Track dreams

Tips for the prospective endurance athlete

When preparing your body for a high-endurance activity (like marathon runner Sean Murphy, the subject of this week’s cover story), most physicians would advise you to ease into a workout regimen. It may take several months or even years before you work yourself into the kind of shape competitive runners, cyclists and swimmers are in before an event, especially if you have long led a sedentary lifestyle. Here are some tips to make sure you don’t press yourself too hard, too fast:

Build up gradually: start with as little as five minutes of endurance activity, if you have to. The goal is to work yourself up to a moderate-to-vigorous exercise that is challenging but not completely exhausting.

Safety first: No cardiovascular exercise is supposed to give you chest pain or make you dizzy. Do some light activity before you begin your workout in earnest, and give yourself time to cool down afterward.

Continue to progress: Increase the time of your workout before you increase the difficulty. For instance, go from a 10- to a 20-minute run on flat ground before you take a 10-minute run uphill.

Listen to your body: The aches and pains of an athlete act as a guide. Your body will let you know when it’s time to push it and when it’s time to take a break.