With spring (mostly) here, you may be ready to get off cardio machines and head outside. Here are a few tips on starting up a running program and staying with it from Jennifer Van Allen of Runner’s World magazine, who has run 49 marathons and is the co-author of the new book Runner’s World Big Book of Running for Beginners.
Do it your own way. There are some non-negotiables when you first hit the road: Start slow and finish strong, never run through pain, and invest in running shoes and replace them before they wear out. (It’s the cheapest and easiest way to get fit without getting hurt.)
But the rest – and there is a lot – is open to individual interpretation.
Don’t undo your roadwork at the dinner table. It’s easy to get into a cycle of entitlement eating, indulging in unhealthful treats and eating back the calories you burn running – and then some. For any run of an hour or less, it is fine to run on empty. Anything longer, or if it has been a long time since you’ve run, have a 100-to-200-calorie snack an hour before heading out. Make sure it is high in carbs (your body’s favorite fuel) and low in fat and fiber (which can cause stomach upset).
Learn the difference between good and bad pain. Any pain that persists or worsens as you run or after you’re done is something that deserves at least two days of rest and possibly a call to the doctor.
Take your run like medicine. The hour before a run is tougher than anything you’ll encounter out there. Before you go, a flood of excuses will threaten to get between you and the road. But if you don’t take care of your body, it won’t take care of you.