Fitness Basics: Tips to Help You Start Running (cont.)

"I ran about 45 seconds. I was amazed at how little I could do." But he plugged through it.

"Is it better to run on a treadmill
or outside?"

"The first two weeks are difficult," Isphording warns. "Getting out the door is the hardest thing ever. Once you get past that, then you get it, your body starts feeling good and wants to go out and play."

To keep your body feeling good during your runs, our experts offer these tips:

  • While you're running, be sure you can pass the "talk test": You should still be able to carry on a conversation. Keep your pace comfortable so you won't burn out too quickly. "It's much better to run too slow than too fast," Isphording says.
  • Instead of tracking the miles you run, count time. "Don't get caught up in measuring distance, and that you ran faster than yesterday. Go for time," Isphording says.
  • As you build up past 20 minutes, be sure to stay hydrated. This is especially important during the warm-weather months. "Know where the water is, where the park is, where the gas station is -- or you can stash water along your route ahead of time," Isphording says.
  • In addition to running, do strength training to build muscle and bone density and protect against injury. A 20-minute strength workout a couple of times a week is all you need. To get started, get a personal trainer to write out a program you can do at home -- or get a video.
  • Save stretching for after your run, when your muscles are warm. Stretching cold muscles increases the risk for injury.

Sticking With It

To stay consistent with your running program, keep a running journal or log, the experts suggest. At the beginning of the week, plot out when you plan to run and for how long, and commit it to paper. "Write down something on a piece of paper and put it in your sock drawer," says Isphording.

Setting specific goals -- whether it's time, distance, weight loss or cholesterol -- will also inspire you to stay on track.

Another thing that helps: finding a friend to run with. Having a partner to meet you at the mailbox will keep you honest, says Isphording.

"Ninety percent of running is just showing up, getting in the game, getting off the sidelines," she says.

Inside or Out?

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside? You can get a great cardiovascular workout either way, and there are benefits to both, the experts say

With a treadmill, you're never too far from home, says Isphording. It's a good choice if you're injured or rehabbing an injury -- or just feeling a little intimidated about running outdoors.

"There are no stoplights, no dogs, no cars, no pollution," she says. And, of course, bad weather isn't an issue. Treadmill running can be lower-impact too, as well. Dolgener equates it to running on grass.

But a treadmill doesn't quite simulate the outdoors.

"When you're outdoors, you're getting fresh air," Isphording says. "Running during the sunlight you get vitamin D, which women really need to absorb calcium. You have the scenery -- you can discover parts of your city or town, or if you're traveling, it's a great way to see a city. It's better with a group of people, and easier to do with a family."

When Not to Run

Running is not for everyone, say the experts. If you have an injury or disability, or if running is painful for you, try cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming. They all work.

"The advantage to running is it doesn't take any equipment except shoes, you can do it anywhere, and it's convenient," says Dolgener. "It's one of the best cardio-respiratory activities you can do. The bad news is, it is very traumatic, and the trauma is more prevalent the longer and harder you go."

But if you can run, why not go ahead and get out there?

"I can promise you this," says Isphording, "you will never regret a run. There's hardly anything in life you can say that about. You'll regret a chocolate sundae."

Medically updated May 19, 2006.
Originally published May 05, 2005.

SOURCES: Jim Scott, talk-show host, 700 WLW, Cincinnati, Ohio. Julie Isphording, running coach; host and producer, FIT: Fitness Information Talk and On Your Feet radio programs, Cincinnati, Ohio. Forrest Dolgener, exercise physiologist, author, The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer; professor of exercise science, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa.

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Last Editorial Review: 5/5/2005 8:20:28 PM