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?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Chet Zelasko PhD

    The comments on how to start running are right on. As a 21 year runner, I'm coming off a torn MCL. I had to start by running 1 minute, walking 1 minute and building my endurance all over again. I think that the results from the National Runners Study are encouraging. Runner have less joint problems than those who don't eun. Just remember to heed the advice above: start slow. It would be nice if we had to get tickets to get a spot on a running trail or track. More can but few will. Will you?

    January 6, 2009 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mary Edith

    Good sound advice...and it actually works. I started with about the same in June of 2008 and now I can easily make close to 3 miles in around 35 minutes. Setting no records but have a sense of accomplishment!!!

    January 6, 2009 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sue

    This is very helpful, as I just started my running program and right now I feel the same way as you did. Thanks!

    January 7, 2009 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Katheine J, MPH

    I had a similar experience with fulfilling my PT activities after an accident in 2004 and subsequent surgery in 2008. The exercises were not only boring, but repetitive. To force myself, I put pop-up reminders in my outlook mailbox so I got reminders to do my exercises.

    Other things that I've found help – putting a dry erase board at the head of your bed, and if you, for instance want to exercise 3 times in one week, you put 3 check marks on the board, then erase them each day you exercise. Check lists have always been helpful for me – there's satisfaction in completing something.

    January 7, 2009 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jaime Grant

    I really feel a connection to the author of this blog. I am a petite 29 year-old woman who for most of my life, never thought about weight. A difficult period 2 years ago left me emotionally spent, and I needed an outlet. Other forms of exercise didn't compare to the clarity that running has afforded me. I started moderately – 1 mile a couple of times a week. Now, I run 4-5 miles 5 times a week, and it has become nourishment for my soul. Not only do I feel great, but I met my soulmate, and recently got married. Running has changed my life!! And by the way...it's great if you run with your partner...it works wonders for one's libido 😉

    January 7, 2009 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. bentley

    running helps me lose weight but it also clears my mind and helps me relax. I am loving it.

    January 8, 2009 at 02:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. George Van Antwerp

    A few years ago, I started running 1 mile. Within a year, I ran my first marathon. I lost 40 pounds and felt great.

    I am now experimenting with more sprint or burst training. It is much more efficient, and I am mixing it in with my longer running. The concept I am focused on is that I would rather look like a sprinter from the olympics than the marathoners.

    January 8, 2009 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rita

    I would love to begin running, but I have disc problems with my back and I suffer greatly for days after. I would love for someone to come up with a way that those of us who have this type of health problem could run. My treadmill walking gets boring. Kudos to everyone who has started a running program for themselves.

    January 9, 2009 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.