I started ‘running’ about three years ago but during the last 18 months I’ve changed how I do it, focusing on intensity rather than distance. This has made it a million times more enjoyable (although I couldn’t have enjoyed it any less), and has had a real impact on the results I’ve been getting.
I wish someone had told me how amazing running is for lifting your bum and defining your thighs, because if I’d known that I’d have started long before actually I did. And it’s great for burning calories, so if you’re doing weights and toning exercise as well you’ll really see results.
I also wish I’d got some good advice about how to run to maximise results and minimise injury. But I didn’t – so I’m offering some to you now, and hope it inspires you to incorporate running into your fitness regime, or perhaps gives you some ideas for modifying your current runs. It’s soooooo worth it.
Let’s be clear, I’m not ‘a runner’ and am not aiming to be. Running, once or twice a week, is now just one of the bits of my exercise routine that complements my Jillian Michaels circuits and weights, but it has really helped me improve my body tone and shape. In a nutshell, I started running from scratch, with no advice, but looked at the Running Bug and Runners’ World for some tips and inspiration. I’d already realised road running was most definitely not for me (I couldn’t deal with exercising so publicly and having to dodge wonky bits of footpath, cars, pushchairs and people while carrying a bottle of water which sloshed around off-puttingly, and finding after 10 minutes I was wearing far too many clothes), so had invested in a treadmill.
Everything I read seemed to be geared towards improving the distance you could run so, not knowing any differently, I plodded away each session trying to run further than I’d run before. Cue: one weak and painful knee and a temporary halt to my foray into this running lark.
Fast forward to discovering high intensity interval training (HIIT). I think I stumbled across this reading an article online about how to maximise the amount of calories burned during (and after) a running session, and it’s no exaggeration to say it’s revolutionised my approach to the treadmill, my enjoyment of it and what I’ve got out of it. It’s also enabled me to run regularly and burn calories, without sabotaging my knee. It’s simple: alternate between bursts of exertion (getting your heart rate up) and moderate exertion (bringing it back down) ie sprint and walk throughout your session. This has more effect than just jogging at one pace with a steady heart rate, and your body continues to burn more calories after your session than that mono-pace jog will. Kerrrr-ching!
If you’re interested in what this looks like for me, I have detailed a longer session below. Remember, I consider myself pretty average or below in terms of athleticism but if you haven’t run since your school PE lessons, work your way up to this and don’t be disappointed if you can’t manage it at the outset – everything you do is helping your physique and your stamina will improve. If you run already, you may find this a bit too easy. Like everything on my blog, this is what works for me but I hope you use the information to tweak it to suit you. Here’s an example of a HIIT run of around 50 mins I warm up with a brisk walk at 4.3 mph for five minutes. Then I alternate between running for one minute, walking for a minute, running for a minute and so on. I generally start my run at 6.5 mph, moving up .1mph every time I do the minute of running, keeping the minute walk at 4.3mph. By the time I reach a speed of 7.5mph (which takes 20 minutes) I’m usually feeling quite exerted and I’ll have another five minutes of walking to bring my heart rate back down. Then I’ll start back on the intervals from 7mph. By this point I’ve been on the treadmill for about half an hour and will play around with my speed and timings depending on how much time I have available for my session (if it’s in the week after a full day at work I tend to just do 30-40 mins, whereas I prefer to do around 45 mins to an hour at a weekend), and how I’m feeling on the day. It’s amazing how some days you feel as though you could do a half-marathon and other days you’ve got lead legs and just want to get off the damned thing!
At this stage I’m getting towards the end of my session so I’ll often increase the running intervals to 90 seconds, and still walk for 60 seconds, again incrementally increasing my running speed at each interval. But you can play around with timings and speeds here and either push yourself, or take it steady – it does help to make it more interesting and gives you a bit of a personal challenge. Once I’m up to the high sevens and 8mph I’m really sprinting and can feel my glutes working hard. By 8mph I’m about at my limit, so will sprint until I’ve got nothing left. Then it’s back to 4.3 for a few minutes and a gradual decrease in pace over five or ten minutes to really cool down and prevent muscle strain or injury. By the time I’m done I’ve usually covered somewhere between four and a half to five miles, and although it’s about the time spent with your heart rate yo-yo-ing, rather than distance, it does give you an indication of how hard you’ve been working. The beauty of doing this indoors on a treadmill (apart from not scaring people with my beetroot cheeks, and being able to run with no t-shirt on) is how you can control your distance and timings and pitch yourself against…er, yourself, each time you exercise. But if you do run outdoors, do the same route and use lamp posts or other features as your markers, and you can then still compare how you do each time.
And start off small, building up time, distance and intensity. I can remember my euphoria the first time I clocked up one mile, and when my optimum running speed was 5mph. The last thing this is is a race – it’s about a long-term approach to your fitness, health and physique.
I can’t stress enough how much this routine has benefitted me. Where regular ‘jogging’ was boring and didn’t change my body – not to mention the knee strain I got – the HIIT incorporated into my running sessions now has toned my thighs, lifted my butt cheeks, and had no detrimental effect on my knees. And let’s be quite clear…when you pop on a pair of heels and know your legs look great, it’s SO worth all the effort! I hope you’re inspired to give it a try BUT if you do, please make sure your boobs and feet are well equipped – see my posts on Wearing the right bra, and Getting the right trainers
Tried this – how did you get on? Does running work for you? What do you do and what results have you got? What inspired you to start?