Want to Start a Running Program? Here’s How!

With the arrival of spring, many people are retooling their exercise programs to include some outdoor time. And there is no better way to get exercise outdoors than to begin a running program.  We’ve already seen some of the benefits regular exercise can bring, including having a positive effect on mood, decreasing stress levels and, perhaps most importantly, exercise can significantly lower inflammation in your body as you age.

Moving your exercise program outside comes with its own set of benefits as well, including the positive effects sunlight has on your sleep-wake cycle, since natural sunlight is a powerful biological agent that assists in regulating your body’s internal clock and can help you consistently get a better night’s rest.

When I talk about beginning a running program, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m asking you to train for a marathon! I’m going to introduce you to a running program that takes only 20 minutes 3 or 4 times a week, and that has tremendous cardiovascular and fat burning benefits and is easy and enjoyable.

As always, just to be on the safe side, you should consult with your licensed healthcare provider prior to beginning any exercise program, especially a running program, as your heart is going to get a workout as well as your legs. And, no worries if you can’t imagine yourself running for even half a minute, much less twenty!

The key to success here is to begin very slowly. You’ll actually begin with relaxed walking alternating with fast walking and work up gradually to your 20 minute goal. Many beginning running programs will have you do some combination of running and walking for a total of 30 minutes each day over a period of about eight weeks and gradually increase the minutes you are running until you are running continuously for 30 minutes.

The problem I see with these programs is that they assume the same level of fitness of everyone who begins and this is simply unrealistic. There are some folks who can just take off and breeze through eight weeks, and others who can’t run at all on the first day. I would rather see you make a plan that works for you and your level of fitness.

Here’s one way to get up to speed that has worked well for a lot of people and is based on the idea of progressive accelerated exercise which Dr. Al Sears has popularized with his P.A.C.E. program and others are calling HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. Here’s how it works:
On Day 1, start walking to warm up at a comfortable pace for 2 to 3 minutes. Then gradually pick up your pace until you are walking like you are late to an appointment. Walk at this pace for a minute or two. Then slow your pace back down until you are completely recovered in terms of your breathing and heart rate. This is one complete cycle or set.

You may not be able to do more than this on the first day, or you may be able to do two or even three cycles of relaxed walking alternating with fast walking. Do this every other day or at least three times a week, gradually adding in more cycles of relaxed walking and fast walking up to 20 minutes.

When you do this consistently, you will be surprised at how quickly you progress and it will become much easier to walk even faster. At some point, you will likely naturally begin to run when your cardiovascular conditioning reaches the level where it seems natural to do that. The key to this is to rest in between periods of exertion, by slowing down to a relaxed walk until your breathing and heart rate recovers.

Add cycles of relaxed walking and fast walking or running until you are exercising for 20 minutes at a time. Once you get to the point where you are doing three or four cycles or ‘sets’ in one 20 minute period, you can gradually increase your exertional effort from say, 30% in the first set to 50% in the second set to 70% in the third set and on the fourth set, give it all you have.

The beauty of this type of exercise is that it’s over quickly and takes no more than twenty minutes to accomplish. Unlike running at a moderate pace for thirty minutes, this type of exercise is training your body in a very efficient way that minimizes stress on your connective tissue and minimizes your chance of sustaining the types of injuries that so often plague runners.  Plus, the benefits of this type of interval exercise continue long after you’ve put away your running shoes, as your body continues to burn fat for hours after you exercise.

Here’s another benefit. Once you have been doing this regularly and you have to run to catch a train or quickly change gates at the airport, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to not only sprint quickly but to recover quickly as well. So why not give this a try? Don’t be roped into believing you have to become a marathon runner to get fit. It’s just not true! Let me know how you are doing in the comments below.

Enjoy today!

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  • Become a more energetic, more optimistic, more engaging version of yourself.


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What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Emotional Reserves (Part Five)

In Part Four of our anti-aging series we looked at sleep and its surprising contributions to anti-aging. To wrap up this series, we will now turn our attention to your emotional reserves and how to build them in a way that contributes to wellbeing and anti-aging.

What exactly are emotional reserves? First of all, at the most simplistic level, it means that your basic emotional and physical needs are being met. If this is not the case, then any stressful event in your life, even relatively minor ones, can easily threaten your ability to face life head on and to build a better quality of life for yourself and your family. If you feel constantly under threat, then your body goes into stress response mode. One of the many things that happen when you are under stress is that your sympathetic nervous system signals your adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenalin and cortisol into your bloodstream.


Your body is simply trying to protect you from the signal it is getting from your brain…that you are under a threat of some kind. And no matter that this threat is probably not the threat of bodily harm. Most likely the threat is entirely mental…stemming from worries over financial pressures, relationship difficulties, concern over children, elderly parents (or both!) and a hundred other things most of us face from time to time.

In the short term, adrenalin will help you run fast if you cross paths with a hungry bear while walking in the woods. Cortisol helps to regulate a variety of bodily systems, including blood sugar regulation, and helping to metabolize fats, carbohydrates and protein. But if your emotional reserves are depleted and stress becomes chronic, these hormones can wreak havoc on your body, including elevating your blood pressure, suppressing your immune system and literally speeding up the aging of your cells.

For now, let’s assume your basic emotional and physical needs are being met. What if you could build an even larger emotional reserves reservoir that would be there in case of a major life event? The good news is that you can!

We’ve already covered many of the important ways to do this in this series, including regular exercise, adequate sleep and proper nutrition but there is another way to add to your emotional reserves that goes beyond these basics:  Taking advantage of positive emotions.

In 2001, psychologist and researcher Barbara L. Fredrickson postulated a new theory on the role of positive emotions on physical and mental health, specifically their ability to build psychological resilience, in other words their ability to strengthen and build your emotional reserves. Since then, her findings have led to a whole host of other studies supporting her work and researchers continue to investigate the best ways to apply her findings.

I plan on addressing positive emotions and how to experience them regularly in your life in another article. Meanwhile, I’d love to know any thoughts you have on our anti-aging series in the comments below!

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Sleep (Part Four)

In Part Three of this anti-aging series we looked at exercise and its powerful role in combating inflammation, which as you now know, leads to many of the chronic diseases associated with getting older.

In this article, we will be exploring how sleep affects aging and specifically how getting the right amount of sleep can literally turn back the clock. When you sleep, your body not only rests, but also recovers and repairs itself. But you have to get enough sleep. Most sleep specialists recommend seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.

If you are currently sleeping six hours or less per night, you’ll be delighted to hear that adding these extra hours of sleep will directly affect your physical appearance. After just a few weeks, your skin will improve and you’ll notice less fine skin lines, as new collagen is manufactured while you sleep which will prevent sagging. Plus, that extra sleep will improve circulation to your skin, leading to both a brighter complexion and brighter eyes.


Adequate sleep also plays a vital role in learning new information and memory, both areas that many people are concerned with as they age. Scientists have found it’s both the quantity and the quality of sleep that affects learning and memory. Sleep also plays a vital role in your body’s immune functioning as well as your metabolism. People who continuously do not get enough sleep, or whose sleep is constantly interrupted, tend to get sick easily and also may put on unwanted pounds that are difficult to get off.

Knowing the benefits of good quality sleep, getting more of it would seem a simple thing to implement. For many, busy lives, parental or elder care responsibilities, financial worries or other problems interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep they are getting. What can you do to get the sleep you need? Here are five easy suggestions that at first glance may seem simple but, if you put them into practice, you’ll be surprised at how much your sleep improves!

One: Adhere to a Relaxing Pre-Sleep Routine

An hour or so before you go to bed, start to wind down with some relaxing activities such as light reading, taking a bath or practicing relaxation exercises. Avoid overly stimulating mental or physical activities and especially avoid discussing emotional issues, as this is associated with the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can keep you awake.

Also avoid exposure to bright light, as this can keep you awake later. Dim the lights in your house. You may also want to employ an app that works as a filter for your computer or smartphone and which blocks out stimulating blue light. If you have an iPhone, look under your Settings and enable the Night Shift function as evening approaches.

Two: Don’t Go to Bed Until You Are Truly Tired.

If you go to bed but do not fall asleep after 20 minutes, then get up and read or listen to music until you feel sleepy. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, found in tea, colas, chocolate as well as some pain relievers for six hours prior to sleep. Avoid eating a heavy meal just before bed and don’t drink so much water that you have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.

Three: Transform Your Bedroom into a Sleep Chamber

A quiet, cool, dark environment is best for sleep. Use blackout shades or an eye mask to block out light and keep the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side. Use earplugs or heavy curtains to block out outside noise if necessary.

Four: Pay Attention to Your Internal Clock

Go to bed and arise at the same time each day. This is important. It’s this consistency that will set your body’s internal clock. Try to stick to this schedule, even on weekends and when you have not slept well the night before. Get out into the natural sunlight as soon as you can each morning, even if it’s just for five minutes, and take a sun break for a few minutes during the day. Natural sunlight is a powerful biological agent that will help to regulate your body’s internal clock and can help you consistently get a better night’s sleep.

Five: Know When to Get Help

If none of these things are helping and you are significantly sleep deprived or suffer from insomnia, you may benefit from a consultation with a sleep specialist. She may recommend an overnight sleep study to rule out such conditions as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, both chronic conditions which can lead to other health problems.

Next time, we’ll wrap up this series on anti-aging with a look at how to improve your emotional reserves. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you are doing implementing these better sleep suggestions in the comments below!

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Exercise (Part Three)

In Part One of this series on anti-aging we delved into nutrition and its effects on anti-aging. Plus, I reviewed how I am sharing my anti-aging practices focusing on four big life areas: nutrition, physical conditioning, the quality of your sleep and your emotional reserves.

In this article, we will be looking at the area of physical conditioning (exercise) and anti-aging. Almost everyone knows that exercise is good for your heart and lungs but you may not realize just how profoundly regular exercise can positively affect your mood, your stress levels and perhaps most importantly, can significantly lower inflammation in your body as you age.

In Part Two of this series you learned inflammation is the driver behind many of the chronic diseases that too often come with getting older, so knowing that exercise can be very effective in combating inflammation provides you with a powerful motivator for getting and staying active. A recent study in the well respected medical journal Circulation looked at the association between regular exercise and the results of blood tests for inflammation in a group of 4289 men and women over ten years. Study participants who were regularly physically active had strikingly lower levels of inflammation in their bodies.

Since exercise is a powerful tool in your anti-aging tool chest, you likely have questions as to what kind of exercise and how much. You may even be thinking this means long hours sweating your way through a tough cardio routine on a treadmill, spin bike or training to run half-marathons. Not necessarily. Another large research project, the Harvard Health Professionals study, found it’s not how long you exercise or your endurance but it’s how intense your workout is.


And yet another study from Quebec’s Laval University compared two groups, a ‘long duration’ group which cycled up to 45 minutes without stopping and a ‘short duration’ group which cycled in short 15 to 90 second bursts with rest in between. As expected, the long duration group burned twice as many calories as the short duration group. Here’s the surprising finding: researchers expected that because the long duration group burned twice as many calories, they expected them to also burn more fat. But when the two groups’ body fat measurements were compared, the short duration group not only burned more fat, but lost a whopping nine times more fat for every calorie burned than the endurance group!

Based on these findings, try incorporating short duration bursts of intense activity into your exercise routine. If you want to know more, a helpful book which incorporates these findings is:  PACE: The 12-Minute Fitness Revolution, by Al Sears, M.D.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is another excellent resource and offers guidelines for the quantity and quality of exercise necessary for cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness for healthy adults. (http://www.acsm.org) Whichever route you choose, any movement is better than none.

Next time, we’ll shine the spotlight on your sleep, including how much you should be getting and how to improve your sleep quality to achieve maximum anti-aging benefits. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on exercise, as well as how you are doing in the comments below.

What You Can Do Now To Promote Anti-Aging – Nutrition (Part Two)

In Part One of this series on anti-aging I explained how I am sharing my anti-aging practices focusing on the four big life areas where you can make small changes that will have a powerful impact. These four areas are nutrition, physical conditioning, the quality of your sleep and your emotional reserves.

In this article, we will be looking at the area of nutrition and anti-aging. Your diet is profoundly important and is the one area where you can make small changes and see almost immediate results in the way you look and feel. And when I use the term ‘diet’ I’m not talking about a traditional calorie restricted approach for weight loss. I’m also not talking about fad diets such as drinking nothing but green smoothies for a month and things like that. Yes, you may need to cut back on your daily calorie intake in order to lose extra pounds, but weight loss is not our primary focus here. When you begin to eat with anti-aging in mind, you will may be surprised to find unwanted pounds coming off quite naturally.


What I want you to understand is that current research points to inflammation as the driver behind the development of many of the chronic diseases we have come to accept as an inevitable part of growing older, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s and cancer.  The right kind of nutrition can throw cold water on this damaging inflammatory fire. Plus, there is evidence the foods we eat can actually serve to turn off ‘bad genes’ and flip the switch to turn on ‘good genes!’ In effect, food is actually a powerful drug of sorts and one that has the capacity to dramatically change your health for the better.

So what is an anti-aging diet exactly? Well, turns out it’s really not that complicated. Certain foods have been proven to promote inflammation, such as excess sugar and alcohol as well as  highly processed foods such as white flour and ‘junk’ foods with their heavy loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients.  It goes without saying you should eliminate or greatly reduce your consumption of these foods. So what do you eat instead?

Here’s how to maintain a healthy and sustainable anti-aging diet:

One – Make fruits and vegetables the centerpiece of your nutritional plan. I’m not talking about fruit juice, but whole fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges, with healthy fiber and other vitamins and minerals. Choose a variety of colorful vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards prepared simply without pouring fatty or cheese based sauces over them.  If you can get fresh, seasonal organic fruits and vegetables, all the better but don’t let that stop you from adding these nutritional powerhouses to your plan.

Two – Consume moderate amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts in small portions.

Three – Add fish to your diet if it’s not already a part of it. Choose fish which has loads of life giving omega oils such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.

Four – Limit your consumption of red meat and avoid highly processed foods and sugar. For some people, red wine in moderation is fine and even advisable.

I guarantee if you begin to eat this way, especially if you are a heavy consumer of sugar and other highly processed foods, you will begin to feel better and have more energy almost immediately!

Next time, we’ll focus on your body and how physical conditioning (yes, the dreaded word ‘exercise’) can stave off the effects of aging.  I’m not going to advocate going to the gym for hours of cardio a week, though.  I’m all about making sustainable changes that will last over time, so that’s the view we’ll come from.

I’d love to hear  your thoughts on nutrition, as well as how you are doing in the comments below!

Bon appetit!

What You Can Do Now to Prevent Untimely Aging Later (Part 1 of 5)

When you think of anti-aging, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Many people think of cosmetics of some kind such as wrinkle creams, skin masks, and even makeup or plastic surgery to hide the effects getting older has on our skin.   Although many of these cosmetic formulas are over hyped as ‘miracle’ cures for the inevitable, some are actually excellent products and do deliver what they promise in terms of making skin smoother and somewhat younger looking.

But the kind of anti-aging I’m referring to has little to do with smearing on expensive creams or going under the surgeon’s knife and everything to do with actually greatly slowing and, in some cases, reversing the aging process on various organ systems by working from the inside, not just on surface appearances. Aging is, of course, inevitable.  The onset of chronic disease, loss of energy, muscle weakness, fatigue and other ailments the majority of people have come to accept as a normal consequence of getting older, however, are definitely not inevitable.


Anti-aging medicine and longevity studies are complex specialties all their own and it’s hard to figure out with all the chatter out there what to think about this vitamin or that enzyme, much less what you should do to start an anti-aging regimen of your own. I’ve found that my own clients want advice on a few powerful, practical things they can do on their own to slow the aging process and keep them in the best mental and physical shape possible. And they want advice that has been tested and not just the latest fad.

Of course, the best anti-aging findings are of great importance to me personally, so lately I’ve been doing some research to uncover the best practices to bring into my own life. And now I’m sharing these suggestions with my clients and with you, my readers. In this article and others to follow, we will be looking, based on my research, at four big areas of your life where small but significant changes can make a huge impact. These areas are:

One: nutrition – with an emphasis on reducing inflammation in your body.

Two: physical conditioning – muscle strength, body flexibility and cardiovascular conditioning.

Three: the quality of your sleep.

Four: your emotional reserve – the ability to bounce back from an unsettling event and the ability to keep your stress under control.


And please know this. You don’t have to incorporate everything at once. Just implementing one or two suggestions every couple of weeks can have a profound effect on your well-being and get you started on an anti-aging regimen that will serve you well in the years to come. I’m excited to have you join me on this journey!