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Tom’s Fitness & Paris Martial Arts


Posted: July 24, 2008

I love seeing people working out. Just the other day, I came in the gym and heard this sound… “pound, pound, pound, pound.” I walked into the cardio room and there was Chris Redmon blazing away on the treadmill.

You might remember Chris from Biggest Loser “3.” He was the biggest loser without getting to be the biggest loser. He lost 56.5 lbs (more than anyone else in the group, and a gym record for 12 weeks), but a slightly lower percentage of body weight than the winner (Joe Stidham) and runner up (Bill Lewis) that time.

Even though Chris and his wife Cheryl didn’t participate in Biggest Loser “4”, they were always here working out—you could set your watch by them. Somehow, they were able to maintain their commitment and focus, after the contest was over.

So here he was, pounding away on the treadmill, going faster than I’d ever seen him go, with his wife running next to him. When I looked at the display, he was going 7.0 mph. Now speed is a relative thing. Some go slower, some go faster, but for Chris, that was really impressive, considering that he’d only really started running during his contest, just 24 weeks ago.

What I always recommend is that you start out by walking. Then, when you feel ready, you jog a minute and then walk two minutes, repeating for as long as you can. As you get stronger, you can do more and more running intervals.

Usually, the running speed is right around 5.0 mph on the treadmill. If you’re outside, that is a 12 minute pace for the mile (if you ran the whole thing without stopping at 5.0 mph).

Sometimes, someone will be more comfortable jogging a little slower, but somewhere around 4.5 mph is probably the slowest you’ll run. Any slower, and you can walk that fast. Once in a while, someone will start running a little faster than 5.0 mph, but that’s a good average beginning running pace.

Then, the goal is to improve your 1 mile walk/run time. If you walked the whole thing at a very comfortable pace (3.0 mph), it takes 20 minutes to complete a mile. In our groups, we often had people starting with 20 minute miles at the beginning, and taking 3, 4 and even 5 minutes off their time in just 12 weeks.

If you do it in 15 minutes, you know you’re running some and walking some. As you get closer and closer to 12 minutes, you’ll be running more and more. Once you can do the mile in 12 minutes or less, you’re pretty much running the whole way.

Chris told me that he’d gotten down to around 11 minutes, which was fantastic, and now, here he is, turning it up some more, running 7.0 mph. He said the furthest he’d ever run was a mile (since that’s what we’d been doing in the group).

Now, he needs to set a new goal. I told him that one day a week, he needs to try to go further each time. Next time, add a quarter mile (one lap on the track). Try to run it all, but if you have to walk, that’s O.K. Whatever it takes to get there. This is called distance running.

Then, next week, add another quarter mile. Now you’re up to a mile and a half. Same thing. Whatever it takes to get there. Each week, keep adding a quarter mile. Pretty soon, you’re running 2 miles, and a month later, running 3 miles, which is basically a 5K.

The fitness benefits from the extra miles are pretty simple to understand. Do more work and you burn more calories. Run further and it will help you keep on track with your weight loss goal.

One day a week, you should work on your speed, like Chris was doing by doing a speed run. Say a week from today, Chris should try running at 7.1 mph, if only for a little while. Then rest up, and hit it again, working at that new speed. The following week, he can try 7.2 mph.

People are always surprised when I work with them on this. They can always go further and faster than they thought they could. That’s the ticket. You’ve got to build the intensity. Running faster is harder, and when you up the intensity, you burn more calories.

Finally, one day a week, you should do what’s called a tempo run. Pick a pace between your speed run (fastest) and distance run (slowest) and try to go for say 20 or 30 minutes at that tempo.

For example, say Chris would drop down to 5.7 mph for his distance run of two miles. He also can go 7.0 mph for shorter distances (say quarter mile repeats). He should pick something like 6.0, and try to do most of his 20-30 minute run at around that pace.

Each of these three basic types of runs will help you burn more calories, because they do different things for your body. They also make things more interesting, because each workout has a specific goal in mind.

Finally, the next thing is to set a goal for doing a 5K sometime. I recommend the Honeybee festival this fall. It’s far enough away that anyone can prepare for it. Remember, it’s not how fast you go.

You can walk the entire thing if you need to. Or jog a minute, and walk two minutes the entire way. It’s entirely up to you, and how much you want to push yourself.

The important things are to set a goal, which gives you motivation and something to look forward to. Then keep working toward the goal, which helps you stay on track with your weight loss. Finally, when you accomplish the goal, you’ll feel pretty good about yourself and what you did.

I can tell you this. Last year at the Louis & Clark Marathon, there were over 4,000 of us lined up before the event. Guys, gals, young, and old. Some were experienced. Others, like me, were there for their first time.

Most were there to run a half marathon (13.1 miles); about one fourth were there to try the whole marathon (26.2 miles). Quite a few were there to walk either the half or full marathon. The one thing I noticed, though, was that no one was obese. It was unusual to have that many people together, and no one was really overweight.

Sure, there were some people who were “in progress” with their weight loss, while others were at their ideal lean weight, but no one was what I would consider “over-fat.” Do that much work to get ready, and you get in shape.

So, here’s where you start. Hit the weights 3 days a week, and walk/run the other 3 days. On your running days make one day (after a rest day) a speed run where you work on speed. Make one day a tempo run, where you try to run a certain distance, or for a certain amount of time at a certain speed. Finally, one day a week, do a longer, slower distance run.

In a couple hours, I’m gonna go out for my distance run. I do it on the weekends since I have a little more time. This week it’s 15 miles, which is going to be pretty tough, since it’s sunny and hot out today (Sunday). If I want to be able to do the whole 26 miles in September, though, I’ve got to get used to running distances.

Sure, I’m a little extreme about this, but I’ve set a goal, and that means I’ll practice, and that means I’ll keep in shape. Plus, I’ll wear a lot of sunblock and a hat, and come back and soak my head every 2.5 miles when I get a drink. I’m not kidding. It will help me cool down.

Now you don’t necessarily have to get that crazy about it. There are things even I won’t do. Did you know there are people that run across the desert? I’ve got a friend that does 50 mile races!

There’s something for everyone, though. It’s self paced and you decide how far you take it. Start slow and see how it feels. You might decide you like it.

One thing’s sure. You’ll take off the weight. Oh, and Chris? He grinned and told me he was up to 90 lbs. In just 6 months. Now that’s cool. 10 more to go. I know he’ll do it. He’s running now!