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How to Start Running

By Kim Nunley

Running provides numerous health benefits, such as strengthening your cardiovascular system, burning calories, improving mood and decreasing stress levels. If you properly prepare for training, start out at a low intensity and gradually increase your workload to give your body time to adapt, you will build your cardiovascular fitness and soon be able to run longer and faster.

Prepare for Training

Before you start running, visit a running store and get properly fitted for shoes. Most running stores will analyze your running technique and suggest shoes that provide the type of support you specifically need. Next, schedule time for your runs, fitting in three running workouts per week with a day off for rest between workouts. Tracks and grassy fields are quality surfaces to run on because they absorb some of the impact, reducing the stress on your hips, knees and ankles. Running on sidewalks and streets in your neighborhood is a convenient option. If you prefer to work out inside, you can run on a treadmill. Before each run, take 10 minutes for a dynamic warm-up. Walk for five minutes and then do the knee-to-chest stretch, the walking-quad stretch, straight-legged kicks and walking lunges.

Starting Out

Begin your training with walk-jogs. Walk-jogs involve alternating between bouts of walking and running. Jog for two minutes and then walk for one minute, continuing in this manner for a total of 20 minutes. It's okay if you're initially unable to run nonstop for two minutes. If you need to, adjust your walk-jogs so that you're running for one-minute periods and walking for two-minute periods. Your heart, lungs, circulatory system, muscles and bones will eventually adapt. After two weeks of walk-jogs, jog nonstop for 20 minutes. Run at a speed that allows you to maintain a conversation while you’re running. If you're unable to talk while jogging, slow your pace.

Focus on your workout duration rather than how far you’re running. In the beginning, your goal is to build up cardiovascular endurance. Also, it’s normal to feel some soreness when you increase your running volume, but this soreness should dissipate after a week.

Gradually Increase Running Duration and Intensity

Once your cardiovascular fitness improves to the point that you're able to run nonstop for 20 straight minutes, gradually increase the duration of your three weekly runs. Increase your running time by no more than 10 percent from week to week. For example, if you’ve been running for 20 minutes, you should run no longer than 22 minutes on the subsequent week. On the next week, you can bump up your running duration to 24 or 25 minutes. Even if you feel like you could run longer, gradual increases in running duration gives your muscles and bones the time they need to properly adapt. If you feel fatigued or too sore to bump up your running duration, it's okay to stick with the same running duration for another week. Continue to gradually increase your running time until you're able to run for 30 minutes.

Once you're able to run for at least 30 minutes, it's time to decide on your next running goal. You could focus on further increasing your ability to run longer and continue to gradually increase your weekly running times by 10 percent. You could also turn your attention to increasing your running speed by adding one weekly interval workout to your regimen. Interval workouts are similar to walk-jogs, but instead of alternating between walking and jogging, you alternate between walking and either fast running or sprinting. Run fast or sprint for 30 to 60 seconds and then walk for 60 seconds. Continue until you've completed a total of 10 sprints or fast runs. When you're able to run for at least 30 minutes, consider signing up for a 5K race. A 5K race, which equals the distance of 3.2 miles, can help motivate you as you continue to push through your training.

Work on Technique

As you get comfortable with running, pay particular attention to mastering proper running technique. Run with short, quick strides rather than taking long steps with each stride. Be sure that your foot strikes the ground under your knee rather than in front of it. Land on the middle of the bottom of your foot and then push off the ground, springing from your toes. Your torso should remain upright with your head up and eyes pointed forward instead of down toward the ground. Keep your elbows bent to 90 degrees and maintain this angle as you swing your arms back and forth from your shoulders. Your hands should remain relaxed. Pay attention to your breathing, taking deep inhales and exhales rather than quick breaths.

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