Fitness Articles

How to Turn Your Walk into a Run

A Walker's Guide to Running

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By Nancy Howard, Certified Running Coach         
Page 3 of 3

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.

Member Comments

  • HOTSOSLIL
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  • ETHELMERZ
    Why are there so many small ads on this page featuring falsified information, coconut oil fallacies, supplements, "14 easy tips to weight loss", which are bunk, and several others that the articles in Spark People have debunked as nonsense?? The kinds of dumb ads you see in magazines, trying to get some poor fool to spend money for no results. - 10/9/2015 6:16:20 PM
  • Great article. I've been running for about 39 years and I just love it. The article was so spot-on in its advice on getting the proper shoes. The correct shoe and the correct shoe fit are absolutely crucial. One thing I would add is that people buy their shoes at specialized running stores. Those stores have the qualified and trained staff who will help you get the right shoe. Yes, you may pay more but it is worth it.

    The only other thing I would strongly suggest is that you NOT WEAR AN IPOD/listen to music if you are running on the streets! While it might be nice to listen to music, it is much more important to be completely and fully aware of your surroundings. Besides, you will not believe how incredibly wonderful it is to listen to your surroundings.

    Great, great article! Thanks Coach Jen. - 10/8/2015 1:25:27 PM
  • Never to late to start running. I started last May at the age of 49. I run 13 minute miles not that fast but I am lapping everyone else sitting on the couch - 4/4/2015 11:19:13 PM
  • For a period of 6 months I did a bit of steps to start running but not realy serious you know. But when I saw that next week we have the marathon here in our city (there is also a small one for beginners), the thought crossed my mind to enroll for next week.!! But I realize I am too enthousiastic. So I think next year will be better, then I'll train myself having one whole year. Also I will have a better weight, my ideal weight hopefully. So I do it step by step, Walking is more my Thing, I love it. Walking makes me feel good, healthy, I am 47 so I got to think reasonable with myself. Thanks anyway for the beautiful article!!! It gives us the hope we will get there, someday. - 4/4/2015 7:03:23 AM
  • You make it sound fun! Except for the part about concrete being so damaging to the joints. It was sort of incomplete there, because you didn't mention that sidewalks are make of concretes. Instead, you went on to say that asphalt is better, but didn't say where that can be found. Okay, I know, it's what the streets are made of, but most people don't want to be in the street because that makes them vulnerable to being hit by a moving vehicle.

    THERESA63D, if you are having serious knee pain when running, you might want to try water aerobics, because being in the water cuts down on the gravity that your body has to bear. It will be better for you! If cost is an issue, a lot of places offer scholarships or grants to low-income people and it may even be possible to have a doctor's prescription to join a gym and then your insurance would pay. Also, walking is gentler, of course, than running. - 4/4/2015 3:20:05 AM
  • Hated having to run. In high school I was the fastest ever but had to run a mile to stay on the team. then a few years ago I dieted and did the c25k program and enjoyed running for the first time. Got sick and lazy, gained weight and now I miss the running. Have to get back there. - 3/4/2015 8:06:03 AM
  • I never realized the thing about the knees wasn't true. I was curious why (although I've barely started running) that the workouts I had been doing seemed to lead to less knee pain than I've ever had....at least since I was twelve. I've gotten down to NONE. I'm not quite as fit as I was at twenty but I'm more so than I was at twenty five. - 8/22/2014 1:30:41 PM
  • OLACARDOSO
    Great comments and suggestions. Thanks - 8/6/2014 9:26:49 PM
  • THERESA63D
    I would love to run but my knees get to hurting me..anyone got any ideas on doing something different. ? Thx - 1/24/2014 3:07:12 PM
  • ILOVEQUIRKY
    I recommend downloading Podrunner to help you reach your 5K goals. It is interval training that involves music with sound cues that tell you when to slow down, speed up, and stop. Soooo exciting. - 1/10/2014 7:56:21 PM
  • I just started to run/jog/fast walk and at first I found it very difficult. I stuck with it about every other day and now I am getting better at it and actually enjoying it. I am getting faster too!!!!! - 12/11/2013 2:06:33 PM
  • I would love to be able to do some running, but I can barely walk very far without being winded. - 9/25/2013 3:58:13 PM
  • Great article. - 8/29/2013 2:38:51 PM
  • CLIFF57
    In Canada you can call on The Running Factory. They offer clinics that run 8 weeks at a time. Very supportive, move up at your pace. They also have guest speakers in to cover, stretching, diet, etc. - 8/22/2013 10:21:03 PM

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