My weight has fluctuated throughout the years, and still fluctuates to some degree, depending on what’s going on in my life. Major personal changes, my level of physical activity, and stress management have all affected my body weight to some degree. Regardless of what has caused the unwanted weight gain, I have always found running to be the most effective way to get the weight off. Not only is running a great competitive sport, it’s also one of the quickest ways to lose body fat and get lean. Here’s why it tops my fitness to-do-list: it is accessible and convenient, inexpensive because it doesn’t require any equipment other than a decent pair of running shoes, and it’s also a full-body workout, burning maximum calories in comparison to some other forms of cardiovascular activity.
If despite all of the benefits, you somehow you still think “I just can’t run,” you’re wrong. I used to think the same thing, and now I’m an endurance athlete and have competed in over 30 races, including marathons and triathlons. Take my word for it; you CAN do this. Here’s the easy way to become a runner without risking injury or illness.
- 1. Start slowly, build gradually. Begin with a walk/run regimen. Walk for three minutes, and run for one. Each week, add to the length of time spent running. After giving birth to twins via cesarean, it took me quite a while before I was physically able to engage in vigorous cardio. Work with your body and give it time to adjust. Don’t have unrealistic expectations and goals, or you will set yourself up for failure.
- 2. Get adequate rest, and consume a healthy diet. Running is hard work, and you may experience significant muscle soreness or tightness if you don’t recuperate properly and get the proper nutrients. Don’t freak out. I’m always shocked at how tight my hips are when I a am running regularly. Taking care of your body becomes even more important when engaging in high intensity exercise.
- 3. Join a local running group. It’s fairly easy to find a running group for beginners, and it’s a great way to take the guess-work out of your program while making new friends. Knowing people are waiting for you to show up, causes you to be more accountable. When I decided to run my first marathon back in 2005, I trained with a local running group in my hometown of Northwest Indiana. In exchange for an excellent group training program, I raised money for charity and had one of my best races to date.
- 4. Sign up for a 5k. Having a specific goal will help keep you on track. 5k’s also provide fun for the entire family, and many have awesome themes that involve costumes and special surprises. They’re also a great way to help out your favorite cause and raise money for community projects. I even enter my kids into the race, and they run too!
- 5. Get a running book from your local library. Don’t start a running regimen without doing your homework. Increase your knowledge and follow programs designed by professional running coaches. The internet is also a valuable resource for finding free training advice for runners of all levels.
- 6. Cross-train to avoid injury. Don’t be surprised if you feel more tired from running than you have from other forms of cardiovascular exercise. Combat fatigue by alternating swimming, cycling, step aerobics or elliptical training with your running schedule. As a triathlete I am constantly cross-training, and I believe it has made me less likely to have sport related injuries.
- 7. Walk/Run in the beginning or when feeling too tired. A great rule of thumb is this: if you really don’t feel like running, give yourself 15 minutes before you make your final decision. Sometimes your body isn’t responding well to exercise for a reason (like the onset of a cold or flu), however make sure you’ve tried long enough before making that call.
- 8. Incorporate a strength-training and stretching regimen. Strength-training and stretching can really help you progress in running and prevent injury. Resistance workouts and lifting weights can improve your gait and balance, and stretching elongates muscles and aids in recovery. To stay flexible and limber, I recommend yoga and Pilates.
Follow these tips and you’ll have a safe and successful journey into running. Good luck!