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Fitness Basics: Running for Your Life

Experts offer advice to get you started.

Sticking With It

To stay consistent with your running program, keep a running journal or log, the experts suggest. At the beginning of the week, plot out when you plan to run and for how long, and commit it to paper. "Write down something on a piece of paper and put it in your sock drawer," says Isphording.

Setting specific goals -- whether it's time, distance, weight loss or cholesterol -- will also inspire you to stay on track.

Another thing that helps: finding a friend to run with. Having a partner to meet you at the mailbox will keep you honest, says Isphording.

"Ninety percent of running is just showing up, getting in the game, getting off the sidelines," she says.

Inside or Out?

Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside? You can get a great cardiovascular workout either way, and there are benefits to both, the experts say

With a treadmill, you're never too far from home, says Isphording. It's a good choice if you're injured or rehabbing an injury -- or just feeling a little intimidated about running outdoors.

"There are no stoplights, no dogs, no cars, no pollution," she says. And, of course, bad weather isn't an issue. Treadmill running can be lower-impact too, as well. Dolgener equates it to running on grass.

But a treadmill doesn't quite simulate the outdoors.

"When you're outdoors, you're getting fresh air," Isphording says. "Running during the sunlight you get vitamin D, which women really need to absorb calcium. You have the scenery -- you can discover parts of your city or town, or if you're traveling, it's a great way to see a city. It's better with a group of people, and easier to do with a family."

When Not to Run

Running is not for everyone, say the experts. If you have an injury or disability, or if running is painful for you, try cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming. They all work.

"The advantage to running is it doesn't take any equipment except shoes, you can do it anywhere, and it's convenient," says Dolgener. "It's one of the best cardio-respiratory activities you can do. The bad news is, it is very traumatic, and the trauma is more prevalent the longer and harder you go."

But if you can run, why not go ahead and get out there?

"I can promise you this," says Isphording, "you will never regret a run. There's hardly anything in life you can say that about. You'll regret a chocolate sundae."

Reviewed on May 19, 2006
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