How will I benefit from
For starters, it tones
muscles in your legs, hips, and abdomen. The jarring nature of jogging
also wards off osteoporosis; all that pounding strengthens your bones.
And, as an aerobic exercise, it builds cardiovascular health by working
your heart muscle and improving oxygen supply to your muscles. What's
more, running reduces your risk of heart attack, develops your
endurance, relieves stress, and burns calories quickly. Depending on
factors including your weight, pace, and how hilly your route is, you'll
burn 500 to as much as 1,000 calories an hour.
How do I get started?
Find routes that you can
use year round (you'll want a well-lit option when the days get short)
and that have smooth, relatively soft surfaces, like asphalt or dirt.
Variety is the spice of life, and it'll do the same for your workouts.
But if you're a beginner, you'll probably be happiest at the local high
school's track -- at least until you get to know your limits.
The right shoes are vital
to comfort and safety; a pair that fits poorly can cause blistering,
soreness, even knee and back trouble. Well-made running shoes have
padded, flexible inner soles, a forgiving, breathable material for the
upper body, and good traction on the outer sole. Your arch should be
well supported (if you have high arches, you may need to buy inserts).
Ask a salesperson at a store that specializes in running shoes to help
you choose, and be sure to replace your shoes every 400 to 500 miles.
How often and how far
should I run?
Three times a week is
plenty. Start with a slow pace on easy terrain, and jog for only about
15 minutes. You should be breathing hard but still able to carry on a
conversation. If that means you have to stop and walk every so often,
fine. Give yourself six to eight weeks to build up to a 30-minute
session, and rest at least every other day.
According to the American
Running and Fitness Association, you shouldn't increase your mileage by
more than 10 percent a week. Concentrate on jogging smoothly, and don't
worry about how fast you're going. Though you may be tempted to run
daily once you're comfortable, give yourself at least two days off each
week (all that pounding can lead to shinsplints or stress fractures).
Remember that three days a week is all you need to gain and maintain
good health, especially if you mix in other exercise (weight training is
an excellent complement). You can also experiment with hilly courses or
alternate your runs between short routes to build speed and longer ones
to increase endurance.
What's a good running
Warm up first with a
brisk walk or slow jog. Drop your shoulders to keep them relaxed, and
swing your arms easily at your sides. Your foot should land heel first
and roll forward, and then push off with your toes. (If you decide to
mix up your pace occasionally, try sprinting on your toes for 15 to 30
seconds.) Cool down afterward by walking for a few minutes and then
stretching your ankles, calves, and thighs.
If your route takes you
by any streets, run facing traffic. When you reach an intersection, make
eye contact with drivers to insure that they see you before crossing.
Most running organizations discourage jogging at night. But if that's
your only option, wear light-colored clothing and consider purchasing
reflective vests and armbands; a lightweight blinking bicycle light will
also make you more visible to drivers. For safety, try to run with a
partner and vary your route.
Running puts a great deal
of stress on your bones and joints -- about three to four times your
body weight with every step -- so if you have a history of back, joint,
or orthopedic problems, check with your doctor before getting started.