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Running is a simple human movement—but if you’re just starting out, it can seem next to impossible. How does that girl on the treadmill run an hour at a stretch while you can barely make it 30 seconds without feeling like you’re about to fall off the belt?
The best way to crack the run code is to start out with a run/walk approach. Starting slowly will keep you healthy, let you have fun and reduce the risk of injury. Begin with walking sprinkling in just a bit of running, and as you get more fit, you can slowly decrease your walk breaks. Or you can keep them in! I coached a 3:30 marathoner (that’s 8-minute miles!) who ran/walked the whole 26.2 miles.
Before you begin, invest in a new pair of running shoes, and use them for exercise only. Not all shoes are created equal, so don’t beat up your legs by running in an ill-made pair. Get properly fitted at a store that specializes in running and walking. When the soles or cushioning gets worn down (which will happen after 300 to 500 miles), use them as regular shoes and buy a new pair.
Just as important as a good pair of kicks—you should be fitted for a sports bra at the same time. A bra should never celebrate a birthday, and the proper support will make training so much more enjoyable. Running socks provide extra cushioning and are important to help prevent blisters. A wicking top will keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer than a cotton shirt.
Keep these three tips in mind and you will crush this beginner program. Firstly, trying to keep both your run and your walk at even paces (although those will be separate of course) is generally the most efficient strategy. The most common novice error is going out too fast and getting exhausted before the end of the workout. It’s much better to start too slow and finish faster! Secondly, listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, stop or slow down.
Finally and most importantly, have fun. Exercise should be enjoyable, and walking and running are great ways to explore new places and learn more about yourself.
Cari Setzler, a veterinarian who lives in Wonder Lake, Ill., is a running coach as well as a coaching instructor for the Road Runners Club of America, working with runners of all different abilities. To find a club to run with near you, visit rrca.org.