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Off and running

I'll confess - I hate running. Loathe it, actually. But there's no denying the health benefits of running, the way it will absolutely change your body from a fitness perspective, as well as the opportunity to get some fresh air. And if you're competitive, there's always that aspect of challenging yourself and beating others by running a race. Now before you say, "I can't run around the block, let alone run a race," hear me out. I used to be the same. I was overweight and the idea of running for any reason other than being chased just didn't appeal to me. But you can do it, and I'm going to tell you how.

Get a buddy - I asked a friend from my neighborhood to meet me and we started by walking for 45-60 minutes almost every morning. We left the house at 6am(!) before the kids got up and were back in time to get them off to school and ourselves to work. When you know someone is meeting you, you can't hit snooze. You're committed. Gradually we added in bursts of runs, alternating running and walking until our entire time was spent running. And having someone to talk to makes the time go much faster!

Enter a race - Go online and search local 5K's in your town. This is about 3.3 miles, so pretty much the shortest race you can run, and many also offer options to walk. But if you pick a date about 3 months out, that's plenty of time to prepare. And here's how...

Couch to 5K - This great site lays out exactly how to go from doing nothing to running a 5K. It works and is doable. I promise. You only need to commit to 3 days a week for 20-30 minutes and they even let you pick your training regimen based on time or distance. It's a perfect way to ease yourself into running.

Make a playlist - If you don't have a buddy to meet you, music is your friend. Make a playlist on your MP3 player of songs that motivate you and are upbeat but be sure to include warm up and cool down tunes that are slightly more mellow. You can also check out many sites which create playlists for you based on how long you'll be running.

Get the gear - Clearly if you aren't a runner, you might not have the basics you need. Sneakers are the most important item and if you plan to pursue running, you may want to go to a running store and have them tell you which shoes are best for your feet based on how you land when you run. While these shoes will likely be more pricey than if you go to a standard sporting goods store, they'll help you prevent injury and feel comfortable. And sometimes if we spend a little more, we're more likely to stick with it. You'll also want to be sure to get fitted pants and tops so you don't worry about your pants or shorts falling down, or getting in the way of your movement. Lycra is your friend here. And ladies, a good sports bra is a must.

If you plan to run when it's dark, get some sort of reflective vest or jacket so cars can see you. Lastly, you can get a small velcro pouch for your shoes to put your ID and keys in, and an arm band to hold your MP3 player.

Every runner started with their first steps. That person could be you. So get motivated, do something good for yourself and get moving!

Have you gone from riding the couch to running races? How did you become a runner?

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