You’ve already learned about how to start a walking group, so why not give running a try? We know the concept of running can be a daunting one, but don’t sweat it; running can be fun, easy and one of the best ways to get into (and stay in) shape. Try these ideas to get started.
1. Get medical clearance
Healthy adults generally do not need to consult a health-care provider before becoming physically active. If you have a chronic condition you should talk with your health-care provider about setting physical activity goals and determine whether running is right for you. If you’ve never run for exercise, it is a good idea to start gradually. This is especially important if you are have a heart condition.
2. Choose the right shoe
Choosing the right running shoes is incredibly important before heading out on the road or treadmill. Try going to a specialty running shoe store and talking with an expert about the contours of your feet and how they may fit into different styles of running shoes.
If you don’t have a specialized store near you, simply buy a pair of shoes that enables solid arch support, has plenty of room for your toes (your toes should not be cramped; there should be approximately a quarter inch of space from the end of the big toe to the front of the shoe) and snugly fits to your foot.
Try walking or jogging for a few miles in your new shoes. If they don’t feel good on your feet, take them back and try another pair.
3. Know proper running form
Form is everything when running. It is important to keep your head up, eyes straight ahead and your shoulders low and loose. This way, your torso and back naturally straighten to allow you to run in an efficient, upright position that promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length. Try not to hunch; it can cause back and knee pain when running.
Also, your foot should hit the ground lightly, landing between your heel and mid-foot, and then quickly roll forward. Keep your ankle flexed as your foot rolls forward to create more force when you push off. Good running is springy and quiet.
4. Start at a slow pace
You are just starting out, which means it is important to start slowly. Begin your running regimen by walking over short intervals or for a few miles at a time on a weekly basis. Once you feel comfortable doing that several times a week, start jogging slowly, stopping to walk when you need during your route. You will work up to running consistently, but patience is important as your body gets used to the physical activity.
5. Set small goals
While running a 5k race may be your ultimate goal, go easy on yourself as you start out, recommends Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, vice chair of the American Heart Association’s Physical Activity Subcommittee. “If you haven’t done a lot of exercise over the past several months, I’d schedule a 5k race about six months out and, in the meantime, set small goals for myself,” she says.
Start by walking 15 minutes four times per week. Don’t have enough energy? Young encourages women to try it anyway. “You can experience an increased sense of wellbeing almost immediately,” she says. “From there, you can have more energy to do other things.”
Once you’ve mastered a 15-minute walk four times per week, try extending your walk to encompass three miles a time. From there, mix light jogging into your routine.
Learn more heart-healthy exercises on Go Red. And track your progress on the American Heart Association’s free online Activity Tracker.