Running

Friday, February 04, 2005

Q: How can I get a good 30-minute workout?

If you're only willing to set aside 30 minutes a day to do something to improve your fitness, what should you do?

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A: Run. You won't be mistaken for Forrest Gump with 30 minutes a day, but you can drop a bunch of weight and gain a load of fitness by strapping on some running shoes.

Running has some significant advantages for time-crunched people. The small amount of necessary equipment makes it quick and easy to get ready and although cycling and swimming are great exercises, one requires finding a place to store a bicycle, and the other requires traveling to and from a pool. These can be wastes of valuable time, and you may be able to squeeze another 15-20 minutes of workout time into you schedule when all you need to worry about are shoes, shorts, and a top.

With 30 minutes to run, there are multiple ways to challenge yourself and target= different fitness areas. Work on aerobic strength by running nonstop at a challenging pace. To determine the intensity for these runs, first do a test and run with a heart rate monitor as far as you can in eight minutes. On these shorter endurance runs, you should maintain an intensity of 75-97 percent of the average heart rate from the test. As you gain fitness, the pace you hold at this intensity will increase. You can build strength by doing repeated bounding efforts up short, steep hills, and you can do a variety of intervals, including strides for foot speed and TempoRun (98-102 percent of test avg. HR) for increasing threshold pace. The variety of workouts you can incorporate into 30 minutes of running allows you to strengthen your energy systems, build lean muscle, and drop weight.

Efficiency is a big part of the reason running is a good way for time-crunched people to manage body weight. Since you're supporting your body weight, and moving it forward without the assistance of a machine or the buoyancy of water, you use more muscle in your body, and hence you burn more energy per minute than during many other exercises. As an added bonus, novice runners are even more efficient, meaning it takes less time to get to the point where your run is challenging your aerobic engine and burning enough calories to melt weight off your body.

Running for 30 minutes doesn't always need to mean making the loop to the top of the park and back (it probably shouldn't be the loop to the donut shop and back either). Thirty minutes of soccer or basketball provide many of the same benefits, and are a good way to incorporate variety and fun into training.

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