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posted: 3/30/2014 5:30 AM

Consider running and all its benefits

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  • Getting outside to run is great exercise.

    Getting outside to run is great exercise.
    FIle Photo

By Lenny Bernstein
The Washington Post

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 nonnegotiables 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.

So don't be distracted by people who try to convince you that you're doing it wrong. Ignore anyone who tries to convince you that you must run a certain pace or number of miles to be a real runner.

• 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.

Keep in mind that most people overestimate the number of calories they burn and lowball the number they consume. For any run of an hour or less, it's fine to run on empty.

Anything longer, or if it's been a long time since you've run, have a 100-to-200-calorie snack an hour before heading out. Make sure it's high in carbs (your body's favorite fuel) and low in fat and fiber (which can cause GI upset).

• Follow the 10-minute rule. The first 10 minutes of any run are going to feel tough. You'll probably feel stiff, achy, tired and ticked off. That's OK, and a natural part of transitioning from being sedentary to being in motion.

If you keep pushing your body forward -- even if you're walking -- your weariness will soon evolve into exhilaration. We promise.

After 10 minutes, you can call it quits with the satisfaction of knowing that your mission is accomplished. But more often than not, your muscles will feel warmed up, your heart rate will be elevated and you'll start to feel energized, even excited to exercise.

• Learn the difference between good and bad pain.

Running isn't going to feel comfortable or easy. Not in the first few weeks or even months. There will be muscle aches that go with pushing your legs and lungs farther and faster than they've gone before.

But 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.

Same goes for any pain that's sharp, makes you change your gait to compensate (which can cause more injury) or is located on one side of the body but not the other.

• 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. You will always have emails to answer, dishes to wash, laundry to do, phone calls to return.

But if you don't take care of your body, it won't take care of you. Research has proved that regular exercise will help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and cancer, among other conditions.

It can help improve the quality of your life, help stave off depression, help you stay sharp as you age and even help prevent age-related declines such as falling.

• Learn how to talk back to negative voices. At some point during a run of any distance you'll start hearing these voices:

I'm too slow.

I'm too tired.

I hate running.

I can't do this.

I don't want to do this.

I should be working instead.

I should be home instead.

You can't prevent these voices from haunting your run. But you can develop a strategy for vanquishing them. Make a list of reasons why you run. Fitting into your skinny jeans is perfectly acceptable.

Add up your miles each week, so when you hit the wall at mile 2 of a planned 3-miler, you'll know that final mile is nothing compared to all the miles you've already logged.

When someone passes you, don't take it personally; it's not a referendum on how fit you are. It's proof of what's possible.

Bart Yasso likes to say that what's important is not "how far you go, but how far you've come."

Stop thinking about it as a run and think about it as outside time, which studies have proved is medicine itself. Have a bank of mantras close to mind that feel meaningful. One of my favorites is "let the road rise to meet you."

• Go with the flow.

The state of your work, family and social life will have a huge impact on how much time, emotion, energy and interest you can bring to running, and what you need from it. If you tie yourself to goals that no longer fit, burnout and bitterness are all but assured. Keep setting new goals that work well with your lifestyle and your state of mind.

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