Just Cruising: Simple Run/Walk Fitness for Busy People with Sue Ward

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Event Date: 06/06/2000.

Fitness educator Sue Ward reveals her methods on how you can get in shape fast by combining the worlds of walking and running.

The opinions expressed by Ms. Ward are hers and hers alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. this event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Sports and Fitness Auditorium. Today we are discussing Just Cruising: Simple Run/Walk Fitness For Busy People, with Sue Ward.

Sue Ward has a BS in Exercise Science and a minor in nutrition from Southern Connecticut State University and holds a variety of related certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise, and the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. She has been developing fitness programs, training clients, and teaching exercise classes since 1982 and has successfully trained non-runners ages 15 to 50 with her cruising program. Sue serves as a member of the Program Director Committee for IDEA, the world's leading organization for health and fitness professionals. Currently the director of a large corporate fitness center in Southern California, she is committed to helping people lead healthier lives through physical activity.

Sue, welcome to WebMD Live. How do you get people to "simplify" exercise?

Ward: There are four ways I get people to simplify exercise. One is by sticking to the basics. There are trends that come and go such as cardi-boxing and step-aerobics, but walking and running have been with us and remain the most natural to our bodies. Also, no equipment and very little instruction is necessary. The second way I get people to simplify exercise is by committing to no more than three days a week, or what comfortably fits your lifestyle. Three days a week works for most people. Most people are busy and have no time, which is the number one reason why more people don't exercise regularly. Three days a week is more realistic. Third, we don't waste time, that is, doing the most effective exercise for cardiovascular and muscular fitness. The run/walk fitness can burn calories in a short amount of time. Many of the strength exercises I recommend use more than one muscle group and use a person's own body weight, such as a pushup. The fourth way is I get people to set a short-term goal, something that builds self-confidence: New exercisers set a goal participating in a five kilometer race. In six weeks a person can be ready to do such an event and not feel that it was too difficult to achieve this goal. This brings self confidence.

flooz_webmd: When is it best to walk, before or after eating? And how much time do you allow between meals and a walk?

Ward: Generally, it is best to exercise prior to a meal. However, you should not be completely starving. If it's first thing in the morning, it is best to have a glass of juice, or something light and easily digestible. It depends on the person, but generally, having something light, like a glass of juice, you can usually exercise within 15 to 20 minutes.

drchu_webmd: How should a person who has had a heart attack approach your program?

Ward: Very carefully, first. Get a doctor's okay. This person would start out with walking, and get themselves to a comfortable pace. With their doctor's okay, they would begin to implement running intervals every three to four minutes. Gradually, after a week, if that feels comfortable, then in week two, you could run for two minutes and walk for three minutes and repeat that ratio. Gradually over time, you could increase the running minutes, provided it feels comfortable. There may be a point where you feel you don't want to increase running minutes. That would be fine, if you choose to run for five minutes and walk for three. The program is very flexible.

drchu_webmd: Is using a treadmill as good as working outdoors?

Ward: Whatever is most convenient for you will work. However, you do burn more calories outdoors and it may be easier to maintain. Some people feel that treadmill training can be boring or repetitive.

Moderator: How does your run/walk program get people to stick to exercise?

Ward: One, by giving them a purpose for exercising, some end results. That's why I encourage people to enter a road race. When people exercise with a purpose, they are more likely to stick to a program. Second, by keeping it time efficient and moderate. People are very busy nowadays, and in order to adhere to the program, it has to be realistic to fit into a lifestyle. Third, by trying to make it fun. Using a partner, meeting once a week to exercise together in a nice location such as along a beach, lakefront, park, et cetera.

Moderator: Does running burn more calories than walking? Why or why not?

Ward: Running does burn more calories than walking, although walking can be intense if you are walking uphill. When you walk, you may notice that you hit a plateau, feel very comfortable with the workout, very little to add to the workout. Most people can do at least one to two minutes of running comfortably. And this will add to the calorie burning effect and also will enhance cardiovascular training.

Moderator: Does either running or walking burn more fat? Why?

Ward: Both activities burn fat, and when you are talking about body fat loss, what really matters is total calories burned. So you may burn 150 calories during a 30-minute walking workout, and a 30-minute running workout will burn 300 calories. It depends on body weight and pace. If you want to lose body fat, burn a lot of calories. Exercise more, and eat less.

Moderator: How does your program differ from most walking and/or running routines?

Ward: What I have noticed is that walking books and walking programs seem to steer people away from running, and running books seem to attempt to turn people into runners. I recommend people do both in order to keep it flexible. We all know that some days people don't feel great, but by training both ways, people do better. My program is focused on fitness and fun. The biggest difference is my half and my full marathon training programs are not traditional. Instead of building mileage, the emphasis is on three days a week with low mileage and a stronger on. My program is for bigger people. If people realize that it does not require a lot of time to train for a marathon, or a half marathon, more people would try it and seek the benefits of a light to moderate training program. Also, I want my clients to experience a new high, which is personal success that builds self-confidence.

Moderator: How many weeks would it take someone to prepare for a marathon on your program?

Ward: On my program, if someone is currently a non-exerciser, they would go through a six-week base training program to prepare them and get their bodies used to exercise. That would be followed by approximately six months of training which is a great way to just help yourself stick to exercise.

Moderator: How do you get non-runners to complete marathons?

Ward: First, by hooking them into the easy-based training program and making them believe that they can do it, what happens is each week they achieve a personal goal. Someone who didn't think they could run a mile is now running a mile. Then when they think they can't run two miles, they run. By taking small steps and being successful, it builds self-confidence. If someone says the words, "I can never do that," I say that "I challenge you to believe in yourself" and I will be the one to say "I told you so." Also, how do you know if you never try? You can only fail if you give up. It's amazing to see non-exercisers cross the finish line.

Moderator: Do you recommend your clients keeping a log or some sort of chart of their progress?

Ward: I do; if people keep a chart, it's usually more motivating because you can see your progress. I recommend that people keep their chart on the refrigerator, and it's motivating to fill in the blanks on the chart and see themselves changing and getting fit.

Moderator: And they might think twice before reaching for the ice cream! What about people who think a half or full marathon is impossible?

Ward: I show them they can be successful by taking small steps first. And, by being successful with each step, that takes them to the next step. And when they begin to experience amazing changes in their body and how quickly their body adapts, they become motivated. Also, I tell people they can walk the whole thing and still get a medal. So there's no pressure. I also encourage people to watch one of these events, actually experience the event to see what it's really like. That sometimes opens their eyes, because the TV coverage generally shows the elite runners, not the 70% ofwalkers and runners, who are all average people. Once people see that, hey, there's people out there that are overweight, that don't look like runners, their eyes are opened and it's encouraging to see that.

Moderator: What should people with chronic joint problems -- bad knees, ankles, backs, et cetera -- do to reduce the risk of injury?

Ward: Well first, take a very slow, gradual progression through this program, even modifying it to make it easier. It gives the joints time to adapt. I have had clients that begin the program with some moderate knee trouble, and once they slow down, their joints adapt more quickly than heart and lungs. So although the heart and lungs make people believe that they can go faster, I keep them at a slower pace. And by stressing the joints slowly and gradually, just like all other parts, they too, become stronger.

Moderator: What role does stretching play in fitness and exercise regimens?

Ward: Stretching is important, especially if you're doing this type of activity. I recommend people spend at least 15 minutes stretching after the program. Having flexible muscles help reduce injuries. Stretching for some people works well in the beginning, but again only if the muscles are already warm. For example, a person may start out with three minutes of walking, stop, pause and stretch, before continuing on. Most people do not stretch enough, especially runners. They end up with tight hip joints and sometimes injuries, so stretching is very important.

Moderator: Is this lack of stretching the major cause of runner's injuries?

Ward: I don't think it's the major cause. The bigger cause is muscle imbalances, which means if the calves are very strong and tight, and the shins are weak, you have an imbalance and that may cause pulling on the knees or ankles, and so I recommend that runners and walkers do not do calf-strengthening exercises. Sometimes an injury has to do with a person's running biomechanics and just their genetics. Many times that can be corrected through strength exercises, and that is very dependant upon each person.

Moderator: Are there any other imbalances like the shin/calf imbalance that runners should be aware of?

Ward: Yes, the hamstrings, the muscles in the back of the upper thigh, get very tight, and the opposing muscles, the front of the thigh, the quadriceps, are usually weak, and that can create an imbalance. And if the hamstrings are too tight, this can cause stress on the low back. So I recommend that people strengthen the muscles in the front of their thighs, and one way to do that is walk up a big hill backwards. Strengthening the front of the thigh helps strengthen the knee joint.

Moderator: Do you recommend any upper body strength training to benefit runners/walkers?

Ward: I do. However, I prefer people who are not used to an exercise program take it one step at a time. So I recommend people start with the run/walk program for a few weeks. If they find that they can stick to that, then I think they can add some upper body strength exercises, posture, abdominal and back strength -- sometimes runners and walkers feel that their shoulders get tired from holding their arms up -- but again, only after someone is consistent for the first few weeks. I believe if you try to do everything, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Moderator: A common complaint from new runners seems to be cramps in the side. What would you recommend to remedy them?

Ward: Cramps in the side usually happen once or twice when someone who is not used to exercising goes out and does it, sometimes, too much too soon. So with this program you start out with one minute of running, which is doable for most people, and I encourage people to go very slowly at their own pace. If they do get a side-stitch, I have them walk, take some deep breaths and rub that area. It will usually go away.

Moderator: In what ways do running and walking have different effects on the body, both positive and negative?

Ward: They both have positive effects, in that you will get all the usual benefits with either. If you are a walker and you prefer that, that's fine, you may choose to do a tiny bit of running. If you are a runner, you may have to get used to a walking break every now and then. And that can benefit you because even if you take a short walking break, over time, those breaks allow a person to go farther with less fatigue and a lower risk of injury. So by switching back and forth, you change the way the muscles in your legs are used, and they have a chance to recover. Also, any moderate exercise -- many of my clients have noticed an increased immune system. And many of my clients have made it through the cold and flu season fine, because the program is moderate.

flooz_webmd: I have been experiencing leg cramps at night since I've started walking. What causes this and what can I do to relieve the cramping which usually occurs at night?

Ward: Sometimes leg cramping is due to dehydration. And drinking plenty of water throughout the day can make a world of difference. If you are drinking beverages such as coffee and soda, those things are dehydrating and drinking a lot of water can really help. Also, it's important to remember that when you are trying to hydrate yourself by drinking water, it is better to take small sips than it is to gulp down water in a minute. This way the water is absorbed more slowly into the cells, rather than your kidneys being overloaded with fluid.

Moderator: What's the best way to relieve their leg cramps?

Ward: When it occurs, rub that area. Massage that area. Sometimes leg cramps occur when you weakly point your toe; just relaxing the leg and massaging that area will help. Sometimes those cramps can be very intense, and they will strain a muscle. This usually occurs with people who are becoming very dehydrated. A sport drink mixed with water is a great way to get minerals into the system.

Moderator: Should people run with a water bottle and drink while they run?

Ward: I recommend that people get used to carrying an eight-ounce bottle of water because you always have it available. So even if you are doing a road race, especially on a hot day, it may not be enough. Or it may just overload your system, and then when you're running you feel the water sloshing around. Whereas, if you take small frequent sips, it's more readily absorbed. It's better to just get used to carrying a small bottle.

Moderator: What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise?

Ward: That could get technical, but aerobic exercise is with oxygen. So aerobic exercise is where your breathing rate is up and you are able to talk and continue for a long period of time. Walking, running, swimming, roller-skating, et cetera, anything that elevates your breathing rate for a sustained period of time and uses the large muscles to accomplish that.

Anaerobic exercises are those which are done without oxygen, or in short bursts. Strength training, quick sprint for 50 yards, are anaerobic where you use a different energy system to spend calories. Some sports such as tennis, basketball, are considered anaerobic, but have aerobic components, but you may be sprinting or standing in place.

Moderator: Is your program mostly aerobic, then?

Ward: My programs are mostly aerobic; however, if you want to include strength, that's anaerobic.

Moderator: Do you incorporate sprints to increase speeds?

Ward: Not initially through this program. I have worked with some of my advanced runners to improve their pace. So if they want to be able to run a nine-minute mile, what I do with them is short interval training, where for 30 seconds I have them run a little faster than their comfortable pace. So we don't get them to the anaerobic phase, but speed intervals. That is also know as fartlek training. This increases the conditioning of your heart and lungs.

Moderator: What are your thoughts about nutrition and weight loss?

Ward: I like to stick to the basics, and there are three essentials. One is a variety. If you choose many different foods, you will get the best mix of nutrients. Second, moderation, which means avoiding extremes. Even the unhealthiest foods can be worked into a good diet. And wholesomeness, I like to encourage people to choose foods with few or no preservatives, additives and artificial sweeteners. Even if someone is trying to lose weight, buy regular salad dressing and moderate the portion. Sometimes the fat free products do not satisfy, and sometimes they don't taste as good. Also, I recommend people follow the food guide pyramid, which once you get used to choosing healthier foods and a wide variety, things seem to fall into place. Weight starts coming off. I don't believe there are any foods you cannot have. There are just some that you need to be moderate about. As far as weight loss, eat smaller portions of what you currently eat. And this is an easy way to begin to change some eating habits. Second, cut back on foods without eliminating them and you won't feel deprived. Third, if you eat foods that are lower in fat, or have a high-fat choice, moderate the portion. If you eat the entirely low-fat foods, you may not feel satisfied. Fourth, if you keep a seven-day journal of everything you eat, it will be an eye-opening experience. Many of us think we're eating a very healthy diet, but people see places where you can make some changes. It's also important to try to distinguish between physical hunger and emotional hunger. But that is a big topic. Also, I recommend people be very patient because quality weight loss is a very slow process, and lastly, stay off the scale. The scale is not your friend! And especially with women, there are water fluctuations in our bodies that can range from two pounds to six pounds overnight. And this is not body fat. But the scale won't tell you that. If you want to keep track of your weight, step on the scale once a month and the same time during the month, and that is a better way to show changes.

Moderator: Will a long-distance runner have a different diet than moderate run/walker, i.e., more carbohydrates?

Ward: Actually, the studies recently done state that long distance runners do need to have a higher content of fat. So, a very low-fat diet would not be good for someone who is planning a marathon. You would want to incorporate some fats, about 30% of normal calories. Some of the healthier fats include salad dressing, avocados, seeds, nuts, which in large quantities can add too many calories.

Moderator: What about the day before a race? How does the diet change?

Ward: Usually if you eat what you're normally used to eating, you will have the best results, without making too many changes. Not too much protein, plenty of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, pasta cooked slightly firm), protein (fish, lean poultry, perhaps in a stir fry). Not too many vegetables, because you don't want to have a high fiber content, and you do want to have some fat so that you're not hungry.

Moderator: So are the carbohydrate-loading dinners the night before the race generally a good idea?

Ward: They're fine. It's basically a tradition. There's usually some great pasta dishes, with a moderate amount of fat.

Moderator: Why did you write this book? How did you come up with this run/walk program?

Ward: I found most exercise books very complex, confusing and often misleading. Also, I was not able to find anything for the average busy person who perhaps does not want to become a runner. I wanted to offer a program that would help people become consistent and one that would fit into a busy lifestyle. I felt it was important that the program be simple and involve the most basic exercise. I figured out the minimum amount of exercise one would have to do in order to complete a full marathon. Then I tried it myself. When it worked for me, each year I began a free training group. What I noticed is everyone who stuck with the program has been successful. And I was amazed and I felt I had to share this information and show people that they can do it.

Moderator: What are the most important things to keep in mind to be successful in your exercise regimen?

Ward: The most important thing is to stick with the three days a week. Try not to get overly motivated and do more than that, because you may burn out. Also be patient. There are some days when exercise is just harder than other days. It could be lack of sleep, a stressful day at work, something to do with what you ate, the weather. It's very hard to run on a windy day. So some days are just harder than others. And know that if you have a hard day, the next day is going to be easy. And there are some days when you feel very strong, so be patient and stick with it and you will see amazing changes in your body and in your level of confidence.

Moderator: Who will benefit most from the information in your book?

Ward: People who feel motivated by personal accomplishment, people who are busy who feel exercise is complex, anyone that wants to build self-confidence. This is a great program especially if you choose to complete a marathon or half marathon. This is a great program for those who are looking to refocus themselves. This program teaches a lot about yourself and your body. It can be helpful during periods of stress. It's also a great program for people who truly believe that they cannot run. It will change their minds.

Moderator: Do you recommend people having a running buddy to help them in the program?

Ward: Absolutely. When you run with a partner or a small group of friends, they're all waiting for you. So you will be much more likely to show up. And on days when you feel like not showing up, your partner will encourage you. Also the social aspect, you'll meet new people, invite new people, and you can talk about things, movies, et cetera. When I train in my group you cannot talk negatively. You must talk about good things. And it's a great way to keep yourself motivated. So I definitely recommend getting a few people together, the more the better.

Moderator: Why should people run and walk instead of just one or the other?

Ward: Doing both allows you the flexibility to run, to walk and to run/walk. For those people who train for a marathon and train only for running, if they have to stop at the end and drink water, it's hard to get started up again. But by training this way, your body is more conditioned to do that. When you actually complete a road race, you don't have to walk, you can do both. If you do need to walk, it allows you to keep going. Sometimes my clients prefer to do a race and walk up every hill and save that energy, so that then they get to the top of the hill, they can begin running again. And it's just a matter of personal preference. But many of my runners who were not believers in taking walk breaks who tried it, found that they often got better finishing times at the races. By taking the walk breaks, it enabled their running intervals to be stronger. It happened with myself. My final words would be, right now is your tomorrow. Get out there and do it and stick with it and give it a chance, and you will see that getting in shape is not that difficult.

Moderator: What is the name of your book?

Ward: The name of the book is Just Cruising, Simple Fitness for Busy People. The web site is www.Coronahousepublishing.com. 

Moderator: Sue, thank you for joining us. 

Ward: Thank you, my pleasure.

Moderator: WebMD members, please join us every Tuesday at 9 pm EDT here in the Sports and Fitness Auditorium for our live weekly event.

The opinions expressed by Ms. Ward are hers and hers alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. this event is meant for informational purposes only.

©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Last Editorial Review: 10/23/2003