There’s a scene in the 2004 movie Anchorman where our hero, dimwitted-but-loveable 1970s newsman Ron Burgundy (played by Will Ferrell), explains to his colleagues that he won’t be able to attend this week’s “team pancake breakfast.”
“I won’t be able to make it, fellas. Veronica and I are trying this new fad called ‘jogging.’ I believe it’s ‘jogging’, or ‘yogging.’ It might be a soft J, I’m not sure. But apparently you just run for an extended period of time.”
I’ve been thinking of this scene a lot over the past week. Without access to treadmills or spin classes because of the coronavirus pandemic and social-distancing efforts across the country, cardio junkies have had to turn to this newfangled form of exercise, this “yogging,” to get their endorphin fix.
This is a good thing. Running is an inexpensive and practical way to keep the heart and lungs healthy. Combine that with the mental benefits of simply being outside – especially during periods of prolonged indoor isolation – and it’s no wonder the streets and sidewalks are seeing lots of foot traffic these days. Just be sure when you’re outside to respect the guideline to stay six feet away from other people.
Under normal circumstances, I’d recommend anyone who’s new to running join a local running group so you can learn the basics from trained experts. But these are not normal circumstances, so instead check out the Running Room’s online coaching programs for runners and walkers and read on for more tips.
A common misconception is that running is an innate skill. We know how to walk, therefore we know how to run. This is not the case. Running is not walking quickly. Learning proper running technique takes time, attention to detail and practice. It also takes the right pair of shoes. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has helpful information online for determining which type of running shoe is right for your unique foot structure, as well as which brands get their seal of approval.
One of the biggest knocks against cardio training is that it can get boring fast. Not everyone is wired the same way; for some, a steady 40-minute jog can be mental torture, while others thrive off the challenge. Apps like Strava can help keep things fun: Your phone tracks your route and performance using GPS data so you can analyze your progress and share runs with your social networks. The app can also suggest routes based on all that collected data – just dial-in the distance you’re aiming for and Strava will determine the best routes near you.
Despite Ron Burgundy’s reputation for journalistic excellence, he got it wrong about running. I mean, you could just run for an extended period of time with no real goal in mind, but that’s not going to deliver much in the way of results. Cardio training is no different than strength training – it has to be structured in a progressive manner using specific methods. The two most practical methods are:
- Steady-state: This is the essence of jogging, the entry-point for most. Simply strap on your shoes and run, elevating your heart rate to a manageable level (around 130-150 beats per minute) for at least 30 minutes. Speed isn’t your priority here; you’re trying to establish a distance metric to measure your future runs against.
- High-intensity: This is where speed counts. Do your best Usain Bolt impression and blast off, aiming for 10 seconds of all-out sprinting. Rest for up to 60 seconds, then repeat for 8-10 sets.
Of course, you can apply either of these methods to just about any form of exercise, from biking or skipping to walking or rollerblading.
Running requires a fair degree of technical nuance. It’s important to step lightly. That thudding sound you hear when your feet hit the asphalt? That’s the sound of your knees dying. And take it easy on the mileage at first; long-distance running is taxing on the body, and the longer you run, the harder it is to maintain proper form.
Paul Landini is a personal trainer and health educator in Toronto.
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