Adopting the Two Week Rule - Incorporate Running into a Lasting and Healthy Lifestyle
When I started running competitively thirty years ago I had no plans and no
real coaching. It was simply that I could run. I was built for it. The
town of Cumberland, RI had a pretty good summer track program and neighboring towns would get together for weekly track meets and as a six year old kid, I would jump into any race the “coach” said to and try to get to the finish
line first. It seemed to work for this wiry young kid and I would take my
finisher ribbons and tack them to a cork board in my room when I got home. By
the time I was nine, they had to stick me in the teenage girls events because
there weren’t any distance races for the little guys. Growing up, my
father used to call me “the squirrel” as I seemed to always be dashing here
or there and I think my parents needed me to burn off all that energy before
Competition seemed to be the only thing that fueled my desire to run. I
wanted to fill that cork board with blue ribbons. But as I got older, I
realized it took more than just raw energy to get those ribbons and coaching
played an increasingly important role in keeping me running. I began to have a
profound respect for the “weekend warrior”. Years later I started to
develop a set of rules that would support a lasting running plan and healthy
Like most everyone, getting started again became increasingly difficult and
required discipline and guidance to get back into shape. About fifteen years
ago, amidst a relatively successful college running career, I would coach high
school runners in the off season. And I began with the 2-week rule.
The Two Week Rule
Simply put, I would tell the gang, “give it two weeks”. Basically, if you
give it two weeks, then you will stick with it. Now that may seem a little too
simple, but there is truth in there. After a couple of days, these kids would
be very sore and walking up and down stairs at home would make their legs scream for mercy. After about a week, grumpiness would set in and I would lose one or two of them to TV and video games or girls. But those that stuck with it started to come around after about two weeks. They began to “get it”.
Things started to click and the body began to adjust to the added workload.
Two weeks became the first milestone that I set and as I went through my own
time away from exercising or racing, I would always start back with the two week
rule. Later, when I began to study physiology in graduate school, I realized that
there was a bit of science to back some of my assumptions. The physiological
effects were also matched by the psychological gains with setting and meeting
goals. While putting adults through a beginner fitness program, I would tell
them to not be overwhelmed by all the demands of nutrition and weight scales and schedules. Just show up. The rest will come. And the two weeks will turn
into another two.
As I begin this series on running, my goal is to cover more of “the rules”
and maybe set a framework you can use to build your own program. Hopefully,
you come back to read up on things like choosing the correct running shoes or
the how to incorporate speed work. We’d like to hear from you all with
questions and feedback. Some of those will shape the direction of this
column. We will be focusing on running, but some rules are equally relevant to
any new program you may be beginning towards a lasting and healthy lifestyle.
But whatever you may be starting and no matter how intimidating the goal, give
it two weeks.
Chris Harig is competitive runner, multisport athlete, and coach based in the
Seattle area. In 2007 and 2008, he was the top American at the ITU Duathlon