I had a friend in high school who wasn’t exactly fit.
He was tall with broad shoulders, long legs and had (probably) the least amount of coordination I’ve ever seen. This guy did not excel in sports; he sat the bench on our height-starved junior high basketball team.
And while he was a big guy, he definitely wasn’t fat, either. Even so, I’ll always remember the surprise I felt when he showed up to the first of the high school cross-country team practices wearing a too-small Under Armor shirt that wouldn’t have exactly made his girlfriend drool. After the workout, he told me his goal was to buy an unflattering shirt and work so hard during the summer that the shirt wouldn’t look bad on him.
He wasn’t fast during that season or any other. It was uncommon for him to not finish last at the meets. His running form was so awful he looked like an actor in front of a green screen who can’t see what he’s supposed to interact with.
But what I admired most about my friend was his drive to better himself and the commitment with which he pursued his goals.
My friend felt what I’m sure everyone has felt at some point in life. He wanted to change the way his body looked.
And while I’m sure at least one person reading this column has made a New Year’s resolution to drop some pounds and go jogging every day, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear of gym memberships that haven’t been taken out of the wallet since February.
This summer, I’d like to offer a little bit of encouragement to those would-be exercisers by outlining a workout plan in a weekly column. I am no expert exercise scientist and haven’t run competitively since the state track meet my senior year (running has become a seldomly referred-to fiend since then), but I hope this can be a starting point to help others fight the bulge.
And while I won’t be buying my own Spandex shirt to help with motivation, I’ll join in.
This is a fitness column that I want to adapt to people with the same skill level as my friend with the unflattering shirt, so I’ll say the goal is to run a 5-kilometer race by September. Each Thursday, I have planned to write about the next week’s training regimen that will help get us there. And don’t worry, I’ll do these workouts a couple days ahead of schedule just so I know they’ll help us achieve the overall goal.
We’ll start on Monday, so go ahead and enjoy the weekend. Be sure to pick up a pair of running shoes if you don’t already have a pair you bought in December and never used.
The first day is usually the hardest. I suggest heading to a high school track so we can measure distances more easily. Start with a light jog around as a warmup. On the back stretch, throw in some dynamic stretches like high knees and butt kicks, or try jogging backward.
As for the workout, the idea is to acclimate your body to endurance running, so we’ll jog for about 30 minutes with simple exercises stations on every corner of the track to break it up. Here’s a sample map of what I mean: Jog 100 meters, do 10 push-ups, jog 100 meters, do 10 sit-ups, jog 100 meters, do 10 squat jumps, jog 100 meters, take a 30-second water break and do it all again.
The goal of this workout is to strengthen the muscles we haven’t used since our varsity glory days, so it shouldn’t be a surprise for you to be sore the next day.
If you’re lucky, yesterday’s workout got you hooked on endorphins. For the rest of us, this is an easy day to help us not hate running quite so much.
After a warmup with a light jog and dynamic stretches, jog to point anywhere from a half-mile to a mile away. Pacing is important here so don’t kill yourself with a 4:30-mile pace for the first 400 meters — notice I wrote ‘jog,’ and not ‘sprint.’ Once you get there, feel free to catch your breath and take a sip of water if you brought some with you.
Just think, all that’s left is to get back home and stretch.
Fair warning; you might be sore after these first couple of days. Let’s head back to the track anyway.
For the warmup today, let’s take a little more time on warming up. After your one-lap light jog, do some slow dynamic stretches. Slow lunges, fence step-overs, side lunges (gorillas) and toe-touches (Frankensteins) are a great way to stretch out those muscles we didn’t remember we had. Feel free to take as much time as you’d like on these, because it will feel oh-so good. After the slow dynamics, do some fast dynamic stretches like the butt kicks, high knees, high skips and 10-meter races.
Today’s workout involves a lot of speed variation. We’ll do this in three chunks. For the first section, jog for 100 meters, then run for 100, jog for 100 and run for the final 100 of our first lap. This will get your body used to the idea of speeding up, slowing down and maintaining a set pace for a set distance. Grab a short drink and get ready.
The second section will last five laps: Run 200, jog 100, run 200, jog 100, etc. It’s perfectly fine to jog really slowly near the end if you’re feeling winded.
Ready for some stairs? Me neither, but here we go. Run up the nearest bleacher staircase, jog from the top of it over to the top of the next stairs and jog down. Jog over to the third set and run up, repeating this process for the length of the seating for a repitition of one. We’ll do four repititions, so you should be running out and back twice.
Take a drink, do another light lap around for a cool-down jog, stretch out those hamstrings during static stretches and head home.
If you haven’t been sore so far, I’m sure you will be today.
Pick another point on the map to run to, this one about a mile or mile-and-a-half away. After about a quarter mile, or when your body tells you its starting to get warmed up by sweating or breathing heavily, stop to do some more dynamic stretches. Lunges and butt-kickers will feel especially nice after that stadium workout yesterday.
You should be able to run to the halfway point without stopping to walk today, even if it means jogging really slowly. Take a 30-second breather once you hit your marker and head back. Static stretches at the end of the run are crucial today.
This workout is just like the previous day, just without a breather at the halfway point. You can do it. Don’t forget your dynamic stretches near the start and your static stretches at the end.
We’re going to increase the mileage ever-so-slightly today. Remember the first out-and-back run we did on the second day? Pick that point again, but this time run there and back twice. You can take a 30-second breather as you finish the first circuit, just don’t let yourself go inside or you’ll have a hard time going back out the door.
Remember those stretches at the start and end of the workout.
It’s called the day of rest for a reason. Static stretching will feel really nice this day. Relax and feel good about sticking to a training regimen for a week. Look up some all-fruit or nasty-looking green smoothie recipes online — Pinterest is choc-ful of them.
Tavin Stucki is the head coach of the Copper View youth track program in Midvale, Utah. He is not afraid to use his own Pinterest account for healthy recipes. For challenges against his manhood, email firstname.lastname@example.org.