Sports Fitness Solutions Newsletter

Issue #015

We'd like to welcome a new column to our newsletter called,"Strides with Steve." This column is written by Steve Paluseo who has successfully coached cross country and long distance running in the Boston area for many years. Steve has successfully run many marathons in his career including several Boston Marathons. Steve currently coaches cross country and men's baseball at the Rivers School, a prep school in Natick MA.

Steve is also active in men's ice hockey. He started his career at Oswego State University as a goal tender, and was inducted into the Oswego State University's Athletic Hall of Fame. Steve was also an assistant men's hockey coach at Brown, as well as head men's hockey coach at the Rivers School.

We welcome Steve to our newsletter and look forward to his articles, under the by line of "Strides With Steve."


STRIDES WITH STEVE

STARTING A SUCCESSFUL RUNNING PROGRAM

By: Stephen Paluseo

I would like to start by saying that I am honored to be part of the newsletter you receive from Jeff. I welcome this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on running, hockey, baseball, and sports and fitness in general.

I enjoy running and I have a lot of experience coaching runners, especially in cross country and long distances. From time to time I'm asked for running advice, especially from first time, new-to-the-sport runners. I'd like to share some of my thoughts on running with you.

I believe that distance running is about training. Anyone can grow and improve, if he or she wants to train the body to first accept and then thrive on running as a form of exercise. Over the years, I have had friends, acquaintances and people I hardly know ask me about how I got interested in running and what they can do to enhance their usually flagging efforts to get their own running program started. Often, these are people who want to get into shape, lose some weight or maintain their weight and just generally feel better. Many have the same difficulties. They can’t seem to enjoy running, or get over the hump of running being too challenging or strenuous for them to run for a long enough time or far enough distance to get the benefits they would like. “What am I missing or doing wrong?” they ask.

At that point, I usually ask three questions. “How often do you run? How far do you run or for how long? How fast do you run?”

The answers can vary some, but usually it is something like once or twice a week, 30 or more minutes, and 2-4 miles. When I hear that, my reply is always the same. “You need to run more often.” Sometimes this is met with a frown. Someone who is sore and not enjoying running all that much usually does not want more of it. I follow my first comment with advice to run shorter distances and at slower speeds. It seems that many of us want to get fit right now, like this minute. We bite off more than we can chew. Their minds are willing, but the flesh is weak. We have not paid with what I call the “sweat equity” necessary to have our bodies grow accustomed to the new pace of life. The body and mind need to be brought into symmetry. The difference is anyone can want to run far and fast, get into shape and be strong; but getting the body to go along with the idea is another story. I always remind someone in this situation that his or her body has been trained to not run too far or fast. Until a stimulus is applied, not much is going to change. Re-training the body to accept and enjoy a formerly painful pursuit takes time. It also takes consistency. And that is the watchword I want to share. Consistency is the key to doing anything well in life or in running and fitness. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your body’s level of fitness. Old ways die hard, and a body that has gotten used to never breaking out of a walk is going to balk loudly when you start to try to run. And the older you are, the louder the balk will be.

My prescription for people starting a running program is that they have to run at least three times a week. When starting from ground zero with a beginning runner, I have used this simple program with first time students who I have coached in cross country, all the way to adults older than I. The formula is to start running slow and short; then go slow and longer; then faster and shorter; then faster and longer. You continue this pattern until you get to the distance, time and level of fitness you desire. My first year runners who have never run before get the same regimen. I have them go out for 30 minutes. They walk for 10 minutes, jog easily for 10 minutes and walk for 10 minutes. They do some very light stretches before they start, just to get blood moving. They never stretch hard or long when they are cold. This is more ballistic stretching, just to get their pulse up a bit. When they finish the workout, they can stretch longer and with more intensity.

And then we wait. The next day or the next session, I see how they are doing. If they are sore, we determine how much and where. And if all is ok, we do the same thing again. If they are too sore, we back off a bit. I tell them that this is training. We are training their minds and bodies to accept something that before now has been foreign. For someone who has not run any real distance before, a mile might be a very long way to run non-stop. We continue this sequence until the runner is no longer sore and fatigued at the next workout. Then we simply reduce the walk time on either end and increase the jog time until the person can run the full 30 minutes non-stop. We do not increase pace at all. This is very important. Once we have mastered the basic 30-minute run, we start to increase the pace. Usually, the runner will do this naturally on his or her own without even knowing it. Then we increase the time running, but keep the pace easy. Once someone can increase the distance, we can then begin to work on reducing the distance, increasing the pace, then increasing the distance and reducing the pace. We do this until the runner is ready to race.

If racing is not a goal, then you can just vary distances and pace as you wish just so long as you do not get into a rut of the same pace and distance day after day. You can tweak your program as you wish. If you want to lose weight, the longer distances at slower pace might be best for you. If you want to race, faster paced tempo runs, pace per mile workouts and eventually intervals may be in your future. It all depends on your goals.

However, whatever your goals the key component is consistency. Three times a week is minimum to get your body used to the road. You can vary the terrain, time and effort, but the rubber has to hit the road if you want your body to recall the previous training in the next workout.

So start slow, stay strong, be consistent, and don’t worry. In time, with patience, you will start to see improvement, and you will enjoy your efforts more and more. Have fun and Happy Running!!

Steve Paluseo is head cross country coach at the Rivers School in Natick, MA. Steve has run numerous marathons, including several Boston Marathons. He has played and coached college and prep school men's hockey. He was a goal tender at Oswego State University, where he was inducted into the Oswego Athletic Hall of Fame. He was an assistant men's hockey coach at Brown and head men's hockey coach at the Rivers School. Steve also coaches baseball at Rivers.