Running 101: Take the First Step Today

So you want to start running? You've heard it's inexpensive, great for your health, the best way to lose weight (and keep it off). You've got friends and coworkers who run, and they're trim, happy, centered, and productive. Running also looks like a straightforward enough sport. There's only one thing that's bothering you: If running's so simple, why do you have so many questions?

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You're not alone. Every beginner worries about how to get started and has a lot to ask—about how to get motivated, what to eat, how to avoid injuries, and exactly when and where and how much to run. No problem. We've got the answers—from experts who have been teaching beginning running classes for up to 35 years, and from others who've certainly been around the block. Every runner began with a first step. You can, too.

INSPIRATION Help, I need motivation!

Make All the Excuses You Want. Then Get on With It

You don't have time" you don't have the energy; it's too cold/hot/rainy; the dog ate your shoelaces; Uh-huh. Now go out and run. Online running coach and former educator Dean Hebert has heard so many excuses from his runners that he assembled them into a book, Coach I Didn't Run Beacause... Excuses Not to Run and How to Overcome Them. "These excuses are real to peoples and I don't diminish in Tempe, Arizona, and can be found at rxrunning.com. "I tell my beginning runners to concentrate on the one reason that brought them to running. A clear focus can work magic on your motivation."

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Keep Track

Keeping a written diary is a highly successful way to stick with an exercise or diet program. It doesn't have to be fancy or sophisticated. Indeed, where you place the diary might be more important than what you write in it. Put a calendar on your fridge or in front of your computer, write down every time you complete a run, and take pride in watching those numbers build up. (Or feel guilty when they don't! That'll get you out.)

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Keep at It

Some runners win gold medals and set world records, but no runner has ever done every workout he or she planned. You won't either. Stuff happens, but you can deal as long as you stay focused on the big picture. Shrug off the bad days, get back on the program, and you'll still achieve your goals — losing weight, gaining energy, improving your health, adding distance to your runs, and so on. Remaining persistent is crucial to improved running. "When beginners get discouraged or hit a plateau, I tell them to remember the time and effort invested and the progress they've made," says beginners coach Jane Serues. "You don't want to slide backward, you want to keep working toward the progress ahead."

Find a Fitness Friend

Beginning running coaches agree that one of the best ways to stick with your exercise program is to get a training partner. When someone is counting on you as much as you're counting on him/her, it's much tougher to blow off a workout. But it has to be someone of similar ability who is supportive, not competitive with you. "We emphasize the emotional power of training partners," says Serues, who's introduced 6,000 women to running in the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania. "One or two is good. Three or four are even better."

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