Simple Steps to Start Running

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us are starting to think about ways to survive the holidays without packing on the pounds. Exercise is a great way to burn off calories and stave off holiday weight gain- but who has the time and money to join a gym in the middle of the holiday season? Instead of paying for a gym, why not grab a pair of shoes and hit the pavement? Running is a great form of exercise that takes very little time and money and despite what you may think, anyone can become a runner! Whether you want to train for a race or start running for fun, these tips will help you get to the finish line in no time!

  • Before starting any new exercise routine, see your doctor to make sure you are physically healthy and capable of more intense exercise.
  • Invest in a good pair of shoes! Go to a reputable athletic store, or even better, a specialized running store, and ask them to determine what type of arch you have and what type of shoe you need. This is critically important to avoid injuries. Also, don’t buy shoes based on looks or price- the most important factor is the fit of the shoe, and this should determine which shoe you purchase.
  • Start Slow! The most common mistake made by beginning runners is doing too much, too soon- and this leads to injury. Running is stressful on the body, so you need to give yourself enough time to recover from each run. If you do not allow your body adequate rest, you are likely to end up with an overuse injury such as a stress fracture or tendonitis.
  • Pay attention to nutrition. You need to eat the correct balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for recovery. You need enough carbohydrates to fuel your run, so aim to get about 50% of your total daily calories from carbohydrates. Aim to get about 20-30% of your calories from protein, and about 20% from fat. When choosing foods, stick to whole-grain carbohydrates (such as brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-wheat bread), lean protein sources (such as white-meat chicken/turkey or low-fat string cheese), and healthy fats (such as almonds, salmon, and olive oil).
  • Pay attention to your calories! Equally important as getting adequate nutrition is not overestimating your daily caloric needs. Many beginning runners overestimate the amount of calories they are burning and eat too much to compensate…which leads to weight gain! To prevent this from happening to you, track your mileage while you run, and go online (I suggest going to the Runner’s World Calorie Calculator at http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/caloriecalculator/0,7153,s6-242-306-313-0,00.html) to calculate how many calories you burned during your run. It takes a lot of effort to go out and run 5 miles (which will burn approximately 500 calories, depending on one’s weight), but it does not take long at all to eat a slice of mom’s apple pie (which will set you back about 500 calories)! The bottom line? Running is not an excuse for eating whatever you want!
  • Listen to your body! Normal aches and pains are expected when starting a new exercise routine, but sharp, consistent, or sudden pain are warning signs of a possible injury. Other signs to watch out for include swelling, discoloration, loss of full range-of-movement, numbness, and tingling. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop running for a few days and see if the pain goes away on its own. If the pain persists, see a doctor ASAP.
  • For many beginning runners, a walk-run approach works best. The first few weeks of a training program may involve more time walking than running, but this approach has many benefits. By incorporating walking breaks into your runs, you decrease your risk of an overuse injury. Additionally, alternating between walking and running will allow you to exercise for a longer amount of time because of the rest that the walking provides. For beginners, try starting out by alternating 3 minutes of walking with 2 minutes of running, and do this for 20 minutes. As your body adjusts to running, you can decrease the time spent walking and increase the running; it is up to you whether you cut out the walking completely, or continue to incorporate walking into your regular running routine. Many seasoned runners, especially long-distance runners, choose to continue with a short (1 minute) walk-break every mile or so to help them run longer distances without getting overtired.

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays when time is limited, running is a quick, efficient activity that not only burns calories and helps to prevent weight gain, but also helps alleviate stress! Many people are intimated by running, but if you follow the tips provided and proceed at your own pace, you will be a runner in no time!

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