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Running for Beginners

Get Started the Right Way

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Updated June 10, 2014

Tips for beginning runners
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Running isn't for everyone, but it's one of the best exercises you can do for your heart, your body and to burn extra calories. It's also one of the more accessible activities - all you really need is a good pair of shoes and a place to run...no fancy equipment, special skills. But, even though it's accessible, it isn't always easy starting a running program. It takes time to build up the endurance to run for even a short period of time, even if you've been walking, cycling or doing other activities. Don't give up! There's a way to become a runner without killing yourself if you're patient and follow these easy steps. Before you get started, visit your doctor and get the okay to start a running program.

Step One: Get Geared Up

The Shoes

The most important piece of equipment you'll need is a quality pair of running shoes. Your best bet is to visit a specialty running store (like Fleet Feet). If you have an old pair of running or walking shoes, take them with you. The sales folks in running stores are experts and can often look at the wear pattern on your old shoes to help them pick the right shoe for you. Wear or bring the socks you plan on wearing while you run and test the shoes out by running or walking around the store. Plan on spending anywhere from $70 to $100 for a good pair of shoes. Our Running Guide has more tips for choosing running shoes. A great online resource is the Shoe Dog at Road Runner Sports.

The Clothes

What you wear when running comes down to comfort. A simple pair of shorts and a tee shirt will work fine. Most runners opt for running shorts, which generally have a split leg, built-in underwear and a nifty key pocket. It's a good idea to buy clothes that wick sweat away from the body such as CoolMax or Lycra. For quality running clothes, visit Road Runner Sports and browse away!

Step Two: Set Your Goals

First, figure out where you'll run. If you're going outside, try to find roads made of dirt or asphalt rather than concrete, which is hard on the body. Remember to wear reflective clothing when running at night and to run towards traffic so you don't get nailed by a car. If you go to a gym, the treadmill offers a cushy surface to run on while protecting you from the elements.

Second, realize you'll spend more time walking than running your first time out. Start with a brisk 10-minute walk and then alternate 30 seconds of running with one minute of walking about 3 days a week. Each week, increase the amount of time you run and decrease the amount of time you walk. Your pace should be comfortable so that you can hold a conversation. If you can't breathe, slow down! If you're following your program consistently (i.e., at least three days a week), you should be running continuously for 20 to 30 minutes by the fourth week. When you start out, you should be focused on time not intensity. Once you can run continuously for 30 minutes or so, you can start going faster.

Step Three: Dealing With...

Side stitches are fairly common when you start running. No one knows why they occur, but there are some things you can do to minimize them. One cause is running before you've completely digested a meal, which may cause stomach cramps. Wait 2 to 4 hours after a large meal before running. Side stitches can also be caused by weak stomach muscles. Your abs do a lot of work to keep your body in position while you're running. Doing consistent ab and lower back exercises will help strengthen your torso and reduce those stitches. If you get a side stitch while running, slow down to a walk and try holding your hands up in the air as you take deep breaths. Sometimes pressing into the cramp and massaging it can help, too. Our Sports Medicine Guide offers more tips for reducing side stitches.

Shin splints are another distressing side effect of running, particularly if you're a newbie or if you've increase your mileage or intensity. One way to avoid shin splints is to cross train with another activity like biking or swimming. If shin splints are a recurring problem, you'll want to make sure that your shoes are still providing support and that you stretch after your run (or after a warm up if your shins feel tight). Follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method of treatment immediately after your run and reduce your mileage and/or running surface if it's a chronic problem. More on shin splints.

Running is a great way to get in shape, burn lots of calories, make your heart healthy and increase bone density. Be consistent and you'll be training for your first race in no time!

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