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How to Get in Shape by Running
Running is a Relatively Easy Inexpensive Way to Get in Shape
My all-time favorite exercise is, and may always be, running. But, I'll say right at the outset of this article that you should definitely consult your doctor before starting this exercise regimen, as it is relatively intense, and you can run the risk of injury, if you are not well-informed.
If you suffer from chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, you will also want to discuss potential side-effects of medication and intensive exercise. Once you get the green light from your doctor - let's get in shape by running!
Running is an efficient way to burn calories and get in a fast aerobic exercise in little time. Overall, running is an inexpensive way to get in shape. You don't have to pay for a gym membership or classes. All you need is a decent pair of running shoes and a little motivation!
Gear for Runners
Pros and Cons When you Undertake Running to Get in Shape by running
Compared to other types of exercise, running hosts a number of benefits. Among other things, you can easily get in shape by running because:
- Relatively inexpensive; little gear is needed other than good shoes
- Flexibility as to time; you can run just about anytime - no scheduled classes!
- Burn calories quickly and efficiently; a 150-pound person will burn approximately 10 calories per minute (300 calories for 1/2 hour)
- If you travel, its easy to "take on the road" - no need for gear other than your running shoes and maybe headphones and portable music
- You can train for upcoming races to motivate you and push yourself to improve your running
Of course, there are drawbacks to running, as well:
- High impact on knees and other joints - especially if you run with poor form
- Potential for stress fractures
- Running is usually a solo activity, unlike group classes
- As you age, it may be more difficult to continue the sport
- May be difficult to stay motivated because you are not paying for an exercise class or gym membership
Web Resources for Runners and Novices
How to Start a Running Exercise Routine
Before you start trying to get in shape by running, consult your doctor first, to make sure you are in good enough health to begin an exercise regimen, and ask him or her if they believe you are an appropriate candidate for running. If so, you should begin slowly, particularly if you have never been a runner before.
The first thing you will need to do is get a decent pair of running shoes. Your best bet is to go to a sports store and get properly fitted. A knowledgeable salesperson will find the appropriate size, style and fit for you, based on your foot shape, arch, pronation and stride. This is so important! You want the right shoe to prevent injury and discomfort. Some stores even have treadmills that you can run on so the salespeople can properly observe.
If you belong to a gym, or if you have a treadmill, you may find that working out inside is more comfortable than going outside, at first. In that case, make sure that the incline is set to "0" - flat - and start the speed at about 4.5-5.0 miles per hour (note that runners that are training for races often set the treadmill to 1-2% incline to better mimic outdoor conditions).
Gradually increase your speed, if you desire, until you reach a comfortable pace. Depending on your overall fitness level, aim to run about 1-2 miles the first day, walking part of the distance, if necessary. Alternate cardio days with rest days (or, if you have a gym membership and can work with a personal trainer, you may wish to do some weightlifting exercises). During the first week, you should not increase mileage, so as to prevent injury.
In the second and third weeks, work up to 3 miles per day, and/or see if you can increase your speed slightly. Do not try to do too much, too fast. Many runners can attest to sprained ankles or stress fractures from piling on the miles too quickly.
By week four, you are probably ready to run outdoors. You may even feel like you are starting to get in shape by running. At this point, you may also have a sense of the distance you are covering in an allotted time. Running outdoors feels different than indoors and may be more tiring. Take it easy the first few times. Terrain changes may be challenging, and you'll have to watch for traffic, dogs and other hazards. Pace your breathing and watch for cramps.
Run a 5K race
Training for Races: Take your Running Exercise Routine to the Next Level
Some people complain that running can be boring. My advice is to vary your route, try using trails, if possible, and definitely use music to entertain yourself! Many runners enjoy using MP3 players to listen to their favorite tunes. If you run on a treadmill, you may be able to watch television or movies, as well.
It may help motivate you to have a goal towards which to work when you are first starting out to get in shape by running. Road races are fun and usually help to raise money for great causes through registration fees and sponsorships (i.e., March of Dimes, Breast Cancer research, various scholarships, etc.) Distances can vary, anywhere from 5K (just over 3 miles) to ultra-marathons (over 100 miles!). While there can be winners in certain age categories, I find it more fun to compete against myself. I look at my pace per mile in the previous race and see if I can shave off a second or two in the next race.
Perhaps it is a life goal of yours to complete a half-marathon (13.1 miles) or a marathon (26.2 miles) someday. You need not be a world-class athlete to do so! In 2008, I ran my first marathon - the Portland Marathon. Last year, in 2011, I completed a total of 4 marathons, as well as six 1/2 marathons!
There are many training schedules available in books and on-line that can help you realistically work up to either or both of those goals. I have a friend who had never been runner, start training last fall, and she just finished her first half-marathon in 2 hours' time!
What can you Expect When you Get in Shape by Running?
If you are new to the sport, don't expect a "runner's high" right away! This may develop after time, once your body is accustomed to the movement, and you can get into a nice, smooth rhythm. The release of endorphins (feel good chemicals) may occur during, or after your exercise once you start to achieve your goals to get in shape by running. But arguably the best feeling of all, is just the overall feeling of fitness! After about a month of running, particularly if you are watching your diet as well, your clothes may fit differently. Maybe a little more smoothly through the waist and thighs, even if there is not a corresponding drop in the number on the scale.
So, run your way to better health! Just 20-30 minutes a day about 4 times a week can make a difference. You may just find yourself making more time to lace up those sneakers than you'd ever imagine!
© 2008 Stephanie Hicks