Ask the Experts: Ready, Set, Run!

I know that running is the best way for me to maintain my ideal weight, but I really hate it!  What can I do to make it more enjoyable and to stay motivated?  

Even though I love running and have been doing it for ages, not every run is a joyful romp. Here's how to keep running fun.

  • Make (and Keep) Running Dates. Your running buddies will help you stay motivated. Put up a sign at work to find people to run with or visit a specialty running store, where there's often a bulletin board to help people find running partners. Set distance or time goals with your partner--this will help even when you're running alone.  
  • Vary the Route. Run your standard loop in the reverse direction and notice how different it looks. Plan a day trip to a state park with a friend, and pack a picnic and change of clothes for some dining and hiking after you run.
  • Sign Up for a Race. Committing to an event is a great reason to stay motivated.
  • Try to Keep Pace with Faster Runners. I race people on the street who don't even know that we're racing.
  • Start Speed Work. Speed work adds spice to your routine. If you've been doing nothing but long runs for weeks and weeks, trying hill repeats, a track workout or circuits can erase boredom.
  • Reward Yourself. Treat yourself to a warm, relaxing bath after a workout, or set a mileage goal and reward yourself with a new running outfit when you reach it.

I'm a longtime walker, but I'd like to try running. How do I get started?

The key is to start running slowly, progress gradually with frequent periods of rest and run regularly. Surprisingly, the aerobic system often improves faster than the support structure of your muscles and bones. So don't try to see how far or how fast you can go the first day, or increase your running distance or time too quickly. If you're over 35 or have a family history of heart disease, check with your physician before you begin.  

To start, commit yourself to 15 to 20 minutes of continuous movement four to five days a week. Jog slowly until you feel out of breath, walk until you feel revived, then jog again. Repeat the pattern for 20 minutes. Don't worry that it looks or feels slow--the most important thing is that you're doing it.

Maintain a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation comfortably while running. When you're able to run continuously for 20 minutes, add five minutes of walking/jogging to your routine. When that's comfortable, add another five.

The payoff comes when you can sustain 30 minutes of easy running. At that point you'll probably discover you have increased alertness and endurance. You may even be hooked on running!

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