OK.. we all know what we NEED to do to get fit. But really, where do you START??!! IF we all knew how to get started and what to expect... then perhaps more of us would give it a shot!
wicked article thanks to msn.ca CLICK HERE for complete article
How to start your own walking or running regimen
Running and walking are among the best fitness programs around, plus they're efficient and inexpensive.
Ever since 36-year-old Francie Marchand of Ottawa injured herself running on icy sidewalks several winters ago, she is extra careful about when and where she runs. And, she says, "If something is starting to get sore, I ease up and won't push through it."
As Francie ran on slippery sidewalks, each time she pushed off with her foot, it slipped back on the ice and pulled her plantar fascia (the tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the ball). She developed plantar fasciitis, a condition in which the plantar fascia is continually pulled and becomes inflamed. She finally saw a sports medicine specialist, who sidelined her for several weeks until it healed.
It was a painful lesson for Francie, who has been running for 15 years and says it's the best-quality workout you can do in the shortest amount of time. A wife, mother of three kids (aged three, eight and 10) and full-time guidance counsellor at a private girls' school, she fits in her runs at lunchtime and always makes time for a longer run on the weekend. And now that she knows how to avoid overtraining, her runs are uninterrupted by injuries.
Now that the snow has melted, many of us are also thinking about taking to the streets for exercise. Whether you're keen to start running or fitness walking, it's important to train properly so your experience remains positive and you remain injury-free. Done right, running or walking is the perfect exercise for today's busy lifestyle. It's convenient -- you can do it anywhere and anytime -- and it's also a natural motion, so there aren't a lot of special skills to learn. And frankly, it's relatively cheap -- all you really need is a good pair of shoes.
At the same time, these activities are good cardiovascular workouts, says Dr. Grant Lum, the medical director of Athlete's Care Sports Medicine Centres in Toronto and a member of the medical team for the annual Canadian International Marathon in Toronto. They're weight-bearing, so they help prevent osteoporosis, and they help build the body's largest muscles in the legs (the quadriceps and gluteal muscles), which burn the most energy -- and calories.
The big-picture benefits are impressive, too: regular exercise reduces the risk for stroke and many diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. It also improves mood and fights mild depression.
Just remember that despite good intentions, a wintertime couch potato won't get far running full-out, several times a week, right off the bat. Doing too much too soon is the No. 1 cause of running injuries. While the impact is lower, fitness walking also carries the risk of the same types of injuries. Muscles, joints, ligaments and especially connective tissues in the lower body need to be conditioned to take all that pounding. A long list of potential injuries includes strains in hamstring, quadriceps or calf muscles, and foot, knee and back problems.
"Start low and go slow, and see what your body is able to tolerate," advises Dr. Chris Johnston, lead author of "Preventing Running Injuries," a paper published last year in Canadian Family Physician. The paper reviewed current literature written about ways to prevent running injuries. The best running program gradually increases distance or time and figures in appropriate rest and recovery periods of 24 to 48 hours between workouts.
Johnston, who is also a doctor at the Canadian Forces base in Halifax, cites one study that shows that novice runners reduced their injury rate significantly by running one to three days a week for 15 to 30 minutes each day -- rather than five days a week for 45 minutes each day -- and still got a great workout. His paper also shows that surfaces, shoes, muscle weakness, inflexibility and leg alignment problems that may be undiagnosed (such as having one leg longer than the other) can be associated with injuries. Of course, slips and falls cause injuries, too.
This spring, ease into running – and avoid injury -- with Canadian Living Magazine's doctor-approved program. If you have a history of heart disease, diabetes or other chronic illness, consult your doctor before you begin. You may also choose to do a pre-activity screening with a fitness professional to flag any potential problems, such as foot or alignment problems.
A good shoe helps protect your body and helps the foot adapt to changing terrain, says Arnold Tse, a field support supervisor at New Balance Canada in Mississauga, Ont. When you run, each foot strike generates an amount of force that is equal to about three times your body weight; when you walk, it generates one-and-a-half times your body weight, so you need a shoe that will help you absorb that force. Running and fitness walking shoes have synthetic and mesh uppers for the most part. They're lightweight, breathable and longer-lasting than leather, which cracks and wears down more easily when exposed to outdoor elements.
Both running and walking shoes have built-in cushioning but are designed differently to accommodate the motions of the feet depending on whether you're running or walking. For example, since your heel strike is heavier when you run, running shoes have more pronounced -- and more shock-absorbent -- heels than walking shoes. Walking shoes, on the other hand, are designed to allow your foot to move with a natural, rolling motion from heel to toe, which accommodates the forward rolling motion of fitness walking. Talk to an athletic footwear specialist about other shoe features that can help you run or walk better.
Walking shoes sell for about $120; running shoes can cost up to $160. Higher prices often reflect new control and cushioning features in shoes, says John Grandy, assistant manager of the Running Room in Toronto. The key isn't how many bells and whistles they offer but how the shoes fit your feet.
Also useful in avoiding running or walking injuries are specialty running socks, which are made with materials such as CoolMax polyester microfibre that draw moisture away from the skin. They help keep your feet comfortable and blister-free.