It's true. You don't need a degree in rocket science to begin running and to experience its benefits to your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
However, if you're really serious, slow down a moment to listen to some expert advice before you embark on a running program that you can enjoy now and for a lifetime.
With the main goal to "train, not strain," you can avoid cramping and other running injuries, and pace yourself over the long run so you don't suffer burn out before you even begin.
Since everyone is different, note that this is a quick guide to how to begin running with tips and advice that apply to most people who are in general good health. (If you suffer from back pain or any other chronic physical injury talk to a doctor or physical therapist before you begin any exercise program.)
1. Buy a pair of good running shoes.
They don't have to be top shelf brands. Just make sure they provide a good fit with with no pinching or pressure around the sides of your feet. If you can walk in running shoes comfortably, chances are they will go the distance on a running course.
2. Dress for success.
Ever notice why runners are often seen in running outfits made of synthetic materials? Synthetics or 'tech fabrics' are simply more breathable. While cotton is very lightweight and comfortable, it also tends to absorb and hold sweat that can eventually cause discomfort and added weight as you run.
Women may also want to consider a good-fitting sports bra for extra support as they run.
For running in cold weather, always dress in layers beginning with a synthetic shirt. Depending on how cold and windy it is, add gloves if necessary and as mom always use to say, don't forget your hat. On snowy days, polarized sunglasses will help keep down the glare.
3. Get ready to run.
Properly outfitted, you'll want to 'jump the gun' on day one by starting at full throttle. Fight the feeling - especially if you are not used to exercising. Instead, walk for a few minutes to limber up. Then begin your first run with a relaxed stride. This should only last for a few minutes on the first day.
If you feel any cramping or leg pain, stop immediately. In the first week, most experts advise that you wait two or three days to give your newly-abused muscles a chance to recover before beginning again. Remember that you're in this for the long haul. Pace yourself.
4. It's all in the technique.
Keep arms at waist level. Conserve energy, and avoid a common beginner mistake by NOT clenching your fists and pumping your arms across your chest as you run as if you were a steam locomotive. Relax.
Also, reduce stress on knees and ankles by using a light toe-heel strike (instead of heel-toe) to avoid bouncing and to help maintain a steady stride.
Because your nose helps warm and filter air as it travels to your lungs, develop the habit of breathing through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, say the experts.
Besides helping you to run more efficiently, breathing through the nose also helps to avoid accidently swallowing bugs (!) while on a run through the park or countryside.
To avoid cramping and keep muscles limber, stretch lightly after a run. This might entail anything from simply bouncing up and down, to bending to touch your toes, or to gently stretching out each muscle group.
To find the stretching exercise that's best for you, search the Web for "running stretches" to find pages and pages of different stretching exercises specifically geared to runners.
As always, be gentle with yourself and remember that any exercise that hurts is really not helping.
7. Psyche yourself up.
Use sports psychology to help your mental game. For example, imagine yourself running from point A to point B easily and without effort. As you increase your strength, set yourself new goals by using a watch or pedometer to track your progress in time or distance.
Find a running buddy who will encourage your efforts. Besides good company, there's nothing like a running compatriot to help you fulfill a promise you made to go running (especially on those cold winter mornings).
In addition to the physical benefits, another result of running is the production of pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins that flood from the brain when the body is under stress. Also known as "runners high", it ultimately results in a natural mood elevator that's actually good for you.