Jen Van Allen, a certified running coach and
co-author of "The Runner's World Big Book of Running for Beginners"
said the first time outdoors everyone else seems like a real runner.
And new runners often fear getting hurt, or that they will find
running unpleasant or boring.
"Certainly when someone pushes body and mind farther there is going
to be some discomfort," said Van Allen, who has completed 48
marathons. "But a lot of people make the mistake of running as fast
as they can and they get hurt."
She suggests that even if the goal is to run, newbies should walk and use the first four to six weeks to establish the habit.
"If you're just starting out, focus on rhythm, on finding the most
convenient times and the safest routes, and deciding if you'd rather
work out alone or with others," Van Allen said.
She added that the correct form for most people means eyes on the
horizon, arms moving alongside, not crossing, the torso, shoulders
and brows relaxed.
"Starting at the top of your head, periodically check in with your
body to release areas of tension," she advised.
David Siik, a Los Angeles-based running coach for Equinox, the
national chain of upscale fitness centers, said when running for
fitness the first goal is consistency.
"It's actually one of the hardest goals, and more immediately
important than mileage and calories," he said. "People fall out of
the habit, often afraid that it's too difficult or too hard on their
If running is physically very demanding, Siik said, the benefits can
"A great indicator of how fit running can actually make you is that
you can lose it so quickly," he said. "People who take long periods
of time off from running see their aerobic strength go away very
Running takes time, so he suggests taking it slow, keeping a log,
and seeing how it goes.
"You'll learn something new about yourself every time you run," he
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Siik said much improper form is a lack of strength that
sometimes, but not always, auto-corrects with practice.
"Run with the runner's tilt, making sure your weight is barely
over your hips, never back on your hips, except during a decline,"
he said. "That slight tilt forward engages your back muscles."
Jacque Ratliff , an exercise physiologist at the American Council
on Exercise, said cardiovascular activity (such as running)
increases the strength and efficiency of the heart muscle, which is
important in warding off heart disease, lowering blood pressure and
improving HDL (good) cholesterol.
But she said any fitness regime should include strength, flexibility
and mind-body components as well.
"If somebody is just running all the time, that's when injuries can
occur," Ratliff cautioned.
Whether the goal is marathon glory or losing love handles, Van Allen
urges new runners to start at their current level of fitness, not
where they were in high school.
"Get good shoes, start slow, find your pace," she said. "It's great
to have dreams, but in order to get there you have to start where you
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and James Dalgleish)
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