What if you could call yourself a runner? Ever dreamed of jogging a mile without stopping? If these goals seem out of reach, read on, and reach for your sneakers...
Running is as inexpensive as buying a good pair of running shoes and as easy as setting aside 30 minutes for a pavement pounding workout that can be done anywhere, anytime.
When you travel, running can be a wonderful way to check out a new city or a healthy way to bond at home with a friend or your significant other. But many runners find it therapeutic to run alone and/or out in nature. I have to admit I enjoy the solace and have solved many problems—and conjured up some of my best ideas—while out for a run.
Another valuable side effect of running is what it does for your mental health. Running is one of the best mood-boosters I know. Plus, you can do it year round. Put a treadmill in your house or use one at a gym on days when inclement weather interferes. (Warning: Running on snow and ice in the dark can be hazardous.)
But here’s the best part: Running is one of the most effective and efficient forms of exercise in terms of calories burned during a workout—on average 8.5 calories per minute when moving at a comfortable pace (that’s twice as many as walking). Running does it all. It helps you lose fat, builds great leg muscles and firms up your abdomen, too.
For those who claim running is boring, I say nonsense. The key is to vary your workout. Some days run a longer distance. Other days, do short, fast intervals. You can take off on flat pavement or find winding trails and hills. I even train clients to pause at park benches as they can be used like gym equipment. Try a series of push-ups, planks, triceps dips, step ups and lunges for extra toning.
Need more motivation? There are free apps you can download that will chart your progress, cheer you on and keep you going with peppy music. I like Rock My Run because it provides music at a set beats per minute in all genres that can be timed to your gait. So if you are holding your phone while you run, the music slows or speeds up to match your pace. Cool!
And of course hardly a week goes by when there isn’t some sort of charity fun run taking place. Visit the Road Runners Club of America for a calendar of running events you can participate in around the country.
If you like getting dirty, check out two messy new trends—mud runs (that’s right, mud as in running through wet dirt on a course with obstacles) and color runs where participants are splashed with different colors of paint for each leg of a race. (Lots of fun selfie potential but leave your favorite running clothes at home!)
The first order of business is a good pair of running shoes. People often ask me what I use but that’s an impossible question to answer. A sneaker that works for me won’t necessarily be right for you another due to too many individual variables such as height, weight, terrain the shoes will be used on, level of fitness, condition of knees and hips, anticipated mileage per week, etc.
For best results, visit a running or athletic specialty shop. Ask them to watch you run (so they can observe your gait) and measure your arch to determine support needs.
Commit to these running workouts for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week and you’ll hit your stride before you know it.
Week 1: Start off speed walking—30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy.
Week 2: Increase speed walking to 2 minutes, then go easy for 30 seconds.
Week 3: Time to jog. Go back to 30 seconds on, 30 off. Then jog for 2 minutes and recover walk for 30 seconds between intervals.
Week 4: Increase your jogging time to 5 minutes and take 30 seconds to recover.
After a month, go the distance and attempt to run your first mile without stopping—you’ll probably do it in under 30 minutes (most people can walk a mile in 20 minutes) but don’t get discouraged if you need to take some breaks. Just keep adding to the time between breaks and eventually you'll be able to jog for 30 minutes without stopping!
(If my 4-week plan is too difficult, check out this 16-week alternative, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)
First you feel like dying, then you feel reborn!
(The so-called runner’s high is real. Endorphins released during harder workouts make you feel move energetic and alive. So push through the days when it feels too hard, and enjoy the post-workout reward.)
Nutrition experts are always urging us to add more fiber to our diets. One way to achieve this is by consuming fruits and veggies. But your banana got smashed in the bottom of your tote bag yesterday and today those juicy-looking strawberries had turned into mush when you went to enjoy them.
Forget the mess and get crunching on busy days when you’re on the run. Crunchies are a new brand of freeze-dried fruit that I discovered while looking for ways to add more plant-based food to my diet. Though not as healthy as real fruit, they have acceptable carb counts for people with diabetes and are so delicious, my 6 year-old’s soccer team was fighting over the bag last week.
The fruit is sourced from the company’s own supply chain of local farmers, so it’s fresh and sweet no matter which variety you choose. From mixed fruit to strawberry, pineapple and even beets! At about $5 per bag and 40 calories with 6 grams of sugar per serving (see other nutrition information on the company's website), Crunchies rule and sure beat that mushy banana. (Note: Crunchies are also available at Walmart, Amazon and more.)