Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Get Started Running for Health & Fitness

Interested in running but not sure where to start? Running can be one of the most powerful ways to change your life. It is, of course, a tremendous calorie burner. However, running offers so much more than weight loss. Running helps you feel successful. It boosts your energy levels and libido. It improves your ability to sleep and manage stress too. Ready to get started?

Step #1: Make Sure You’re Okay to Run

If you’re struggling with any health conditions it is important to talk to your doctor first. Running often helps reduce or eliminate many health conditions. However, it’s important to get medical clearance and learn the precautions that may apply to you first.

Step #2: Get Your Shoes

A pair of ASICS stability running shoes, model...
A pair of ASICS stability running shoes, model GEL-Kinsei (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You really don’t need any special running gear or equipment but you do need a good pair of shoes. Visit a running store where they can take a look at your foot type and recommend the best pair of shoes for you. A good pair of running shoes can make running easier and it can reduce your risk of injury. (Check out our previous blog post on choosing a good running shoe to learn what to look for. If you're running in the winter, be sure to dress in layers, and see our winter running gear guide article for more tips.)

Step #3: Find Your Style

There are many different places you can run. For example, if you enjoy nature you may enjoy running on trails. If you value convenience then you may prefer to run in your neighborhood or on a treadmill. Decide where you want to run. What’s your running style?

Step #4: Run!
Now it’s time to get out and run. However, if you’ve never run before it’s also important to take it slow. Experts recommend starting by alternating walking with running. You can use a clock to time yourself or you might simply use landmarks.

For example, I’ll run to that next stop sign. The first time you head out you may want to simply walk for a few minutes until your muscles are warmed up. Then run as long as you can. Then walk again. Pay attention to how long you run and how long you walk. This is your foundation. Now, the next time you head out you can aim to run at least one minute more than you did last time. Eventually, you’ll be running the full time or distance. (Keep in mind that if you just want to lose weight, alternating running with walking may be all you need to do. Using this interval-style method burns more calories from fat, and boosts your metabolism around the clock.)

Marahon shoes
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Step #5: Step It Up

Once you’re meeting your initial goal, which may be to run for 20 or 30 minutes or to run for a few miles, it’s time to take a look at your future. Evaluate your reason for running and create a new goal that supports your reason.

For example, if you’re running to lose weight then you may want to add intervals to your running program. Intervals are short bursts of intense energy and they help you burn more calories. (See note above.)  If you’re running for general health and fitness, competitively, or just because you enjoy it, you may want to add distance to your daily run or sign up for a race.

The most important takeaway here is to start slow. As a new runner it takes time to condition your body. Have patience with yourself and stay positive. Every step you take is a step toward better health and fitness.

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