Just Getting Out the Door

Running. It's convenient, it's cheap, and anybody can do it. Right? How many times have we heard that or said it ourselves?

Every Christmas since I left home, I visit my parent's farm in central Illinois for the holidays. And every year my father tells me, "Joe, get your shoes on. I'm going to start my exercise program this year and let's kick it off with a father and son run." Here we go again.

I quickly darn my running garb. I sit in the kitchen for roughly an hour as my father digs through every dresser and closet in the house. Eventually he appears in an outfit that very much resembles the one Jack Nicholson wore in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. As we head out the door into the brisk December air, I think to myself, "How far will we make it this year before dad starts wheezing like the Model T in Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang." And every year it's generally about to the end of the driveway.

Anybody can do it, right Dad? Dad is on the right track by just getting started but unfortunately work on the farm gets in the way and sidetracks any consistency he might have with his running program.

As a Fitness Professional, I constantly hear from new clients or friends, "Well I'm not a runner." I always ask them, what exactly is a runner? The reply is generally, "I don't know." I've found over the years that running is many things to many people. Some love it, some hate it, some have never tried it and there are probably many like me that have a love/hate relationship with it.

I run, but really wouldn't consider myself a true runner. At 5'9" and 195 lbs, I look more like a football player. I started running Marathons then Ultra-marathons initially because a group of my meathead powerlifting buddies said, "Dude, you can't run." I said "Uh-huh." They said, "No you can't." So I showed them.

I put on my Chuck T's and attempted to sprint around the block which was the equivalent of a quarter mile track. About half way in I thought I might need CPR. Of course this was met with ridicule from buddies. Now the game was on. "Listen running, I'm going to be good at you some day. Running has become an integral part of my life.

How do you begin running? I'm sure there are many of you out there that started very similarly to my father and I, just throwing caution to the wind and jumping right in. If you're looking for something a little more orthodox, I might suggest another route.

I've trained thousands of people over the years to run their first mile, 5k's, 10k's, marathons and even 50-milers. Most of these people weren't runners. Many began running to lose weight. Again, running is generally cheaper and more convenient than a gym. You can do it anywhere. And many people that begin running and stay injury-free will start shedding pounds as they increase their distance and time.

Generally after the loss of a few pounds and with the euphoria of being able to run a couple miles relatively easily, I suggest that you set a running goal. This can be anything from a 5k, to a Cancer March, to a marathon. It all depends on the amount of time you're willing to invest. Having a goal will keep you focused and accountable. I've seen numerous people struggle through a 5k, only to stride across the finish line of a marathon six months later. Now that's an empowering feeling.

How can you accomplish something similar? You must have a plan. First--set the goal. Then draw up the plan. A structured running program for any distance will have you gradually adding mileage week to week until you are able to attempt your goal with confidence.

Lastly, have fun! Like I said before, running is something different to us all. You don't necessarily have to be a runner to begin running. Give it a try. You might just actually grow to love it. Take it from someone that is not a runner, running can take you to amazing places. It's taken me across the Sahara Desert, over the Himalaya Mountains and out the front door with my father every year. Run and have fun!

Active Expert Joe Decker is an ultra-endurance power athlete and renowned fitness trainer who has helped thousands of people get into shape. He has completed many of the world's toughest endurance events, including the Badwater 135, and the Grand Slam of UltraRunning. In 2000, Joe broke the Guinness World Records? Twenty-four-hour Physical Fitness Challenge to help inspire and motivate people to get fit. He is recognized as "The World's Fittest Man." Visit his website at www.joe-decker.com .

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