Health and Wellness

How to catch the running bug

Running is discomfort.

We runners might make the process look easy by confidently slipping on our shoes and hitting the road at a stride that makes us appear to be gazelles gracefully prancing across the Sub-Saharan plains, or, should we be blessed, like a cheetah, carving through the air like a knife with both elegance and speed. But every runner will also tell you that some days our insides curdle, our lungs scream for oxygen, our bones ache with each heel strike on pavement. Simply put, running is discomfort. Runners just have the self-discipline to endure it. Or, sometimes, they have the self-discipline even to welcome it.

The runner’s imperative is to build strength and endurance over a sustained period of time. By compartmentalizing your run into smart, attainable daily goals, you will eventually possess the ability to run for miles and miles, so start small. Ten minutes of medium-intensity running —where you should be able to hold a conversation with the person next to you without losing your breath — serves as the foundation for your running abilities. Too easy? Up the dosage to fifteen minutes, and keep up the good work for seven to ten days with no more than 24 to 48 hours of rest.

Every runner will also tell you that some days our insides curdle, our lungs scream for oxygen, our bones ache with each heel strike on pavement. Simply put, running is discomfort.

— Maggie Dugan

The human body begins to acclimate to a new workout regimen after two weeks, according to the American Council on Exercise. This means that your body becomes used to the work you do and the energy you expend. After about a month of the same regimen each day, the body’s ability to improve inhibits. One of the easiest ways to counteract this problem is by adding minutes to your run each week. For example, week one: run ten minutes; week two: fifteen minutes; week three or four: half an hour.

Running in its most fundamental form is a discipline of breathing and controlled energy expenditure. By running each or every other day, even for as little as ten minutes, the blood flow throughout the entire circulatory system increases, opening the capillaries for more efficient flow. ACE says that, due to the increase in blood flow, the amount of oxygen required by the circulatory system to bind to the hemoglobin in the blood also proportionally increases. This bodily reaction causes one’s heart rate to increase because the heart and the lungs have to work harder to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body at an accelerated yet proportional rate.

The body does have limits as to how hard it can work before it reaches its VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen consumption, and can be measured by heart rate. An average medium to vigorous intensity workout falls within 60 to 80 percent of the total maximum heart rate, says ACE, where the average college student’s heart rate should not surpass 210 beats per minute. Determining personal maximum heart rate is simple. Using the Tanaka, Monahan and Seals Formula, multiply your age by 0.7, then subtract from 208. The result will be the hardest the heart can work on limited oxygen. By monitoring heart rate along with gradually increasing the amount of cardio, one can discipline themselves to welcome the discomfort that comes with a run of any length.

Over time, the body will become accustomed to the duration of a run, wherein one can begin to do workouts specific to the betterment of heart rate.  Interval workouts are defined by ACE as “a system of organizing cardiorespiratory training which calls for repeated bouts of short duration, high-intensity exercise intervals intermingled with periods of lower intensity intervals of active recovery.”

Peter McCall, a contributor to the ACE database, said a higher intensity running workout with built-in recovery trains the body “to become efficient at producing and using energy from the anaerobic energy system” as well as “effectively [remove] metabolic waste from the muscles between the work intervals.” A basic example of such a workout would be running 400 meters at a fast pace, then subsequently walking or jogging 400 more meters, ultimately repeating the pattern six to eight times. Taking one’s pulse between intervals is optional. ACE recommends no more than two days of high-intensity workouts per week with at least 24 hours of rest between sessions.

Running is patience. Running is persistence. But most of all, running is discomfort. Building not only stamina and endurance, but also the patience to endure will help you in the long run. Embracing the ability to persist — therein lies the true workout. So slip on your shoes and welcome the discomfort.