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Tips from the coach
On this page, we will describe two types of training: one for people who want to do the Stramilano of the 50,000 at a brisk walking pace and one for those who want to run the entire distance. We will tell you how to get ready in the months before the Stramilano, so that you will have enough energy in your legs to cover the entire 10 km route without getting into difficulty.
Brisk walking in the Stramilano
While running is unquestionably a marvellous form of exercise, recently many people of all ages have discovered the clear health and wellbeing benefits of brisk walking. This section is all about “walking workouts” and the advantages that they offer. Our aim is to help people to enjoy their benefits and train for the Stramilano, which many participants want to complete at a brisk walking pace.
What it is and what to do
Walking workouts are a form of authentic aerobic exercise. The brisk walking involved is scientifically proven to have multiple benefits for the body. It is not too strenuous (the heart rate should never be more than 75% to 80% of the maximum) and a workout lasts between 30 or 40 minutes and an hour. In terms of energy consumption, it mainly involves burning fat rather than carbohydrates.
Walking workouts are suitable for everyone and there are no contraindications. Nonetheless, it is advisable to have a medical check-up beforehand. If it reveals that you are significantly overweight or have problems with your muscles, joints, tendons or ligaments, you should deal with the issues appropriately and start slowly.
Frequency and benefits
You should go for a brisk walk at least 3 or 4 times a week (and ideally every day). Start off gradually on a flat route (preferably amid greenery) and as you get into shape, you should be able to walk for an hour or more. Walking promotes greater efficiency in the circulatory system, weight loss (due to increased fat consumption), better control of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and enhanced muscle tone.
How to do it
When walking briskly, it is necessary to have an upright posture, symmetry between the movements of your limbs and good coordination between your upper and lower limbs. For your first few workouts in particular, you should walk slowly and ensure that you are moving properly. Your steps should be quick, relaxed, frequent and not too long. If you are moving at the right pace, you should be able to talk to the people with you easily.
Brisk walking is an effective form of prevention and also one of the best cures for some of the most widespread conditions nowadays, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes.
There are lots of types of walking shoes on the market. They must be sturdy, comfortable and offer good protection and breathability. You should wear suitable clothing (choose cotton rather than synthetic fibres) and avoid covering yourself too much.
Differences from running
Compared to running, walking puts a lighter load on the spine and knees, as well as less strain on the tendons and ligaments. Therefore, it is especially recommended for people who are getting older and starting to feel their age.
Running: ten tips to get you started
1. Before you start, it is crucial to have a preventive health check-up involving blood tests and other important clinical assessments such as an ECG at rest and during exercise.
2. It is essential to train properly, progressively and patiently if you are to run well and therefore gain satisfaction, multiple benefits and a sense of wellbeing from the endeavour.
3. Before you start full-on training for the race, it is necessary to dedicate at least 4 weeks to general preparation so that you can achieve a good standard of muscular efficiency.
4. During running training, you must never be in a hurry. “Listen” to the responses and potential of your body: it is vital to do things gradually.
5. At least for the first few months of the preparation process, it is important to run slowly (at a gentle pace that enables you to talk with your running partners as you go along). This will also allow you to lose any excess weight easily.
6. You can improve the physical efficiency of your body by following a few basic diet and hygiene rules, such as not smoking, getting enough sleep and ensuring that you have a healthy, balanced diet.
7. Ensure that you wear appropriate clothing. Your footwear is especially important and should be chosen with the help of an expert, taking into account your physique, the nature of the ground where you run (such as paved roads or dirt tracks) and the distances that you cover.
8. Take a prudent approach. Do not push yourself too hard and get to know your running capabilities session after session, without racing yourself or other people when you are training. Remember that your main goal is to have a healthy body and a healthy mind.
9. If possible, get friends or colleagues to join you. Enthusiasm about running is infectious and time flies when you run with friends. You can have fun and share tips and opinions.
10. If you live in an urban environment, find out about local parks and measured routes that you can use. Make sure you train at times when the smog levels are low.
Running the whole Stramilano
The next “Stramilano of the 50,000” is still a few months away, but many people are already thinking about how they will achieve their goal of running the entire distance (10 km), so that they can stay near the front of the thousands of participants or simply so that they can keep up with their friends and relatives. If it is done properly, running offers numerous health benefits and can have a powerful preventive effect. Training regularly and patiently will help you to build up surprisingly good overall stamina, effectiveness and running abilities. You will feel wonderfully healthy, your everyday life will improve in a number of ways and you will be delighted as you cross the finishing line after running the 10 km Stramilano in a good time.
Why start running?
At any age, running (and authentic aerobic exercise in general) promotes a significant sense of overall wellbeing, boosts your energy levels and fills you with vivacity in everything you do, in both your work and your personal life.
Running for at least 30 to 40 minutes (especially at a gentle pace) helps to combat and reduce the risk of many conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.
Regular, moderate exercise helps people of all ages to feel less tired and stressed at the end of the day.
Running promotes greater mental balance, especially if you are in a quiet, natural setting far from busy roads. It also allows you to rest better by getting an optimal night’s sleep.
Regular exercise will improve the majority of your bodily functions in many ways, such as by aiding the efficiency of the digestive system, preventing minor complaints like headaches and gastritis, and boosting your sex drive.
Brisk walking in the Stramilano: the first month of training
Go for a walk 3 or 4 times a week and increase the duration from 20 minutes each session in the first week to 30 minutes in the second week, 40 minutes in the third week and 50 minutes in the fourth week. During these walks, the focus should be on establishing a good brisk walking technique rather than on speed. Before and after the walks, it is advisable to do some stretching and joint mobility exercises. For quick, efficient movement, walkers require good mobility in their backs, hips, legs and shoulders. Twice a week, it is a good idea to do some muscle strengthening exercises for your abdomen and back (to enhance your posture), your gluteal muscles (which are important for brisk walking) and your arms.
Brisk walking in the Stramilano: the second month of training
If you have followed our advice for the first month (with 3 or 4 sessions a week in January), you will now be able to do some more challenging training and become an expert, fast walker in time for the Stramilano of the 50,000. First and foremost, remember to relax your movements as much as possible: keep your head and chest upright, loosen your shoulders and arms, ensure that you have a constant stride length, use your hips to “soften” the impact on the ground, and focus on breathing properly and deeply. In this second month, you can start covering greater distances. Ideally, you want a flat route on a paved path (or dirt track) of at least two kilometres (with some kind of marker at each kilometre). You can then use this route to check your pace during some of your training sessions. In February, you should aim to train at least 4 times a week. The first session should last 60 minutes, the second 70 minutes, the third 60 minutes and the fourth 80 minutes. It is best if they do not take place on consecutive days. In the first and the third session, start out very slowly and gradually increase your speed until you are walking at a good pace for the last 20 to 30 minutes. Check your time for each lap or kilometre (using the markers) to see if you really are increasing your pace gradually. It is not easy at first. In the second and fourth sessions, go for a long walk at a relatively gentle pace (if you have any walking partners, you should be able to talk to them without struggling for breath). During these long, slow sessions, you can choose varied routes and go up and down hills if you like. In February, do not forget to do stretching and joint mobility exercises before and after every training session. If you are not overweight and you follow the training programme carefully, by the end of the month you should already be able to walk at between 7 and 8 km/h, which is an impressive pace for a walker. Once again this month, at least twice a week you should do muscle strengthening exercises for the abdomen and the back (and all of the muscle groups in general) to enhance your posture. At the end of each walk, as you savour the delightful sensation of physical and mental wellbeing, do some decompression and unloading exercises for your spine.
Body composition and athletic performance
When trying to get in shape, people have always tended to focus on checking their weight and keeping a close eye on any changes. However, even if you compare it to your height, looking at your weight will not tell you much. After all, it is impossible to tell if weight loss is due to a reduction in fat or if weight increases are caused by eating too much.
Many people find that they have put on a few ounces after doing some weight training sessions and complain about the increase, while others see that they are lighter than usual when they step on the scales after an exhausting session and think that they have achieved their goal in the right way. In actual fact, these two situations mean very different things for people’s bodies than they might think. In the first case, weight training gradually builds up muscle mass (a very important change, as we will see below). In the second case, strenuous training in very hot environments can cause substantial liquid loss, so the reduction in weight has absolutely nothing to do with a reduction in fat.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that sweating means that they are reducing their fat levels, when they are really only dehydrating their bodies and needlessly subjecting them to stress.
Scientifically speaking, it is much more accurate to see body weight as the sum of two components: lean mass (all of the organs, bones and muscles) and fat mass. The only real way to assess each person’s condition is to find out the weight of each component.
For athletes and people in general who consider themselves to be fairly active, having a high body fat percentage is more than just an aesthetic issue: there is a strong correlation between body fat percentage and performance. Fat is just dead weight that you have to shift with every movement during exercise.
Every additional ounce of fat increases the amount of energy required to move the body, thus reducing the maximum speed possible with the energy capacity available. There is also a negative correlation between body fat percentage and thermoregulation capacity: fat reduces the body’s ability to disperse heat.
Lean mass is the metabolically active part of our bodies, i.e. the part that consumes energy even when we are resting. Consequently, the lean mass percentage directly affects our kcal requirements. In practical terms, without taking into account the extra energy needed for exercise, this means that a very muscular person will consume more and therefore need more food than a person who perhaps weighs less and has a lower lean mass percentage.
You will all have heard the theory that it is best to run at a moderate pace for a reasonably long time in order to lose weight, but did you know that the highest percentage of fats in the blend used to produce energy is actually consumed when you are resting and sleeping (approximately 60%)? As mentioned above, lean mass is responsible for this energy consumption. Hence the need to preserve your muscle mass and avoid damaging it with bad diets or exhausting training from which you are unable to recover.
Are long running sessions always recommended for losing weight properly?
Let me give you an example that I like to use. There are two athletes: a sprinter and a marathon runner. They both have very low body fat percentages, but how is this possible with a 100-metre runner who never runs continuously for more than 30 seconds during his training programme?
The reason is very simple: the energy used to preserve the sprinter’s muscle mass is partly responsible for his calorie consumption. As I explained above, a larger amount of lean mass will mean more calorie consumption even during rest.
Bear in mind that when top marathon runners train, changes in their bodies brought about by years of groundwork allow them to consume larger amounts of fat than a sedentary person who has only recently started running.
During long training sessions at a gentle pace, the percentage of fats burned is approximately 40%, but it actually varies a great deal and depends on a range of factors, such as fitness levels, diet and the duration of the session. In any case, the amount of fat consumed by non-elite athletes is not very high and extended periods of running reduce muscle tissue and therefore lean mass in general.
During more strenuous exercise that pushes you to the limit, there is a greater tendency for your body to use carbohydrates as a fuel source. The energy requirements of our bodies remain high even after a training session, so more energy is consumed when we rest, which is also when the percentage of fats used is highest.
If you train in the gym without eating properly, your muscle mass will increase but there will be no significant changes to your fat mass.
Do not waste too much time on “long slow distance” training. Always remember to use all of the training methods at your disposal, including middle distance running, repeats and circuit training. Uphill repeats are also fine, although they do not do much to strengthen the torso. The important thing is to build up a healthy, well-trained body and develop all of the qualities that help athletes who want to excel in long-distance races.