Run for fun & more
New year, new resolution, new you. Sure, it’s easier said than done. But if running is your resolution of choice for 2015, it’s also well within the realm of possibilities. And why wouldn’t it be?
Running is one of the simplest ways to exercise. With the right shoes, you can run on your own schedule at your own pace. You can run by yourself, with a partner or in a group. And whether you’re on a leisurely jog or competing in one of countless local races, it’s a great way to explore your surroundings.
For many, like Toni Johncour, a civilian at Camp Zama, Japan, the biggest hurdle was simply getting started 8 years ago. She says she just didn’t believe she could do it.
“For the first year I was in the Army, I really had a hard time running and they put me on a walking profile,” Johncour says. “I used to work out with a girl and we used to go to the gym together. She decided to start running and she was a bigger girl than me. And I thought, ‘if she can run on the treadmill for 30 minutes then I can run on the treadmill, too.’ And that’s how I started running.”
Now with 13 full marathons under her belt, including the Tokyo Marathon, Johncour is a running addict. Her current record is 3 hours and 41 minutes at the Seoul International Marathon, and she hits the nearby scenic trails by 4 a.m. nearly every day for 5- to 6-mile runs.
While inspiration may have helped Johncour start running, what helped her continue successfully was a training plan. It’s something that no first-time runner should be without, according to Jane Kupkowski, U.S. Army Japan running coach and Camp Zama fitness coordinator.
“If you are making a resolution about running, definitely, you want to sit down with health professional and make sure you have a very clear plan,” she says, “somewhere between 20 weeks or 26 weeks out.”
It’s also important that newbies pace themselves – both figuratively as well as literally.
“If they are just starting out and if they are discouraged, I encourage people to run from a half mile or one mile as their goal. That is a huge accomplishment,” Kupkowski says. “They have to understand that the more they run, the stronger their lung capacity is going to become. Just train smart and don’t do too much too soon – and have a fun.”
After gaining momentum and more confidence, Johncour says that adjusting the goals of her training plan helped keep her motivated.
“When I first started running, people would say you need to do a race, and I was really intimidated by that. I finally did my first 10K, and had a training plan,” she says. “In my opinion, if you run just to run, it’s not as enjoyable because running is not that easy. But if you have a goal, it is determination and dedication (that helps you) get it done.”
The motivation for Capt. Ben Joslin, 210 FAB, Brigade Judge Advocate at Camp Casey, South Korea, is the opportunity to meet locals and learn more about their culture. He has completed six full marathons in Korea, including the 2013 Joongang Seoul Marathon where he finished in 2 hours 54 minutes.
“Korean road races are perfect places to build the alliance and make friends,” he says. “For example, when I was really struggling near the end of the Chuncheon Marathon, a man ran next to me and said that he would help me make it to the finish line. And it is always fun to sing ‘Taehan meenguk taehan meenguk’ (traditional cheer for Republic of Korea) with the people along the course.”
If you are in good shape, one year is a good timeframe for planning and training for your first full marathon (26 miles), and interval running is the best way to do it,” according to Kupkowski.
“Begin with a program that starts only with one- to two-mile intervals, which is a walk and run program. So, for example, they would run for five minutes and walk for two minutes,” she says, adding that the method conditions as well as prevents injuries. “We have 26 bones, 33 joints and 112 ligaments in our foot. The synergy it all comes from (is in) how the foot is placed on the ground. So, the proper movement of the foot placing is important for the person (who is) just staring out.”
For people who want to lose weight, Kupkowski recommends a slow steady pace over speed.
“In order to burn fat during running, it is recommended that you do 45 minutes of 45 percent max heart rate (at a steady pace) for optimal caloric expenditure,” she says. “There are so many heart rate monitors out there. I recommend runners get one to (monitor their) heart rates.”
It may take some effort to kick start or even maintain a regular running routine, but whether it is to lose weight, stay in shape or gain friends, those that do say it is well worth the effort. Chances are you will also see parts of your host territory or nation that non-runners may never know.
“The best thing about running,” Joslin says, “is that it is a tool to see the world and explore new places.”
• Whenever you have time! Morning is the best. Research shows when we come out of a sleep cycle is the best time to get our bodies started, along with nutritional balance of protein intake.
Midafternoon, between noon and 3 p.m. is also good because it gives body cardiovascular and helps hormone balance and stability. Between 5-6 p.m. is OK, but 8-10 p.m. can disrupt the sleep cycle.
• Do Intervals. - Hill Intervals, Sprint Intervals, and Tempo Intervals are all great ways to increase performance and set proper goals. Our bodies adapt over time and it is important to “Change” our routine so our bodies can also make proper changes and strengthen our bones, tendons, and ligaments. Intervals provide us with proper short-term change which our bodies can properly respond to without the increase chance of injury when beginning a running program.
It is important to do circuit training, yoga, and strength exercises for the hips and hamstrings to prevent injury and increase performance. One of the fundamental components of performance is core conditioning, stability for our backs.
Interval training is a great way to condition your cardiovascular system and increase mileage effectively to accomplish a 5K, 10K or half marathon within six months.
• “Mindfulness running” is one of the key components to the mind and body connection. Many avid runners practice visualization techniques, mindfulness, and apply different forms of breathing techniques to increase their running capacity both cardiovascular and biomechanically.
• Running with a partner is good way to increase fitness and wellness in our lives. It provides a social aspect that is key to motivation, self-discipline and accountability.
Be sure that their stride length is close to yours. If it’s not, it can hinder your stride and can have unbalances within the body. Make sure you both come to a agreement on pacing and set intervals to challenge each other.
• Choose the Right Shoes. Every mile you make 1,500 strides. Approximately 10 miles is equivalent to 20,000 steps. It is important to choose correct orthopedic footwear that supports your arch. Each person is different so they should go to running store or wellness clinic for proper testing of gate movement and assessment of biomechanics when purchasing the correct shoe. If you are recovering from an injury or chronic pain issue, contact a podiatrist or sports medicine specialist.
- Jane Kupkowski
Where to run on island
Category: full marathon, 10 km
*Kadena Air Base has opened its gates for Annual Okinawa Marathon, which is the biggest marathon race in Okinawa included more than 13,000 runners in 2014. The course snaked around the island, including a stretch through the base.
Date: March 15
Category: 100 km (Entry fee: $160 or 16,000 yen), 73 km (Entry fee: $120 or 12,000 yen), full marathon (Entry fee: $55 or 5,500 yen)
Registration: now until Jan. 15
Course: Nago city area
Website: www.nagoura.com/ (Japanese)
Nanbu Trim Marathon
Date: March 22
Category: 20 km, 10 km, 5 km, 3 km
Entry fee: Over 19 y/o: $25 (2,500 yen), under 18 y/o: $15 (1,500 yen)
Registration: now until Feb. 11
Course: Itoman city area
Website: w1.nirai.ne.jp/nanbu-so2/index.html (Japanese)