How Zumba Fitness helped me train for two half-marathons!
If you think you have no time to train for a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or whatever your goal is, you may already be doing some of the work without knowing! Zumba Fitness classes are a great alternative to cross-training and as long as you keep that heart rate up, it will give you the endurance needed for running long distances.
I had never been much of a runner and always preferred other types of cardiovascular activities: dancing, swimming, kick-boxing, etc. After a year of teaching Zumba Fitness classes, a friend finally persuaded me to sign up for my first half marathon. 13.1 miles, here I came! But where was I going to find time to train with a congested school and work schedule that included being a full time Ph.D. student, a Zumba Fitness instructor, a physical therapist on weekends, and a wife 24/7?
The training program I chose to follow lasted 12 weeks. My typical week consisted of two Zumba Fitness classes (cross-training days), two or three short runs (3-5 miles), a long-run (5-12 miles), and a “stretch and rest” day. In May of 2012, I finished the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half-Marathon in just under my goal-time of two-and-a-half hours. I couldn’t believe it! I had never been a runner and I had just finished a 13.1 mile race. Although these miles were intimidating to a novice runner, I knew my body and mind were ready for the challenge.
After my first half-marathon was a success, I decided to sign up for a fall half-marathon. My work and school schedules had become even more time-consuming, and I was now teaching three Zumba Fitness classes per week. I decided to follow the same 12-week training program, but because of my lack of free time, I was only running once a week for my long-run. It became clear to me that Zumba Fitness was helping me maintain my cardiovascular endurance even though I was not running as much as I did during my first training. Finishing the Towpath Half-Marathon in Cleveland, Ohio (4 minutes faster than my first) was proof that I could stay in peak cardiovascular shape with Zumba Fitness.
Here are some key factors I learned during my trainings:
- Try for high-intensity cardiovascular activities for an average of 45-60 minutes, 3 times a week. If you are already teaching or taking Zumba Fitness classes, perfect! Just make sure you are hitting 70-90% of your maximum heart rate (max heart rate = 220 – age).
- Do short but effective strengthening workouts.15-20 minutes, twice a week is all you need. For a first race, you don’t need to lift too much weight. You’re going for endurance to finish the race; not necessarily to break a world record for speed. I would usually do these workouts 15 minutes before or after Zumba Fitness classes because I was already at the gym, all the equipment was there, and I had no excuses!
- Save a day for a long-run. For me, they started as 30-minute runs, and ended in 2-hour runs. Write it down in your calendar, and treat it with the same importance as you would a business meeting or a doctor’s appointment.
- Rest is essential. Choose a day to you give your body a break. Your muscles need time to recover after adding that extra distance every week. Stretching also helps in your day off. A rest day allows you to get mentally and physically ready for the next week. Don’t be afraid to modify your schedule if you need to.
- Finding the right gear (and having it available) is crucial. Running shoes and cross-training shoes are not the same. You want to make sure you keep your joints healthy by choosing the right shoe for your fitness activities. Try to have a pair of running shoes and workout clothes in your car just in case you have a little extra time or if you miraculously get off work early.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, there are many free training programs online that you can choose from. The most important thing to remember is to modify the training to fit your schedule, fitness level and goals.