Walk Before You Run

Featured Article, Fitness, News and Advice
on February 11, 2011

Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

QUESTION: A few years ago, I did a few short triathlons and ran a couple of half marathons. But over the last two years, I completely let myself go and now I’m about 50 lbs. overweight. Do you have any recommendations on how to start running again? I don’t want to get hurt, but I want to start running daily to burn calories and start feeling like myself again. —Becky
DEAR BECKY: This may be hard to swallow for a former triathlete and half-marathoner, but I suggest starting doing a walk/run program before jumping into daily running. Not only have your muscles been hibernating for a couple of years, but you’re now asking them to lug a heavier load. That combination could set you up for injury—shin splints, stress fractures, etc. I’m a big fan of running coach Jeff Galloway’s method of training. He’s been responsible for getting thousands of couch potatoes running 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and marathons. The linchpin of his program are the “walk breaks” he includes during training runs until you’ve built up enough strength and endurance to run the distance completely. For instance, you may run three minutes/walk 1 minute, for a total of 30 minutes one day. His site, JeffGalloway.com, features training programs for several distances. Galloway suggests taking at least one rest day during the week, but on your off days, you could do light stationary cycling, swimming, yoga, Pilates—any exercise that is low- or no-impact. Since you’ve raced in the past, you may want to sign up for a 10K or half marathon several months from now so you’ll have a goal to work toward. Take it slow and good luck!