How to start a running program

Running is great cardio exercise and doesn’t require an expensive gym membership or equipment. If you don’t have much experience with it though, it can be hard to start a running program.

Before you start, check with your doctor to make sure running is safe exercise for your current state of health.

The next step is finding a comfortable pair of running shoes. The right shoes can prevent shin splints, blisters, sore muscles and sore joints. Paying a little extra for a lightweight, breathable, high quality shoe can really make a difference.

There are many different terrains you can run on, each with pros and cons. Asphalt sidewalks are easy to find and usually provide a smooth surface which may prevent tripping, but the hard surface can be hard on your joints. Running tracks or dirt surfaces are easier on your joints but may be less accessible. Trails offer beautiful scenery but you need to watch out for roots, rocks, holes and anything else that may cause you to trip, fall or twist an ankle. Wherever you run, make sure it is a safe area and wear reflective clothing, if need be.

If the resource is available to you, speak with a personal trainer for tips on technique and safety while running. The American Council on Exercise recommends the following motions:

-Keep your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and squeeze them in at your sides. Keep your hands relaxed and do not twist your upper body or drive your arms across your torso.
-Drive your arms from the shoulders, not the elbows, and keep your shoulders down and relaxed. These techniques will increase your power and help you run more efficiently.
-Try to lean forward slightly from the ankles, not the waist, and bring your knees up a bit higher as they swing forward.
-Avoid unnecessary movements like excessive bouncing.
-Keep your head level with the ground.
-Hit the ground with your heel and then roll forward onto the ball of your foot. From there, push off with the front part of your foot.

Find a length of time and frequency that feels right to you—generally not less than 20 minutes, three times a week—and alternate between a brisk walk and a jogging pace. It’s important to stretch before and after a run, as it may prevent injury and muscle soreness.

You should always listen to you body—if you feel that your pace or intensity is too extreme, pull back a bit. Take a day or two off between running and consider following a strength training program on those days off in order to balance your muscle development. When you feel ready to increase the time of your runs, slowly add a couple of minutes each week.

Don’t do too much too soon, as you may burn out and lose interest. Also remember that you won’t necessarily lose weight or build noticeable muscle in the first week or month. “Be consistent,” says USA Track and Field star, Lolo Jones. “Don’t stop just because you may not see immediate changes.”


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