By Tina Haupert
I first started running in college in order to deal with the stress of my coursework. I'd head out for a run around the campus and by the time I returned to my dorm room, I would feel like a million bucks. It was a great way to keep in shape and, let's face it, to ward off the beer calories that I was consuming on the weekends!
Before finding my Feel Great Weight, I ran three miles a couple of times a week. Running torched calories and cleared my mind, but I never thought about running longer distances or that I'd want to run a marathon. And yet today I'm training for a marathon in Honolulu in December! And I'm ready for the challenge.
To prepare, I’m increasing my mileage each week and journaling my experience on my personal blog, Carrots 'N' Cake. I've been receiving a lot of questions about running, from how to increase speed and distance to how running can help you lose weight. But while running is great exercise and an effective way to tone muscles, it can be daunting to take the first step! I use these five tips to make it less intimidating.
Try the walk-run training method
The biggest misconception about running is that you need to run continuously from start to finish. Instead of running full out and getting discouraged, include some walks in your run. On my long runs for marathon training, I sometimes alternate nine minutes of running with one minute of walking. I don't lazily walk during that minute, though—I speed-walk to keep my heart pumping and my muscles moving. Beginner runners can alternate two minutes of running with one minute of walking. Over time, you can gradually increase the ratio of running to walking a minute at a time until you've worked up to longer distances.
Keep a running log
I maintain a running log to track my progress and keep me motivated. Record the basic information about your runs: distance, time, type of workout, and how you felt during and afterward. If you're looking to lose weight, you can also note your progress. It's extremely motivating to see the increase in mileage and decrease in time as you go on.
Set goals and make a plan
Running a marathon is a big goal, but it's something that I've always wanted to do. One of the best ways to keep motivated is to set attainable goals for yourself. This can be anything: Sign up for and complete a 5K, set a new personal record on your next 10K, run three days per week. Once you have set your goal, create a "game plan" to achieve it. I use the marathon training plan from Team In Training. You can find tons of running guides online to help you achieve your next goal.
Remember that everyone has a bad run
If things don't go exactly as planned, don't get discouraged. Even the best runners have bad runs! Reflect on what you learned from the experience and ask yourself what you can do differently. Maybe you started too quickly, or didn't eat properly before your run. Go out next time stronger and more confident in your abilities.
Listen to your body
Running is hard on your body. You're bound to feel tired and sore after a run, which is normal to an extent. Listen to your body when your pain is beyond normal, and take it easy. For me, this means cutting back on my training or incorporating more cross-training into my schedule.