Become a Runner in 10 Easy Steps

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Lean body, strong legs, healthy heart. You've admired runners from afar, and now you're seriously entertaining the idea of joining their ranks. Getting started doesn't have to be overwhelming. Every athlete starts somewhere. The beginning can be enjoyable if you take it one step at a time. Here's how:

Get motivated. Everyone knows at least one runner, and runners love to talk, so ask that runner how he started out and why he keeps running. Read stories of beginners' triumph, such as The Courage to Start by John Bingham. Grab a friend, watch a race and cheer wildly. Immerse yourself in the fitness culture by reading magazines such as Runner's World. Let yourself get inspired.

More: Excellence at Any Age Is an Inspiration

Set a goal. Want to run a race? Start small with a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles). Search for a race that's six to 12 months out, and imagine how excited you will feel crossing that finish line. Register in advance, and put the race date on the calendar, circled in red marker.

More: Find a 5K Race Near You

Get fitted for shoes. Not all feet are alike, and not all strides are alike. It follows that not all shoes will fit. Find a quality store in your area that caters to runners. Expect to fork over about $100 for one pair of shoes. This step is crucial to avoid injury. It is worth the investment. You will not be sorry.

More: The Importance of a Proper Shoe Fit

Make a plan. Find a program that makes sense. Jeff Galloway offers sound advice for beginners. There are also many good books that offer beginner plans. Start slower than you want to, and stretch well. The last thing you need is an injury to sideline your efforts. Map out your workouts on a calendar. Afterward, record each run's distance, time it took, and how you felt. The hard and fast rule is to increase your mileage no more than 10 percent per week. Set yourself up for success by allowing your body to adjust to running, slowly.  

More: Jeff Galloway's Run/Walk Training Plan