Fitness Articles

How to Turn Your Walk into a Run

A Walker's Guide to Running

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Hit the Road
With new shoes and a schedule, you must consider surfaces. While you might be stuck with whatever running surface is available to you, such as concrete sidewalks, it might be worthwhile to find an alternative. Here's what you need to know about the pros and cons of various running surfaces.
  • Grass is the ideal running surface, according to most experts, but it's also more difficult to maintain your balance on this surface due to the unevenness of the terrain. It's not the best choice for a new runner unless the grass surface is on a football or soccer field that has been maintained.
     
  • Running trails are generally easier on the joints due to the dirt and cinder that overlays the surface. You may want to check with your local parks and recreation department to see if there are any in your area. However, do not consider running on a hiking trail as these surfaces tend to be more uneven and therefore more difficult to run on and maintain one’s balance.
     
  • A high school or college track is less jarring on the joints. However, running around an ellipse for an extended period of time can get boring rather quickly.
     
  • Treadmills are a great resource for many new runners who may not have a running partner or group. They allow for runs at all times of the day in the safety of a controlled environment. However, treadmill belts help propel you, so it is best to run on a 1-2% incline (or grade) to help make the transition to outside running a bit easier.
     
  • Concrete, the surface most readily available, is the worse surface on which to run. While most people can’t avoid running on this surface, it is 10 times harder on the joints than running on asphalt, so it is better to experiment with a variety of running surfaces to avoid injury.
Listen to Your Body
Every run should begin with a proper warm up. Starting with a brisk walk for at least 5-10 minutes will allow your heart to get pumping and the blood to start flowing to the muscles. Warm ups and cool downs are very important to integrate into your program and should not be skipped. Warming up allows the heart to slowly elevate and get the blood flowing to the muscles while cooling down allows the heart to gradually return to a slower rate.

It isn’t too unusual for a new runner to hit the trail too fast, too soon. This may be one reason many new runners give up very soon into their program. The problem is they do not allow time for their body to adapt. Runners might find it beneficial to use a heart rate monitor to make sure they are not running too fast or too slowly. The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale can also be used to determine intensity of training.

It is very important to follow your running schedule especially if you have no previous running experience. Rushing the process will increase your risk for injury and/or burnout. However, you can repeat a week or two if you are not ready to advance. As a runner, it is essential that you listen to your body. This means if something does not feel right, it is best to slow the process.

You do not have to run, walk, or run/walk every day to be a runner. As important as running is, it is even more important to allow good recovery, especially as you get older. Recovery—not the running itself—is what helps your body adapt to running, so make it a part of your regular schedule. In fact, most running coaches recommend no more than 3-4 days of running per week max. Doing some nice cross-training activities, such as strength training, yoga and your old standby, walking, on your non-run days will allow for good recovery while not overtaxing the body. After all, your goal is to be a lifelong runner—not a once-in-a-lifetime runner.

So what are you waiting for? Head out the door and see where your feet take you!
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About The Author

Nancy Howard Nancy Howard
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.

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