When self-confessed chubby kid James Kuegler came back from his OE in early 2007 he set himself a goal: to compete in the iconic Coast to Coast multisport race and lose a bit of weight in the process.
After a bit of New Year's partying he ditched the alcohol and crappy diet and on the January 7, 2007 hit the road for his first run.
He ran for 10km, felt sore for at least two days afterwards and looking back says it's "certainly not the way I'd recommend someone does it."
Now a successful athlete and coach, Kuegler, 24, tells beginners to focus on time rather than distance when starting out running.
He says it takes the emphasis off how fast you're going and makes it more about getting out there and doing something.
Kuegler's suggestion for beginners is to aim for four to five half hour sessions a week. That's in line with the 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise recommended by Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) to gain some health benefits.
Initially each half hour is four minutes of walking, then a minute of running repeated six times over. Gradually you reduce the walking time and up the running time - walks become three minutes and the runs two, until you are running steadily for the full half hour.
So how did my first runs go? Unfortunately I didn't hear Kuegler's words of wisdom before striking out, but having said that I wasn't as gung-ho as he was on his first ever run. Mine was a much more moderate jog around the block, just shy of 1km. I have no idea how long it took me but it didn't look like the husband made much headway on his beer while I was out.
It was a covert affair, undertaken in darkness, dressed neck to ankle in black. Speed was far from my mind - that was until I had to overtake a young couple out for a gentle, late evening stroll. I was somewhat akin to an overladen Bongo van struggling to overtake before the passing lane ran out. I needed to dig pretty deep to ensure I didn't suffer the indignity of getting re-overtaken.
Since that first run I have been gradually building up my running time, adding a minute or so every few runs until I can now manage regular runs between 20 and 30 minutes. While my initial methodology diverges a little from Kuegler's advice, I did do one thing right: build up slowly.
He says to judge your fatigue levels when you're increasing run times. If you're getting to the end of the week without too many challenges then step it up.
A little discomfort is ok, but feeling pain is a different kettle of fish, says Kuegler. If there is pain it will be a case of taking a step back, getting it sorted and starting back again.
Once you're comfortable with four half hour runs a week, add ten minutes to one of the runs so the next week it becomes three 30 minute runs and a 40 minute run. When you're comfortable again - add another ten so your total volume is slowly increasing without being too taxing on time.
Kuegler's does have one hard and fast rule of thumb for beginners: patience is mandatory.
"I see a lot of runners who might plan to do a marathon and give themselves three months to do a marathon from scratch. Some of them get there, some of them are fine, but the reality is most end up in a crippling heap six weeks out from the marathon because their muscles haven't had enough time to develop."
So what happened to the kid with puppy fat? He dropped his weight by 15kg (20 per cent of his weight), grabbed a number of podium finishes along the way and earlier this year Kuegler finished eighth in the Coast to Coast. He now has his eye on the top spot.
In other news:
* Get the Christmas vibe with the Jingle Bell Jog in Nelson. Everyone, including the family dog, can run, walk, skate or scoot the 5km from Trafalgar Centre to Tahuna Beach. Prizes for the person with the most ringing bells, best costume, best family costume and best dressed dog. 9.30am, Sunday December 11.
* Future Olympians are out competing this weekend at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Track & Field and Road Running Champs. Held at Wellington's Newtown Park Stadium on Saturday and Sunday, it will feature over 1450 top young athletes from 227 schools.
- HERALD ONLINE