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How to start (and keep on) running

How to start (and keep on) running with Fittsburgh

By Joe Vennare of Fittsburgh

When it comes to getting healthy, cardiovascular conditioning is essential. Which means that, love it or hate it, running might have to make an appearance in your exercise routine.

Trouble is, running has gotten a bad reputation. Most of us, especially all of the nonrunners out there, perceive running to be a punishment. It’s a form of exercise we undertake because we have to, not because we want to. But running itself isn’t the problem, or a punishment. It’s our approach to starting, executing, and maintaining a run-focused routine that creates issues.

Think about it. When it comes time to run, we lace up our expensive new sneakers and go until we can’t anymore. We go from sitting at our desk all day to trying to become a marathon runner overnight. We’re going to make it five, 10, or 15 miles even if our body breaks down in the process. Because running is a test of endurance, right? No pain, no gain!

Whoa! Hold it right there. Getting fit doesn’t have to be that way, especially when you’re just starting out. If you’re new to this whole running thing, it’s smart to start slowly. Same goes for any form of exercise — be it jogging, yoga, or weight training. Aim for small, achievable steps taken over a longer period of time. This way you’re creating a habit and making a sustainable lifestyle change, instead of going on one really long run. Once you start framing fitness as a long-term investment in yourself, there’s no need to stress about struggling through an insufferable run. You’ll get there, in time.

Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you don’t ever want to go for a long run. You’re not interested in running marathons, or even a half-marathon. That’s okay, too. Going for a run doesn’t have to be an endurance effort. You don’t have to run far to get fit. You don’t even have to run at all if you don’t want to. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can sit on the couch; you still have to exercise. Physical activities like walking, jogging, biking, and swimming all work in their own way. So pick something you like and stick with it. But if you want to give running a go, keep reading to learn how you can create a running routine of your very own.

Build your running foundation.

Think of your body, and running routine, like a building. You have to lay the foundation first. In this case that means conditioning your body based on your ability level. If you can’t run, start jogging. If jogging isn’t an option, walk it out. Look, you have to start somewhere — and walking is a fine place to kick things off. Walk until you’re ready to jog. Then alternate between walking and jogging until jogging gets easier. Keep working at it until you’re able to upgrade your jog to a run.

Pick it up.

Once you find your stride, it’s time to pick up the pace. That means you’re going to increase the duration and frequency of your cardio-based workout. Here again, that doesn’t mean upping the intensity so quickly that you risk injury. But you can’t continue doing the same workout after it becomes easy. And one workout a week won’t cut it once your body is conditioned. So if you initially start with two running workouts a week, try three next month and four the following until you find your sweet spot.

The same thing goes for the length of your run workouts. At first, 15 minutes might seem like too much to handle. But hang with it! In no time, 30 minutes will feel the same way. If 30 minutes is no longer a challenge, it’s time to add in speed and intensity. Have fun with hill sprints, running bleachers or wind sprints to add variety and a new challenge to your cardiovascular conditioning.

Stay with it.

If you’ve made it this far, that means you’ve successfully gone from walking to jogging, and now running. Congratulations! Now it’s time to focus on sticking with your new running routine. To do that, try planning your workouts in advance. Think about where you’re going to run and how far. Consider the amount of time you have to commit to each workout. If you’re running outdoors, prepare for the elements. The more planning you do, the less likely it is that you’ll miss a workout. Thinking ahead is one of the best ways to make your routine work for you. After that, the only thing left to do is for you to put one foot in front of the other. Over, and over, and over again!