Tag Archives: running

Off to the races! How to get started training for a 5k run or walk.

Most of us could benefit from getting more exercise and, with the warmer spring weather, this is a perfect time to get started. You can meet minimum health and fitness goals with a 30-minute brisk walk five days per week. You can get even greater fitness benefits by exercising for longer or by doing more vigorous activity, like running. A good goal is to be active every day for at least 30 minutes and include longer exercise sessions or more vigorous exercise when possible.

Many people are motivated by having a goal to begin or add to an exercise program. You may find that training for an event is more rewarding than exercising for the sake of being active. An excellent goal is to prepare to walk or run in a race. Don’t let the word “race” scare you. Most people who enter these events have the goal of finishing, not winning. That should be your goal, too.

Getting started training for a 5k run or walk is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

running feet


Now is a great time to start training for your first race. The warm weather is an incentive to be active outdoors, and it’s not too hot to be enjoyable. In addition, there are several events in our community in the upcoming weeks and months that are excellent opportunities for first-timers and more seasoned racers. Many events are linked to charities, so they are also good ways to raise money for a good cause.

If you are starting to walk for exercise, completing a 5K (5 kilometers or 3.1 miles) walk is a good goal. If you don’t currently exercise, start with a target of 20 minutes of walking per day. You can split this up into 10 minute segments, if necessary. After you are comfortable walking 20 minutes at a time, increase to 30 minutes per day. Continue increasing your walking time until you are up to 45-60 minutes per day, about how long it takes most people to walk three miles. If you already do some walking, gradually build up to this goal.

Maybe you already walk and are interested in trying running. Preparing for a 5K run is great motivation. Start by adding some jogging into your walking routine. Try alternating 5 minutes of jogging with 10 minutes of walking. Once you are comfortable with that, try 5 minutes of jogging for every 5 minutes of walking. Increase the duration of the running intervals over time, until you can run for 30–40 minutes consecutively. If running 3 miles is too much, you can always complete a 5K by alternating walking and running.

To reduce the risk of injury you should progress slowly, whether you are walking or running. This is particularly important if you are building up to a longer event, like a half marathon or marathon. Obviously, training to walk or run 13.1 or 26.2 miles requires a good deal of time and motivation. Keep in mind that most people who complete their first half or full marathon started with a much shorter event.

Even if you don’t plan to participate in one of these events, the opportunity to get outdoors for a walk or run on a nice day is reason enough to be active. Exercising outdoors has benefits beyond the improvements in fitness or weight loss you would expect. Walking or running in a natural environment can give you a better workout and make you feel healthier and more energized.

Use this as an opportunity to get your friends and family moving with you. Kids can ride their bike while you walk or run and you can push younger children in a stroller. Older children may want to walk or run with you, and don’t forget to bring your dog!


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The Elite Runner: A glimpse at a day in the life of an Olympic runner, in a way.

With the Olympics starting this week I have been thinking about elite athletes and the training that goes into their remarkable performances.

So I was intrigued to see this interesting short film, by an Olympic runner, about Olympic runners. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it does provide a glimpse into a day in the life of an elite runner.

Check it out here: The Elite Runner


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Sports Science in the News: The 2-hour marathon

There was a great article in the New York Times recently about a sports scientist who is on a quest to train a runner to complete a marathon in under two hours. Even though the world record right now is just under 2 hours and 3 minutes, a sub two-hour marathon is a bit like the four-minute mile once was—many people think it is impossible (or at least not likely to happen anytime soon). What I appreciated about the article was the way it explained some key concepts in exercise physiology. Since I am preparing to teach my summer Exercise Physiology course in June, I thought this was particularly relevant and worth sharing in my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Marathon feet


First, let’s put a two-hour marathon in perspective. To do it would require sustaining a running speed of over 13 miles per hour for two hours! Most runners I know would be hard pressed to complete the 285 yards at that pace…forget about the 26 miles that come first. It is also more than twice as fast as the average marathon time of over 4 hours. If you are brave you can see how fast this is yourself by getting on a treadmill and cranking the speed up to 13 miles per hour. Hang on, though, because you won’t last long!

The article mentions the training method known as “live high, train low.” This technique involves athletes spending time at high elevations but doing much of their training at sea level. This works because the key to endurance performances like a marathon is getting as much oxygen as possible to the muscles to use to produce energy. Living at high altitude causes the body to produce more red blood cells, increasing oxygen delivery to the muscles. But because there is less oxygen in the air at altitude, athletes can’t train as hard, which may offset the gains in red blood cells. Because of the lower training intensity, which is essentially doing less work, some athletes realize little benefit from this technique. So, a perfect solution is to live (or spend lots of time) high, but train low to maximize the benefits of both altitude and intense training.

The article also mentions another interesting phenomenon related to oxygen delivery to the muscle. As the heart pumps blood to the muscles it also sends blood returning from the muscles to the lungs to pick up oxygen from the air we breathe. As the red blood cells pass by the air sacs of the lungs (the alveoli), oxygen molecules bind so that the blood is fully saturated with oxygen before it is pumped back to the muscles. But the harder the heart beats during exercise the faster the blood flows. In some elite athletes, the blood flows so fast that the red blood cells don’t have enough time to pick up enough oxygen. This can reduce oxygen delivery to the muscles and impair performance in these athletes. (Fortunately, it isn’t a problem for the rest of us)

Admittedly, I am a bit of a physiology geek, so this is fascinating to me. If you are curious about exercise physiology and sports performance, check out the New York Times article from May 11—it’s a sneak peek into the world of sports science. The article also touches on nutrition, especially carbohydrates, biomechanics, temperature regulation, and training as important factors in reducing marathon times. All of these are topics that I cover in my Exercise Physiology course, too. And in case any of my students are reading this—yes, it will be on the exam!


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr