Most of us could benefit from getting more exercise and, with the new year just beginning, this is a perfect time to get started. You can meet minimum health recommendations 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 or more vigorous exercise sessions 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 local 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.
Now is a great time to start training for your first race. The weather is an incentive to be active outdoors because it’s not too hot to be enjoyable. There are several events in our community in the upcoming 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.
One example is our area is the Run United event on April 30, 2022, which consists of a 5K (5 kilometers or 3.1 miles), 10K (10 kilometers or 6.2 miles), and a half marathon (13.1 miles). Almost everyone can participate in one of these events with some preparation, so it is a perfect event for the whole family.
If you are starting to walk for exercise, completing a 5K walk is a good goal. 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 or 10K 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 at least 30 minutes for a 5K or 60 minutes for a 10K consecutively. If running three or six miles is too much, you can always complete those races by alternating walking and running. Completing the half marathon will require more dedicated training, building up to running (or a run/walk combination) for over two hours. 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 10K or half marathon.
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. 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!