The fastest way to become a runner is to slow down

Becoming a runner is all about proper pacing and shifting gears from a run to a walk, and back to a run.

Most new runners have no idea how to pace themselves. When they take off, it is in one gear -- too fast.

How do you learn to pace yourself? Move your arms slower and take short baby steps to learn how to run very slowly.

Move the arms progressively faster and lengthen your stride to go faster. Practice running at various paces and pay attention to your breathing.

Let your breathing determine your running pace. Your body doesn't care if it is walking or running. It wants to move in a comfortable aerobic (with oxygen) state.

The pace you are moving is much less important than maintaining that comfortable aerobic state.

You should be able to run and carry on a conversation, without having to talk in short clipped sentences.

When running is perceived as uncomfortable, walk. When you are ready, resume running (slowly).

By running slower, you will spend more time per workout in a comfortable running mode. You will also avoid injuries, which defeat many would-be runners and usually result from trying to do too much too soon.

If you complete three workouts in this manner every week for eight weeks, you will make tremendous progress. The key is to be consistent and keep moving.

Learning to run takes time. Strengthening your running muscles and developing your cardiorespiratory system may take 12-24 months.

You can't rush the process and you can't make it happen. You must let it come to you, so be patient and keep moving.

Mark Higginbotham, a certified running coach and personal trainer, is the founder of Memphis In Motion. He teaches monthly classes on fitness and nutrition and leads adult walking and running programs locally. If you have a running, walking or fitness question, e-mail or go to

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