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Monday, January 14, 2008

Running for beginners.

The masses are clamoring for a post on how to start running. Here's what I did and what I suggest:

It all started 11 years ago when two guys showed up at church wearing t-shirts from a race they'd run the previous day. Later I looked up their results in the paper and noticed that there had also been a 2-mile race, and that the winner in my age group had clocked in at 13-something minutes. "Hey!" thought I, I ran a 6:10 mile in 8th grade, I'll bet I could run two miles in 12 minutes if I trained. I have fantasies like that from time to time. They generally don't amount to anything.

But, later that day, when Teddi the Wonder Dog wanted to go for a walk, I decided that rather than walk behind him while he scampered (Teddi's really a girl but I've never let her know that), I would jog alongside. I was wearing street clothes and loafers but it didn't matter as I only made it to the end of the driveway (200 feet) before running out of breath.

But the next day I did it again and went about 50' farther. I kept at it, about five times a week, and it only took me two months to get up to a mile. Whoo-hoo! After I got up to a half mile I even got some running shoes.

My goal was to do three miles, five times a week, which seemed like an awfully big goal, but after about ten weeks I experienced the miracle of capillarization. That's where you grow new capillaries because your body is saying, "this guy has been putting a lot of demands on my oxygen-delivery system lately, I better grow me some more capillaries!" Running became a lot easier after that (as it will for you!).

So I tell people, you will never know if you like running until you have run 15 miles a week (at least four runs per week) for ten weeks. Until then it won't be much fun. Deal with it!

I recommend a slight adjustment to my method. Head out the door. Walk five minutes to warm up. Jog very slowly until it becomes uncomfortable (fifty feet, half mile, whatever). Then walk until you feel ready to jog again. Lather, rinse, repeat until you have gone 15 minutes. Mark or note your location. Turn around and do the same as you head home.

Do this each day (at least 4/week) noting how far you get each day. You don't have to go further every day, but you should add distance every week. Only jog until it starts to feel distressing. Then walk until you're back to a more normal breathing rate.

If this doesn't work out, no problem. As long as you limit yourself to rabbit food for the rest of your life you'll be fine.


David Haddon said...

Capillarization! After my NRMRI paid for by the VA, I was put on notice that I had a small area in the septum of one of the ventricles of my heart that showed inadequate capillarization. Their only recommendation (since I had good blood pressure and didn't have arterial plaque) was to get an hour of aerobic exercise a day.

This didn't make much difference in the occasional episode of (usually) at rest angina. So I supplemented with D-ribose, Co-Q10, L-Carnatine and Magnesium to increase ATP production. This greatly improved my energy level but didn't entirely eliminate the occasional mild chest pain.

Only recently did I learn that angiogenesis (capillarization) can be promoted by vitamin A in the form of retinoic acid (e.g., Retin-A). Dr. David Williams (has a website) recommends this along with a lot of supplements claimed to improve circulation and strengthen the capillaries.

If you are over 50 and bruise easily, e-mail me for further suggestions.

Anonymous said...

So, I'm going to assume you're not literally referring to me as the "masses" - I'm not THAT huge. :) ha

Thanks for the tips (I love knowing the "background" story on everything/how people have accomplished things-it's motivational!)...and since I'm not a rabbit and only ate rabbit food for lunch because I forced myself to - I need to remember to be the tortoise - "Slow and steady wins the race."

Now you must share details of your first marathon! The mass is clamoring!


kelli said...

I linked to your post today! Check it out on

Mark Swanson said...

My first marathon was my first 50K. Nothing very interesting except that several years later I ran the same race again but forgot to bring my shoes and had to run in my Teva sandals.

David Haddon said...

Capillarization Correction: The retinoic acid (e.g., Retin A)is for skin treatment. Vitamin A capsules, perhaps as beta carotine, may help with capillarization elsewhere. I'm only getting 2500 units and plan to supplement heavily with my next order from my supplement supplier along with some HMB to put on some muscle.