It should be easy to start running for fitness. After all, it's something you've done since you were a little kid, and you already have the most important equipment: a working pair of legs. But somehow, for many of us, the call of the open road or that scenic trail through the local park inevitably gets shouted down by the open refrigerator or a scenic documentary on TV.
Fear not -- we're here to offer you five wise ways to not only start a running routine, but to stick with it as well.
For initial inspiration, regular aerobic activity reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, osteoporosis and other serious illness. Plus, every mile you run burns 100 calories, and every step you take helps leave the stress of the office behind [source: Hennick].
Combine all that with the knowledge that running is a relatively cheap pursuit that you can do on your own time and at your own pace, and the joys of jogging become even clearer. Still not convinced? Then read on, and you should be pounding the pavement after a few quick clicks.
Just because you've decided to begin a running regimen doesn't mean you have to be ready for a marathon your first day out. In fact, if you've never run before or are getting back into the sport after some time away, pushing yourself too hard can lead to injury, which is guaranteed to bruise your motivation.
Stay injury-free and eager to run by taking it easy at first. Make it a goal to run to the end of the block and back. Or try setting a time limit. Run for 2 minutes your first day, and add an extra minute a day until you're up to about 30 minutes. When all you need to do is jog at an easy pace for 2 minutes on your first day, how can you say no? If running for 2 minutes straight is too much, do as much as you can, and walk the rest -- the important thing is to keep moving.
Once you're jogging 30 minutes per day, consider upping your pace so you can cover more ground in the same period of time. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to compete with your personal best and how good it'll feel every time you reach a new goal.
Set a Goal
Goal setting may sound like a boring task done with corporate HR consultants in airless hotel meeting rooms. But we're not talking about those kind of goals -- we're talking about goals to make your exercise program fun.
For example, why not choose a destination somewhere in the country and slowly but steadily rack up the miles until you get there. Say you live in Chicago and want to run to Key West. That's 1,241 miles. So, start keeping a record of every mile you run on the very first day you head out. Imagine how you'll feel when you realize you've covered the distance of about half the United States. It wouldn't hurt to reward yourself with an actual trip to your motivational mecca when you've achieved your goal, too.
Let the Music Move You
Whether Pink pumps you up or Lady Ga Ga gets you going, knowing what beats move your feet can be the key to running success.
To use music to motivate your workout, think about creating a playlist that truly energizes you. This could be a beat-heavy dance mix or a high-powered blend of rock anthems. Or keep things fresh by loading up your MP3 player with a variety of sounds, push play, and let the music move you.
One of the most effective ways to lose weight while exercising is to do intervals -- high intensity bursts of activity alternated with a less intense pace. So, you could consider choosing songs that carry you along at a steady flow and let you go all out during the chorus.
Music not your thing? Then consider an audiobook or a podcast about a topic that interests you. Both can take your mind off of the effort of exercise, and you get to work your brain as well as your body.
Put Some Tech in Your Step
While it doesn't take a big gear investment to begin running, there are certainly plenty of toys out there to help you stay motivated. From shirts that practically sponge the sweat from your skin to sneakers that have as much research and development behind them as the space shuttle, why not consider buying yourself a little gift for getting going?
If you're science-minded, you can check out the wide range of heart rate monitors on offer. These measure your pulse while you exercise and help you stay in your target heart rate zone, which means you're working at 50 to 80 percent of your recommended heart rate max (see the American Heart Association Web site for more information). Choices range from basic monitors to those that practically act as electronic personal trainers by tracking calories, calculating new targets based on your current level of fitness, and urging you to speed up or slow down when needed.
Want to use tech to help you get fit, but have a wallet that's already a little lean? No problem. Check out iTunes or the Android store and search for running podcasts or applications. There are loads of choices, and many are free or cost just a few dollars.
Use the Buddy System
When you're ready to start jogging, bringing a friend along for the ride can help keep your motivation high. Let's face it: It's easy for you to slap that snooze button on a chilly morning and skip your run if it's just yourself you're letting off the hook. But when there's someone waiting for you, chances are good you'll get up and gear up.
If you don't have a neighbor you can run with, check community Web sites for running groups. Who knows -- you just might find a new friend to go with your new, healthier self. Another excellent resource for finding a nearby running partner is Exercisefriends.com, where you can search by zip code and activity for someone to join you on your runs.
If you're feeling a bit shy about asking someone to join you, why not get an online workout friend? Simply search for "online training log" and you'll find dozens of Web sites that let you track your progress, share it with others and get cheered on by a virtual community.
And speaking of friends, don't forget man's best one -- a dog. Taking Scout along for a run not only keeps you company, but it helps him burn off all of that kibble, too.
These tips for running with your significant other can help bring you closer. Visit HowStuffWorks to find tips for running with your significant other.
- Bobalik, John. "Studies show benefits of aerobic exercise." Post-Tribune. March 14, 2007. (July 16, 2010)http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1N1-1182ECD4EBDF4ED8.html
- Hennick, Calvin. "101 Kicks in the Butt." Runner's World. March 22, 2007. (July 15, 2010)http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-243-297--11733-0,00.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blool pressure." (July 14, 2010)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00024