The following is a guest post by Andrew Porter, DO, assistant director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship for Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita.
Lots of people have questions about how to begin an exercise program.
In general you should gradually start an exercise program. You need to start slowly, allowing your fitness level to improve. For example, if you have never seriously run or biked before you need to ease into it. Initially start with shorter periods of light to moderate intensity exercise and build in duration, frequency, and intensity over time. A good way to gauge how intense the exercise you are performing is for you is the Borg Scale and/or the “talk test.” The talk test is defined as the ability to talk without significant breathlessness during exercise – this is a rough marker of moderate or lower intensity exercise.
Think about your long term goals and that you would want to create a lifestyle that involves exercise and physical activity. Your overall goal is a long-term lifestyle change. If you can, it’s better to perform physical activity most, to all, days of the week. A good goal would be to work up to exercising 30-60 minutes most, to all, days of the week.
As far as how much you should increase or ramp up your exercise mileage, I like to recommend the 10 percent rule. If you are running, you should only increase your total mileage in a week and long run for the week by no more than 10 percent. So for example, if you are building up to run a marathon and your long run so far is 10 miles, you should wait until the next week to perform a long run of 11 miles. If your total mileage in a week is currently 30 miles, I would recommend increasing your total mileage for the next week up to 33-35 miles, or about 10 percent.
If you want to increase your distances for a triathlon you are training for, I recommend you continue to follow the 10 percent rule as well for each discipline. So I would only increase your total swim, bike and run mileage by 10 percent for each discipline in a week. This 10 percent rule would also apply for your longest swim, bike, and run for the week as well. Sometimes you need apply the 10 percent rule in two week increments; just make sure to always listen to your body and how you are feeling.
You are more likely to continue with the program if you build into it because your body will tolerate it better, you will be less likely to get injured and you will be more likely to achieve your goals. It takes time to get in shape and it takes patience and perseverance to stay in shape. Choose something that you enjoy doing and that’s sustainable.
These recommendations can be more specific and individualized for you with an exercise prescription, which you can ask for from your physician.