Running is the best way to burn calories

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

running sun
Running is a great way to clear your mind and ward off built-up stress.

We’re only a few days into 2014 and there’s no doubt that New Year’s resolutions are fresh on everyone’s minds. One of the most popular changes people like to make is getting their bodies in better shape with more physical activity. And, it just so happens that one of the best ways to increase your health and athletic ability is running!

So, for those of you who made a solemn promise to get ultra-fit, here are a few things to keep in mind as you trot around the block.

If you’re just starting off, don’t expect to be able to breeze through the local city marathon. It takes time to build up stamina – our ability to exercise for longer periods of time – so think of yourself as a tortoise and not a hare.

“The biggest mistake most new runners make is they start out way too fast,” says Susan Paul, an exercise physiologist at Orlando Track Shack Fitness Club in Florida. She adds, “It takes time for your body to get used to the demands of running. You have to condition your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones, not just your heart and lungs.”

What’s the best way to condition ourselves? Well, in your first week of training, switch it up between three minutes of running and one minute of walking for a total of 12 minutes. As your body gets used to the physical activity, increase the amount of running by another one or two minutes, and decrease walk time. Eight weeks in, it should be relatively easy to go for a quick jog without a walking break, and after ten weeks, you should be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop.

If that familiar side pain creeps up on you, there are some simple techniques to fight the pain. For example, if the right side of your body begins to cramp up, exhale (breathe out) every time your left foot touches the ground. Or, if the left side knots up, exhale heavily every time the right foot touches down. Massaging the area with two fingers can also reduce some of the pain and ease your training process.

Now, conditioning the body is only half the story: using the right footwear could mean the difference between proper posture and a sprained ankle. “A good pair of running shoes can help ward off injuries like knee pain,” says Paul. Ask a shoe salesperson which shoes will work best for your specific gait (the way you walk).

Lastly, pick a friend to run with you. It’s great motivation for those days when you simply don’t feel like tying up your laces and heading outside. You’ll thank yourself later when you can gallop like a mighty horse halfway through the new year!

Featured image courtesy of Thomas Hawk on Flickr. Image of running man courtesy of Will Ockenden on Flickr.