Monday, September 5, 2011

A Runner in Recovery: Part I

While Labor Day for many represents a respite from labor and a pause button between the dog days of summer and whatever-the-heck you call the first days of fall, here in Macon, Georgia, Labor Day is a day of hard work.  Today was the 35th annual Labor Day Road Race (LDRR), an event that is nearly as famous in Macon as Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers (well, maybe not quite that famous).  The LDRR brings together more than 2,000 runners and walkers from all across Georgia and provides both 5K and 10K fast, mostly downhill courses.  A runner’s dream!
I must admit I am a recovering runner.  For years during graduate school and beyond, I logged 50-70 miles a week on the road, competing nearly every weekend in just about every road race I could find.  Whether it was a 5K or a marathon, I loved to run, and I loved the community of runners.  But as I said, I am reformed now.  After two stress fractures in both feet in less than a year, running took a serious backseat. 
And I have never been happier to be a reformed runner, or for that matter, in better shape.
Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of running that I love, especially this morning at the starting line of the LDRR.  Friendly faces, eager anticipation, the camaraderie of people engaged in the same pursuit.  I believe the running community is unique in its acceptance of all people willing to run or walk a distance.  One sees such diversity at local races: elite, Ethiopian-looking teenagers sporting high school cross country uniforms; overweight-middle aged men and women who are taking charge of their health and committing to be physically active; old runners who are faster than the teens; moms with strollers; a few in wheel chairs and a handful of soldiers rucking in memory of those who can’t.
The local road race circuit is a great place to meet new people, set new fitness goals and develop a support system of folks who will encourage you a long the way.  I really recommend to those who are new to fitness that setting a goal to complete a 5K race, even if they walk it, is a great way to develop the habit of training, accountability and support.  But for those who are intermediate and advanced exercisers who are looking to take their fitness to the next level, becoming a runner in recovery, like I am, may be the best decision they ever make. 
While running dozens of miles a week may be great for that “calorie burn” so many are after, those who are truly fit are those folks who probably don’t run a 5K in the course of an entire week.  Last week I hosted a webinar on the topic of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Kaplan’s Get Healthy 2011: Focus on Fitness campaign.  I’ll address the key concepts of that webinar this week on the blog, but here’s the quick and dirty you need to know: Hours of moderate intensity cardio exercise is probably not helping you reach your fitness goals.  In fact, I can guarantee better results in terms of fat loss and strength gains in workouts that take 9-20 minutes.  Intrigued?  You should be. 

Posted by Rachel L. May, M.S.
Adjunct Faculty, School of Health Sciences


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