Let’s face it: It’s hard to get psyched about an exercise that was once used as punishment in gym class. But now that you don’t have to wear a uniform, running can actually be a great way to stay (or get) in shape -- and it doesn’t require a gym membership. Here’s how to get started.
1. Get fitted for a pair of running shoes…at an actual running store. Have a staff member look at your gate (the alignment between your hips and knees, knees and ankles and then any foot pronation), and then tell him or her if you’re dealing with any special circumstances (like injuries). Be sure to try to shoes on in the store -- and actually run in them before you buy.
2. Warm up with a light jog around the block. If you can’t jog the whole way, no problem -- start with 30 seconds of jogging followed by 30 seconds of walking (and then repeat until you’re back home). Then get your muscles in gear with dynamic stretches (meaning stretches that require continuous movement -- not your old gym routine of holding a position until your legs shake). Walking lunges, hip swings and alternating toe touches are all good picks to get you going.
3. Set an amount of time -- not a distance -- for your run. Since you’re just starting up, a goal of 20 minutes is pretty standard; you can add on to this with each week, eventually building up to 40+ minutes. If you can’t jog the entire time, use the same strategy as in your warm-up by running intervals (in this case, try two minutes of jogging, one minute of walking, and so on).
4. After your run, prevent injury by stretching (yes, again!). Now that your body’s warmed up, it’s safe to do “static” stretches -- a.k.a. holding a position for 20 to 30 seconds. Stretch all areas, including your calves, hamstrings, arms, shoulders, neck and back.
5. Repeat three days a week, eventually building up to four and five. But don’t abandon other forms of exercise! Weight training and strength/flexibility workouts like yoga and Pilates will help you become a better runner -- and keep you out of the doctor’s office!
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