Ask the Experts: Transition to Running

Walking has been my main form of exercise, but I'd like to transition to running. What's the best way to begin?

The key to running and sticking with it long-term is to progress gradually. Many new runners make the mistake of trying to run too far or too fast. It takes time for your body to adapt to the challenges of running, so be patient. Start at the level you're comfortable with and build up from there.

Keep in mind that whatever your motivation for taking up running--weight-maintenance, increased health and fitness--most people become lifelong runners because they enjoy it. But if you push yourself too hard too soon, you'll dislike it, may injure yourself and won't be motivated to run again.

The best way for you to begin is by adding short bouts of running into your regular walks. Always warm up before running with five minutes of walking to prepare your body for the higher intensity. Start with 30 seconds to one minute of running followed by at least double the time power-walking, about one to three minutes or until you feel well enough to start running again. After your workout, cool down with five minutes of walking to bring your heart rate down.

Progress little by little, adding more running to the mix and less walking. Focus on going farther, not harder. Don't run more than three times a week, and alternate running days with rest or cross-training activities like cycling, swimming or yoga to give your body time to recover between runs.

When I started running I was about 25 pounds overweight and really struggled, until my more experienced friends convinced me to slow down and run-walk. Eventually, I progressed to running and in only a few months finished my first 5K, smiling and feeling strong.

I started running about two months ago. But as a working mother of two, I've found the only way I can run is on a treadmill. Is running on a treadmill as good as running outdoors?

First off, if running on a treadmill is the only way you can run, then stick with it. You'll get no benefit from running if you're not running at all.

Running on a treadmill does have advantages over heading outdoors, including allowing you to run regardless of the weather. Treadmill running is safer, especially for busy women who can only squeeze in a run before sunrise or after sunset. Using a treadmill also allows you to better control your speed and distance, important for beginning runners who need to gradually increase pace and mileage. But, keep in mind, most don't provide an accurate measure of how fast or far you're going, usually just a rough estimate.

Running on a treadmill is slightly easier than running outdoors. It requires less effort because the treadmill belt is helping move your feet under your body. You're basically working to stay in sync with the treadmill instead of propelling yourself forward as you would on stationary ground. You're also not fighting wind resistance, which can make your run much harder outdoors. 

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