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Fitness Articles  ›  Focused Fitness

So You Want to Be a Runner?

Get Started on the Right Foot

-- By Nancy Howard, Certified Running Coach
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Running is one of the fastest growing amateur sports among men and women of all ages. Read how to get started on your own quest to becoming a runner.

It doesn’t surprise me that more people are running for cardio exercise these days. According to a recent survey by Running USA, 49.4%, or more than 4.3 million of all finishers in 2007 road races held across the country were women. This represents a 25% increase from just 20 years ago and an almost 4% increase from just 6 years ago.

Compared with other forms of cardiovascular exercise, running is by far one of the best at burning calories. What's more, besides a good pair of running shoes, it doesn’t cost a lot of money to get started—just a little determination.

In my three years of running and training to become a certified running coach, I've come up with a list of fundamental principles new runners should consider before embarking on their running career. Below are a few pointers that will help you get started on the right foot.

Get the "OK." Before beginning any exercise program, it is best to get clearance from your doc before lacing up your shoes, especially if you're older than 40.

Practice Patience. It isn’t uncommon for new runners to want to hit the pavement with full gusto, believing the more they run the faster they will advance, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

It takes six months to a year to build a solid running foundation. When building a house, if you do not allow time for the foundation to cure before putting up the frame, walls and roof, your house has a greater risk of collaping in the first storm.

The same is true with running. If you don’t allow for proper adaptation, your risk for injury rises dramatically. In addition, you might experience lack of progress or burnout from doing too much too soon. It might test your patience, but you must allow time not only for your heart and lungs to adapt but also your muscles, connective tissues, joints, bones, and glycogen (stored energy) reserves.

More is Not Better. So if one day of running is good, then running every day must be better, right? Well, not exactly. While you have to run to become a runner, it is actually during the rest/recovery phases that your body adapts to the sport. This is where the principle of hard/easy comes into play. You should run one day then either rest or cross train the following day to allow your body to recover from the run. Using a running program such as Spark Your Way to a 5K helps take much of the guesswork out of when and when not to run.
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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

  • More good information, thanks. - 1/18/2013 10:05:03 PM
  • That was a enlightening article, thank you. - 5/2/2012 6:47:06 PM
  • I've been a runner for the last 35 years and this is sound advice for the beginner. Enjoy the journey!! - 11/16/2011 8:27:40 AM
  • Thanks for a great article. I just had a baby and am starting back into the exercise routine. I am just starting the Walk/Jog Your Way to 5K program! Thanks for great advice! - 6/10/2011 11:57:10 PM
  • Good read. - 6/10/2011 9:26:33 PM
  • Great article. Definitely agree with building the foundation first. It takes time letting your body acclimate but it's worth the investment. Also just got through the audiobook "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall and it opened my eyes on many things running related and was also an awesome and well written book. Highly recommend it to any one new or deep in the sport. - 6/10/2011 9:20:39 PM
  • I am really trying to do this right. Wish you were here to be my coach live and in person! - 6/10/2011 5:42:46 PM
  • *Internet High Five* - 6/10/2011 3:47:30 PM
  • Another sparker said...you have to be a slow fat runner before you can be a fast thin runner. RWC!!!! - 6/10/2011 2:27:33 PM
  • yes, I need the reminder to go slow! I always want to be a great runner and sometime I need to remember that I have to be a so-so runner first as I build my way to great. Thanks!
    - 6/10/2011 2:15:29 PM
  • This was a great article for me, personally. I have always started out full speed ahead and then suffer with a lot of pain. Then eventually quit altogether. This time, I will start out slow and build up. Thanks for the great advice. - 6/10/2011 1:32:22 PM
  • The end of your article really meant something to me. I have always wanted to run, but never believed I could do it. With continuous help from SP, I will be able to achieve a dream. - 2/20/2011 10:13:39 AM
  • Great intro for me as I work my way back into running. I am signed up for a half in May next year and am only beginning. Sounds like I need to use my time well. What I liked about the article is the sensible approach to taking on a new challenge rather than 'let's get out there and do it!'
    Thanks! - 11/11/2010 9:06:17 AM
  • Woo Hoo - I am the first responder!!
    Loved the article and it has inspired me to try to start running.
    I will also go right to team and post.
    You are an inspiration to all who know you.
    Nancy - 6/17/2010 7:27:20 AM
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