supinators, and neutral foot types.
Those that overpronate have an arch that collapses or rolls inward for each footstep. Those that supinate are the opposite in that their feet roll outwardly each time they plant. Finally a neutral foot type is what is to be considered the 'perfect' foot in that when you step your arches neither collapse or bow outwardly. This is hard to diagnose yourself and is easier for someone looking at you walk to determine. Yet you can do a simple test yourself by getting your foot wet and then making a foot print on say a dry patch of pavement. An overpronator's foot will have the most area of dark 'water print' and you will see that over the area where your foot's arch is. Those that supinate will see only a small area of water mark around the arch area and probably only a sliver on the outside of the foot area. A neutral foot will be in the middle of these and while you will see a definite water mark on the outside of the foot area you won't see too much where the arch is.

Once you have discovered your own foot type you will then want to find the correct athletic shoe to wear when you are working out and exercising. If you overpronate you will need a shoe that will give you enough support as your arch rolls in as you step. Shoes like these are called 'stability shoes' and they are the ones that will have a darker, more rigid material on the sole directly below the arch. Supinators are known to have rigid bone structure in their feet and without enough cushioning in their workout shoes they are likely to get stress fractures or injuries there. You then want an athletic shoes that boasts a high level of cushioning and you will find that the soles of these shoes are generally all or mostly white and when you press the material it feels spongy and soft. For those lucky enough to have neutral feet you can get away with almost any shoe and be fine, but be cautious of shoes that are overly supportive and rigid designated for those who are drastic overpronators. Instead you will want shoes that are mostly cushioned and that feels comfortable when you walk and not too hard.

Especially if you are going to be increasing the amount of time you are working out in the gym or the number of miles you will be running you need to make sure that your athletic shoes are that of a high quality. You will also want to make sure you replace them every few months as they begin to break down and look worn out. This will help you stay injury free and on the path of your fitness and weight loss goals!

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