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Get Lean Like a Marathon Man

Even if you’re 20 pounds (or more) out of marathon shape, that doesn’t mean you can’t get lean the same way a runner would.

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It's a typical scene. A guy goes into a gym and bellies up to the treadmill, punches in 30 minutes on the screen, and starts plodding along. But even if he hits that treadmill three days a week for months, chances are his weight loss won’t go anywhere. Sound familiar? Whether your cardio days are getting stale or you just can’t find the motivation to stick with a program, you need help. Who better to supply it than a couple of guys who turn average Joes into top marathoners? We looked at their training strategies and stole the best bits—the tips you can use to kick-start your own weight-loss regimen. Set a Specific Goal General goals (like “weight loss”) are fine, according to Hal Higdon, a famed marathon coach and author of Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, but having short-term and long-term goals is a better way to stay motivated and on track. “Think three weeks, three months, or three years down the road and decide on a specific goal,” he says. “A marathon is an excellent ultimate goal that motivates many to start moving, but all you really need is some point down the road that you’d like to get to.”

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The reason most guys don’t make significant gains with their cardio is they start out with a weak base or a plan that’s just too aggressive, says Higdon. “If you start at a slower level and build your base more gradually, then you’re more liable to be successful when you’re moving your way up.” Don’t expect that you’re going to get in great shape in a matter of weeks either—it’s not going to happen. “The first three or four weeks, you merely want to survive until the beginnings of fitness kick in,” he says. Consider Progressions The idea is simple: Just mix up the pace throughout your run. “It’s meant to strengthen muscle fibers so you can eventually do harder, longer runs,” says Brad Hudson, a world- renowned marathon coach. One of Hudson’s favorite progressions for beginners: run one mile at an easy pace, then run at a moderate pace for 40 seconds, ease back to an easier pace for two minutes and 20 seconds, and then surge back to a quick pace for 40 seconds. Repeat for a total of two miles of 10 surges and recoveries.

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