February 01, 2013

From Healthy Living News

The Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon is less than three months away. For many area runners and would-be participants, their New Year’s resolution likely included the desire to begin training to participate in one of the events.

Experienced runners generally know what kind of training plan they need to follow to be fully prepared to complete the 26.2 mile circuit or the 5K, marathon relay or half-marathon events that also are offered.

But what about the person who has not been exercising or is a running novice with little or no experience? You may want to consider just starting a regular exercise routine before embarking on a running program. Medical Mutual’s Health Promotion and Wellness experts recommend that you decide at what level you want to participate and then map out a plan to reach your goal.

Here are some suggestions that can help you begin improving your level of fitness.

Starting an Exercise Program

“The toughest step in an exercise program is getting started, but it’s also the most important,” said Connie Beutel, Manager of Health Promotion and Wellness for Medical Mutual. “People often think they need to tackle a strenuous program right away to prove they are committed, but in reality, slow and steady is the best way to begin.”

You need a workable realistic plan to change your lifestyle from sedentary to physically active.
Begin by checking with you doctor to ensure that you can safely exercise without restrictions. Once you have the “okay”, surround yourself with supportive people and role models. Having a support system is crucial in starting a workout program.

Beutel offers some simple steps to help you begin your journey:

Think F.I.T.T.

To make physical improvements, you need to work your body harder than usual. This is referred to as the overload principle. As your body becomes more conditioned, you need to increase the frequency, intensity or time of your workouts in order to continue improving your fitness level.

  • Frequency: How often you exercise. For beginners, consider starting with 2-3 sessions per week.
  • Intensity: How hard you exercise. For example, the pace you walk or run the amount of weight you lift, or your heart rate count.
  • Time: How long you perform an activity. "Time" can also refer to the number of sets or repetitions you perform in weight training.
  • Type: What kind of activity you’re doing. Examples of cardio include running, walking, dancing, sports, etc. For strength training, include some type of resistance (bands, dumbbells, machines, etc.).

Exercise Component 1: Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise increases the health and function of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. For maximum effectiveness, aerobic exercise needs to be rhythmic, continuous and involve the large muscle groups (primarily located in the lower part of your body.) Walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic classes and stair climbing are examples of activities that use large muscle groups. Activities combining upper and lower body movements such as cross-country skiing, rowing and swimming can lead to even higher levels of aerobic capacity.

Exercise Component 2: Strength Training

Strength training is the process of exercising with progressively increasing resistance to build or retain muscle. Unless you perform regular strength exercises, you will lose up to one-half pound of muscle every year of life after age 25. Muscle is a very active tissue with high energy requirements, even when you are sleeping your muscles are responsible for over 25% of your calorie use. An increase in muscle tissue causes a corresponding increase in the number of calories your body will burn, even at rest.

Exercise Component 3: Flexibility

Flexibility is a critical element of an exercise program but it is often overlooked. Stretching is important for a number of reasons including; increasing physical performance, decreasing risk of injury, increasing blood supply and nutrients to the joints, increasing neuromuscular coordination, reducing soreness, improving balance, decreasing risk of low back pain and reducing stress in muscles.

Determining Your Starting Point

To achieve cardiovascular benefits, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends exercising three to five times per week with a training heart rate of 60-85 percent of your maximum heart rate for 20-60 minutes in duration.

To attain the benefits of muscular fitness, the ACSM recommends weight training two to three days per week, performing one to three sets of 10-15 repetitions of eight to ten different exercises each day.

If you're just beginning an exercise program, start in the low range of the above recommendations. For example, participate in a cardiovascular activity (walking, aerobics, cycling, etc.) for 20 minutes, three times a week and add strength training exercises to your workout, twice a week. Schedule your strength training workouts with 48 hours rest in between to allow your muscles to recuperate and repair after each workout.

Begin Slowly and Gradually Build

If you attempt "too much, too soon" it will lead to soreness, fatigue and/or injuries. Work at your own pace, start slow and gradually increase duration and level of difficulty as your body progresses.

Getting fit is not an overnight proposition, it's a lifestyle commitment. Don't expect immediate dramatic changes in your body shape or weight loss. Although changes are happening internally, most external benefits won't become visible for the first four to six weeks. Keep your focus and celebrate the internal benefits you're experiencing such as increased energy, less stress and anxiety, higher self-esteem and an increased feeling of well-being.

Making the personal decision to begin exercise is the first step. Committing to make it a priority in your life is the next! Email Marathon@MedMutual.com for more information about starting and maintaining an exercise program or how to find training recommendations for any of the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon events.