Go The Distance

By Cindy Cafferty

December 5, 2008 5 min read


Training for your fitness goals is possible no matter who you are

Cindy Cafferty

Creators News Service

Does the thought of the ultimate fitness goal -- a half marathon, full marathon or triathlon -- seem more like a fantasy, or worse, a nightmare, for an average dreamer such as yourself?

Think again. Across the nation, people of every shape, size, age and fitness level are turning their fitness dreams into realities. With a little motivation and the right advice, so can you. You don't need to be fitness guru to get started.

"The bottom line is you get what you put into it," said Craig Watterson, running coach for Team in Training (TNT), the fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. "And you can start from nowhere, but once you do a marathon or a half-marathon, you're life changes drastically. What you used to hold as boundaries for yourself no longer exist, and that extends to every aspect of your life."

When Watterson joined TNT for the second time in 2006, he'd taken up smoking again, hadn't trained and, until his boss was diagnosed with cancer, lost the motivation that propelled him in previous years. Now he's a running coach and an Ironman Triathlon alumnus.

Your motivation may be different, but with the right guidance, your goals are just as attainable.

"You don't have to be young or skinny or fast to do a marathon," said Darlene Miller, national program director at Jeff Galloway Training Programs. "Galloway's approach is to bring the marathon to the everyman."

So now that you know you can do it, how do you start shaping those fitness dreams into a healthy reality?

Miller explained the run-walk-run method Galloway designed and trademarked in 1978. "The idea most people have is that you have to run straight through or get to the place where you run the entire event," she said. "If you take a walk break occasionally, you're saving strength for the longer miles ... and you can run farther than you thought you could. It allows you to gradually increase your mileage, find a pace and prevent injury."

The Galloway Run-Walk-Run is the crux of Galloway's national training program (jeffgalloway.com/training/), but the elements of a run-walk regime are tried and true practices used by trainers nationwide. The slow-and-steady approach is also a universal tenet to endurance training programs, especially for beginners.

Whether your finish line ends at the half-marathon mark, extends to the full 26.2-mile marathon, or includes the cycle, swim and varying duration of a triathlon, experts agree the key to making the mark is all in the training. The name of the game is injury prevention, making it to the finish line and, if you're running for a cause, making a difference.

Jennifer Grandy, national director of TNT, echoed Watterson's advice and mirrored tenets of Galloway's program by offering the following tips:

* Have a goal. TNT participants raise funds for cancer research and patient assistance. Whether your goal is fundraising or raising the stakes on your workout, inspiration will keep you motivated on the tough days and through the three to six month regime it takes to train.

* Set your sights on finishing the race, not winning the race. If you're a beginner, don't worry about your time to the finish line. Concentrate on getting to the finish line.

* Join a team. Galloway's program has teams in over 60 cities. TNT trains for events nationwide (teamintraining.org). Being part of a team keeps you engaged, provides a support system, offers guidance and makes the experience more enjoyable.

* Start slowly and gradually increase your mileage. Coaches recommend beginning with 20 minutes of exercise two to three times a week with a training session on the weekend. Sessions start with a three-mile walk, run or run-walk, with an increase of one mile a week; your speed should start out slow and finish strong. Depending on the event, your fitness goal and the program, training may vary in the final weeks leading up to the event.

* Pain is NOT gain. Good training ensures that you're not in pain throughout the regime and during the event. Stretch, cool down and take at least one day a week off to prevent injury. Make sure you have the right shoes and the right shoe size -- feet swell through the course of a workout -- and that you're wearing clothes that breathe. If you're sick or injured, hold off on training and allow your body to heal.

* Refuel your body by staying hydrated and consuming enough nutrition for training.

Now that you've got the tips, what are you waiting for? It's time to hit the pavement and pave the way for your fitness dreams.

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