January 5th, 2009
12:39 PM ET

Learning to love running

By Elizabeth Landau
CNNhealth.com producer

I dreaded those weeks of gym class dedicated to laps around the track. My breath faltered after less than a minute of jogging, and my legs felt stiff. I placed last in every race the instructor made us run. Fortunately, my good friend Ariana sometimes walked with me while the others sped ahead. Having a companion to defy the track requirement made our slow pace seem more like a rebellion: “It’s not that we can’t run, we just don’t want to.”

I began jogging on a treadmill to combat my “freshman 15” – the extra pounds accumulated by many first-year college students when offered a seemingly unlimited supply of cafeteria treats. But I always felt hungry afterwards, and ended up instead with a freshman 20.

Running to lose weight became even more of a burden than running for gym class. I found myself running on Princeton’s rain-splattered sidewalks at midnight because the fitness center had closed and I wasn’t seeing results in the mirror fast enough.

Running became a fun, relaxing activity only recently, after I regained my pre-college weight during my senior year. When no gym instructor was yelling at me, I seemed to find a balance between eating, exercising, studying and socializing and I could finally feel good about pushing my legs to new speeds for longer and longer periods.

I asked exercise physiologist Lauren Williams Korzan, a certified Health Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine, what tips she would offer to someone who wants to start making running part of his or her life. Here’s her advice:

* Begin slowly. Start with a walk/run program. Try running for two minutes and walking for four minutes, for a total of thirty minutes. Over time, increase your running time and decrease your walking time. Eventually, you will be able to run for 30 minutes without walking.
* Schedule workouts into your week. It will be easier to turn running into a habit by making it a scheduled priority each week. Aim for three workouts per week.
* Follow a training program. Many running coaches, clubs, and Web sites offer programs for beginners.
* Set goals, both short and long-term. While your long-term goal may be to run a 5K race, your short-term goal may be to run at least three times a week to build endurance.
* Keep a log. A running log helps to track your workouts and will allow you to see how far you've progressed.
* Listen to your body. If you're feeling tired or sore, take a rest day or substitute a lower-intensity workout. Cross training with swimming, biking or an elliptical machine will prevent placing too much stress on the same muscles and help to reduce your risk of injury.
* Wear proper footwear. A good pair of running shoes can make running easier and keep you injury-free.
* If you're having trouble with motivation, listening to music or running varied and scenic routes may help. Be aware that running outdoors with headphones may not be safe.

Have you learned to love an activity that you previously didn't enjoy? What tricks helped you to begin enjoying it?

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