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Getting Back to It (Running)

If you were running or jogging before, but stopped, here's an article to get you moving again. Or if you simply want to begin running, this article is also for you. Starting a new running habit isn't hard. In fact, just about anyone can be a runner. It just takes a willingness to move and some consistency.

“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.”

(Won the 1987 New York City Marathon at age 42)

This article was inspired by the book, "Run Your Butt Off", an easy-to-consume method that takes you from walking for 30 minutes to running for 30 minutes in 12 stages.

Carve Out the Time

When you are introducing exercise into your schedule, you'll need to build it into your day as you might do with any other appointment, like a doctor or dentist visit, only this is much more enjoyable.

Plenty of busy moms and "workaholics" make it work. That includes people that work full-time jobs during the week and have their weekends full of all kinds of other activities.

If you don’t block out the time, but instead leave it to chance, your workout is likely not going to happen.

One tip is to set out your running shoes, workout clothes or gym bag the night before. Another idea is to change into your exercise clothes before you leave work and go straight to the park before going home. Sometimes, you have to get really creative about squeezing in your workouts.

Aim for 30 Minutes, 4 times a Week

Grab whatever calendar you use and figure out when you can find 30 minutes of time for uninterrupted exercise at least four times a week.

By uninterrupted time, we mean just that. It’s best to leave all distractions at home when you're getting used to your new routine. That might even include leaving the dog or the baby stroller at home. Be focused when you go out.

Maybe you have to enlist a grandparent or a babysitter to watch the kids to cover the time that you’ll need for exercise and a shower.

Getting in 4 sessions means you'll be boosting your calorie burn over the course of the week. You’ll start feeling better, breathing easier, moving easier, sleeping sounder.

It's best to schedule 4 days, with the understanding that if something unexpected crops up in your week, it's not the end of the world, as long as you get 3 days in.

Protect your exercise time. Guard it. It adds up to around 2 hours a week—that's not so much to ask. And you deserve it. Many of us devote time to taking care of other people, kids, spouses, elderly parents, demanding bosses. It’s time to do something for you.

While you’re scheduling, it’s best to give yourself a break between days when possible, rather than going 4 days in a row, then 3 days off. An off day in between has both physical and mental benefits.

Obviously, if you’re going to exercise on 4 out of 7 days in a week, you’ll need to go back-to-back at least once. But space it as best you can. Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday is a popular plan. The point is this: come up with a schedule you can live with. That's key to your success with running.

Develop Consistency

The important thing is to look at this long-term. The mistake a lot of people make is they try to do a whole lot all at once, then they take a period of time off. Then they repeat, doing a whole lot at once, followed by a long time off. Avoid that mistake. Develop consistency. It's always best when you build it into your day-to-day routine.

Make repetition your friend. Repetition will make running easier. Over a period of weeks and months, it builds your strength and your cardiovascular system, which is responsible for pumping oxygen to the muscles. Some people call this "getting into shape". As you develop your heart and lungs in this way, exercise starts to feels better.

Pick a Location

It’s great if you live in a neighborhood where you can start moving as soon as you walk through your front door, but that’s not always feasible.

If you have to drive to a workout spot, look for PARKS that have walking or biking trails. Packed down dirt cinder paths are ideal because that softer surface is forgiving on your feet, ankles, shins, and knees. Sometimes your only option is a cement paved path, so be it. Either way, in a park, you don’t have to stop for traffic. If you're really lucky, you'll even have access to bathrooms and drinking fountains.

NO PARKS WHERE YOU LIVE? Then look for a route with few traffic lights so you don’t have to stop while you’re waiting for the light to change. No traffic volume is best and so are wide shoulders on the road.

Scope out a route that’s relatively FLAT. When you’re getting used to walking and running, it can feel like a major effort to your lungs. Big hills will only intensify that feeling of work. Remember, we’re trying to take small steps here. You can add the hills once you’re a little more experienced.

RUNNING TRACKS can be a good choice if you don’t get bored going around in a circle. They’re flat, obviously, and the rubberized surface is gentler on your legs then the road is. If you’re curious about the distance you’ve gone, you can keep track of your laps.

HERE'S A HINT: If you do use a running track, stick to the outside lines until you’re a much more experienced runner. The inner two lanes are for those racers who are trying to do high-speed intervals in order to shave a few seconds off their next race. It's better not to be in their way and get run over!

Walk Before You Run

When you have committed to a schedule, found a good place to go, and have your gear ready, you're all set. Now start walking! Before you can try running, you need to be able to complete 4 walks, each one 30 minutes nonstop, in a week.

Okay, some of you are in great shape and might be able to do that in your first week without a problem. In that case, once you’ve done 4 walking workouts, you’re ready to proceed to the next stage, which is RUNNING SLOWLY, as covered in the book, "Run Your Butt Off". (see reference below)

Can You Talk While You Walk?

Pick a walking pace that’s comfortable for you—steady, not aggressive. You don't want to be huffing and puffing. If you’re panting, you’re going too fast, so slow it down. Your breathing is an instantaneous check of your effort level. Take the "talk test". If you can get a few sentences out, you’re fine. If you need to pause for a breath between words, take your foot off the gas until you can talk comfortably.

The Power of Walking

Walking is a fantastic form of exercise. You can do it anywhere. It’s great for your heart and lungs. It works the same leg muscles as when you're running. And, most importantly, walking gets you ready to run.

With walking, you’re doing almost exactly the same thing you do when you run, except you have one foot on the ground at all times. But you build the same leg muscles, which you’ll need to propel yourself forward when you do start to run.

You also build bone density and strengthen the ligaments and tendons in the joints in your legs. It’s good stuff.

The cardiovascular benefits are similar to those running provides. When you first get used to regular walking, you are conditioning your heart to be better at pumping oxygen to your muscles. Not to mention that walking burns calories.

You can burn about 28 calories by sitting on a couch for 30 minutes. But if you walk for 30 minutes (1.5 miles) you'll probably burn 103 calories.

Walking is not for wimps, either. If you haven't run for a while, you might be thinking that you can get back into shape by running. However, even for you, walking is easier on the legs and back than running is, so use it to get back into a routine and then start jogging again.

If you go straight to running (and let's say you weigh a few extra pounds more than last time), that’s a lot more force you’ll be putting on your joints. Have some patience. Walk before you run. You will still benefit from it.

Let's Go!

OK! Time to grab a comfortable pair of running shoes and socks, a phone belt, a playlist and go!

If you are interested in more guidance, grab yourself a copy of the book, "Run Your Butt Off—A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Running (No Experience Necessary)", written by Sarah Lorge Butler with Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD and Budd Coates, MS, the Runner's World running coach.

Other useful references:

How to Start Running:

Real Runners Do Take Walk Breaks:


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