Running has never been my strong suit. Heck, sometimes walking isn’t my strong suit. Even in my younger days, I attended a college with lots of hills and used to purposely not walk up the steep inclines with classmates so I wouldn’t have to attempt to speak through my panting.
I see people running on streets and it seems so easy and then I try to do it and I’m left needing a break about one minute in. What the hey!
But for the last year, I’ve stuck with running. Even though it never seems to get easier, I have grown to love it more. It’s quick and efficient for getting that dose of fat-burning cardio, with no workout moves to remember. It gives me an excuse to be outside, soaking up the sun and the green of nature, both of which, science is proving, have mental and physical health benefits.
A few new studies made headlines recently that quantified a goal for me for my runs. Basically these studies showed that raising your heart rate for 30 minutes a day can have significantly positive effects on how we age and how long we live.
One of my obsessions in life is to try to do what I can now in order to stack the odds in my favor that I get the most years out of my body and that those years are the most active, healthy and disease-free as possible — a universal goal most of us could get behind, right? So when I read about the 30 minutes a light bulb idea went off in my head — I didn’t need to be the fastest runner, it didn’t matter if I had to take walking breaks, I just needed to make sure I got my 30 in.
30 minutes doesn’t sound like that long even, does it? That’s the length of a sitcom. I probably waste 30 minutes in the blink of an eye on Toon Blast and not even realize it. 30 minutes would be easy. It turns out, it can be pretty challenging. The thing I like most about it though is, it keeps me honest.
As the studies show, it’s critical to have a raised heart rate for the ENTIRE 30 minutes. Now that doesn’t mean continuously, you don’t need to have a raised heart rate for 30 minutes with no breaks. That sounds like it would be pretty darn dangerous unless you’re in perfect shape, but the clock stops when your heart rate lowers and those breaks don’t count toward the 30 minutes.
There are easy ways to calculate what a safe raised heart rate is based on your resting heart rate, but I like this rule of thumb from Kaiser Permanente researchers: “If you can’t talk while you exercise, you’re working too hard. If you can sing, you need to work harder.” With that said here’s some of my revelations and tips for getting in your 30 minutes:
- Invest in a watch with a stopwatch function. I leave my phone at home or in the car when I go running so it doesn’t bog me down or distract me. For this method to work, you need to be able to keep track of your “raised heart rate time” quickly. You need to let the stopwatch run when your heart rate is up and stop the clock when you’re taking a break (walking, not running in my case). I decided to skip those fancy high-tech Apple watches and fitness tracking devices with way more capabilities than I needed and found inexpensive digital watches on Ebay for around $10. It gives me the time and it gives me a one-button stopwatch, end of product description — no distractions.
- Don’t be surprised if your workouts take a bit longer. My runs have taken about an hour now using this technique, a bit longer than my runs before I was tracking. This means that in the past, I was probably short changing myself and thinking I was running for a greater portion of the duration of my run than I actually was.
- Start off slow. I am starting with 20 minutes of cardio and building up incrementally to the 30 minute goal. This helps me to not feel overwhelmed and defeated. My watch is really cute, I’m trying to keep from getting frustrated and chucking it in the trash!
Invest in good sneakers. I used to scoff at high-priced sneakers and thought they were all about a brand and logo, until I talked to marathon runners who invested wisely in a good, supportive, impact-cushioning pair of running shoes. They don’t need to cost $500, but a well-reviewed pair of name-brands can’t hurt.
- Shoot for small goals. I make it through the minutes by taking them in chunks. Just trying to get through the first five minutes, for instance, once there, I take on the next five. It helps if you can keep changing up your environment so you have different things to look at, new sights to distract yourself with. During the quarantine, I’ve taken to running my alma mater’s deserted campus. It’s beautiful and woodsy and I can now run up those hills (intermittently) that 20 years ago got me winded.