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While running is a great workout, it can be a challenge to know how to begin a program that will keep you successfully logging miles over the years. Many people just lace up their shoes and go, without a plan or even previous conditioning, which often leads to quitting or even injury.

If you’re a beginner, here are some running tips:

  • Get equipped. Make sure you have shoes designed for running. Nothing kills a run faster than old, beat-up gym shoes with no shock absorption or support. For your own safety, wear reflective clothing if you plan on being out at dawn or dusk.
  • Map a route. Determine where you will go, considering where you can run on sidewalks, avoid busy streets and limit stoplights. See if there are jogging/walking paths in your area. Aim for a shorter route to start with; you can always run it twice if you are feeling great.
  • Be realistic. If you haven’t run before – or at least not for many years – don’t shoot for 5 or more miles right away. Start with shorter distances and get into a regular routine; then gradually add distance in ½ mile increments. Or target a time goal – jog for 20-30 minutes for a few weeks, and then add on 3-5 minutes over time as your body adjusts.
  • Incorporate intervals. You may not be able to run immediately for 20 consecutive minutes, so rather than quit altogether, run for 2-3 minutes and walk for 1-2; then repeat. Over time, you can increase the running interval and reduce the walking time. Eventually, as you build your stamina, you will be running the entire workout.
  • Hydrate. Like any exercise, running demands that you are properly fueled for best performance. Carry a water bottle if you can, or run on a path with drinking fountains. If those aren’t options, be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your run. Your urine should be clear to pale yellow – if it is dark yellow, you are dehydrated.
  • Stretch. Runners need to stretch their entire bodies, especially the legs, for optimum performance and injury prevention. It’s best to stretch after a run when the muscles are warm and pliable. Include stretches for the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, hips and back; you can ask a trainer or check online for suggestions.
  • Consider options. Some people like to run alone, preferring to capitalize on uninterrupted thinking time. Others like to go with a partner or in a group to socialize and stay motivated. If music helps you, create some inspirational playlists. If you like gear and feedback, strap on a heart rate monitor to evaluate your intensity. If you have a favorite route, stick with it; or if you get bored easily, vary your paths for new scenery. And if you’re competitive, sign up for a local 5K – it will give you a concrete goal to keep you going.

Remember, running is a challenge, but a good one with many benefits. Use these running tips to get started on the right foot. Then keep after it to experience the joy of runners’ high – and the eventual craving to hit the pavement!