While individual results may vary I have found that adding running to my existing training regimen has done a great deal for my heart health. To put this into perspective I am a 40 year old male 5’6″ tall weighing around 210 pounds with a blood pressure of 120/70. Back in December I was hovering around 260 pounds with a blood pressure around 199/90. At that time I felt awful all the time and absolutely everything felt like an effort. As I detailed in Diet and Fitness — A Simple Start I started eating according to a ketogenic diet and exercising 6 days a week. That blood pressure I am at now is due entirely to this regimen and does not include any medication whatsoever. Fairly easily I lost the first 35 pounds before I started the running regimen.
There were a few personal reasons I wanted to add running to my routine despite hating it. The first reason is that the entirety of my social group does it. I’ve gone on runs with them before and was embarassed by running so far behind. Whether or not they cared that they had to wait 30 minutes at the end of a run for me I most certainly cared. The second reason was that I just was not good at it. While it’s easy for us to say “Practice makes perfect,” it is harder still to actually put that philosophy into effect. Thus we typically go about our lives avoiding activities we aren’t immediately good at. The problem with this, in regards to running, is that we were born to run. When I think of all the survival reasons for running I realize that in an impending zombie apocalypse I would be a dead man.
The running program I chose to follow is the popular “Couch to 5k” program. While I had some really great advice from friends on how to practice running I felt that I needed a very specific plan with well plotted benchmark points. I’m certain a lot of people out there feel the same way as I do when given advice by their friends. Fortunately this program also has an app that I can use as well which helps automate keeping track of running and walking times. The entire program lasts 9 weeks and can be extended to 10k, 13.1, and 26.2 programs.
Before I first started I wanted to gauge where I was at and took to the track at the local YMCA. I ran 5 laps before I had to stop because my calves were burning so bad. That was only 500 meters and after having been using the elliptical for 12 weeks for cardio during my weight loss. It’s an embarassingly short distance to burn out at. Thus I started the program. It was intimidating the first time I had to run a full five minutes straight, but I did it. I was even more intimidated when it said I had to run 8 minutes straight the following week. I conquered that. Eventually I would have to run 10, 12, and then 20 minutes straight. I conquered them all even if I did it slowly. Last Friday I had an unscheduled run and thus didn’t have the app up. I just ran laps around Avalon behind my closest friend who was running for an hour. I came in somewhere about halfway in and ran the whole time. When asked for how long I ran he said it was 35 minutes. This was 35 minutes in street clothes, barefoot, and on a week when I was only scheduled to do a 25 minute run. This was such a huge point of pride and accomplishment for myself.
Doing something easy like the elliptical may burn calories, but eventually the move is mastered and you don’t get the same benefit out of it as you used to. Running has added a level of rewards along the way that I feel doesn’t come from using a machine like the elliptical. I don’t mean to downplay the elliptical as I definitely feel that anyone over 50 pounds overweight (I was 75 pounds over) should get their cardio in doing something that is low impact before resorting to running. I do feel, however, that once you’ve reached a certain point it is almost a necessity to add running to your program. When you do you will feel that you move better, your heart is stronger, you feel more invigorated and alive, and you have conquered something you never thought possible with only a few weeks of work. I may have to start doing some 5K races now!