By Elizabeth DiAlto

Running is one of the most natural forms of exercise.  The problem with something that is supposed to be natural, though, is the human element: we tend to over-think, over-analyze and take the simple and natural out of things. So, to help you hit the pavement, avoid injuries and add “running” to your many interests, here are some pointers on getting started:

What You Need
After first clearing a new fitness routine with your doctor, you’ll need to pick up a couple essential tools, namely a stopwatch and sneakers. If you are serious about running, you’ll need to make sure you either own or buy proper running sneakers. Our best tip is to head to a running store where trained professionals can analyze your gait and recommend the best sneakers to help you run effectively, efficiently and prevent injuries. (To find a running store near you, click here.)

Should you use a heart rate monitor too? Find out here.

Manage Expectations
Everyone starts out at a different fitness level.  If you’re a  “non-runner” starting out, be aware that “running shape” is very different from “cardio shape.”  What does this mean? You might be an animal on the elliptical, dominate spin classes or crush the stair climber at the gym, but these abilities may not directly translate into being a great runner. If that’s the case, don’t be discouraged.  Like any activity, this too takes practice! On the contrary, some people (even the inactive) are innately talented when it comes to running.  So unless you already have a lot of experience running and you know your body, don’t let anything surprise you!

Start Slow
If you’re a beginner, it’s not realistic, or helpful, to set out with a pace in mind, let alone a fast one.  Don’t worry about distance or pace, just run. Start your watch and see how long you last.  It’s ok to stop, walk a bit and start up again.  You should spend the first few weeks focusing on feeling out your body and testing out different terrains to see how you feel running on flat surfaces and hills, outdoors and in, on the road and on a treadmill to see what you like best. As DC Running Coach, Mike Hamberger, says, “If the runner can run 30 minutes for 3 to 4 times per week, for 4 weeks, with good posture, without pain and without losing motivation, then it would be time to step it up a notch.” We agree.

Listen to Your Body
Although running is a great form of exercise, very inexpensive and something you can do almost anywhere at anytime, it does, unfortunately lend itself to injuries.  These are usually injuries of overuse and they usually intensify because people want to keep going and “run through pain.”  Unless you’re a professional athlete (in which case we can’t imagine you’re reading this article!), take a break if your body is telling you to.  Rest for a few days and see how it feels before you continue.  Many of the injuries caused by running, like shin splints and stress fractures, are mainly cured by rest anyway. So why not take a few days off and avoid being sidelined for weeks or months with a more serious problem?

A Killer Playlist to Help Pull You Through!

Strength Train
Strengthening your core and lower body can help prevent injuries, improve form and increase your running ability, so be sure to include strength training and core work in your overall fitness routine 2-3 days/wk.  Stretching is also important, which is why we’ll dedicate an entire article to it next week! So, stay tuned!

Focus on Form
This is a much-debated topic with endless opinions and articles in text books and magazines. As a beginner, though, don’t worry about anything other than keeping it simple.  Focus on your posture. Stand up straight, keep your head up and shoulders down and try your best to relax and enjoy your run.

Go For It
The hardest part of anything new is getting started. So, grab your sneakers, hit the treadmill or pavement and keep an eye out next week for when The Beauty Bean will address what type of stretching you should engage in before and after your runs!

Having Trouble Getting Motivated? Try These 2 Tricks!