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Whether you’re running for the first time, or for the first time in a long time, you want to kick things off slowly. Before you lace up your shoes and hit the pavement, try this smart advice to get into the race safely.

How to Begin

Start with your diet. To fuel a run, keep well-hydrated by drinking at least 8 ounces of nonalcoholic liquid eight times a day and eating a small, sugar-boosting snack 30 minutes before you head out, says former Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, a columnist for Runner's World and author of Women's Complete Guide to Running, which he co-wrote with his wife, Barbara. He suggests half of an energy bar or a sports drink.

Find a buddy. Running can be a great way to stay in shape and keep connected with friends. "Women tend to respond better to running in groups," Galloway says. "It helps keep them motivated."

Pace yourself. Galloway cautions newbies not to get overly enthusiastic early on. “Men tend to get injuries from overdoing it," he says. "Men who have not done any real exercise in 20 years and suddenly decide to run like they did in high school -- that's a formula for disaster."

The Walk-Run Ratio

Galloway, who works with runners of all ages and levels, teaches a technique that lets the body ease into its new type of motion. Beginning runners, he says, should run for 5 to 10 seconds out of every minute, walking the rest of each minute. Gradually, the walk/run ratio will shift as your muscles strengthen and your joints adjust.

Even in the beginning, when the bulk of your run time is spent walking, you’re still getting a good workout. "Walking is the best cross-training," Galloway says. "And a lot of people progress to marathons in just 6 months."

Running Rules

Here are a few of Galloway's tips to keep you on the run and off the injured list.

Go for gain, not pain. "Follow the huff-and-puff rule: If you’re huffing and puffing at the end of a run, you’ve overdone it," says Galloway, who advises a slow and easy approach to running. "The bottom line: You need to monitor your aches and pains."

Avoid runner's lows. Done incorrectly, running can cause a lot of discomfort and even injury, Galloway says. "People get discouraged and feel they’re not designed for running. Really, they just need to correct their walk/run ratio [until it feels right]."

Run through it. Galloway and his wife have written two running books for women. "We went through a list of concerns with physicians and ob-gyns, such as menopause, PMS, and pregnancy," Galloway says. "Women can run through all of these things, though they will likely have to make individual adjustments to their routine."

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