Every year thousands of Americans make their new years resolution about weight loss. What's more, many plan to go about this weight loss through running. It's easy to understand why, as running is really the only type of exercise that anyone can do anytime. You don't have to pay money like you would for a gym, you can go at any time during the day or night, and it burns a lot of calories. Plus, you don't have to pay anything for it, there are no membership fees to using the sidewalk.
While running may not be the single best thing you can do to lose weight, it can certainly be a catalyst for other aspects of living a healthy life. We're not going to discuss some of the obvious things here. It is assumed that you have talked to a doctor and are healthy enough for running actively, and that you've gone out and gotten a half decent pair of sneakers.
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Establish a Running Goal
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they get started running is that they don't make a goal. Or if they do, it is something very generic like "to lose weight". While that's a start, it really doesn't help you. What you need to do is establish a measurable goal. That way you can gauge how you are getting better every time you head out. Here are a couple of good examples:
"I want to be able to run a 7 minute mile."
"I want to complete a 5K."
The other thing you are going to want to do is make these goals have deadlines. It's great that you want to run a 7 minute mile, but don't make that a bucket list type of event that you want to complete "at some point." Instead, set yourself a plan. First, you want to be able to run a half mile without stopping. Then a whole mile without stopping. Then get it under 10 minutes, and so on and so forth. If your goal is to run a 5K, then sign up for one that's going on in 3 months. Even if you have never run for an event like this, that gives you enough time to prepare for it. Furthermore, you will have more incentive to finish and complete your goals now that you have a way to measure it. There's nothing more rewarding when you are trying to lose weight than seeing the results and embracing your accomplishments.
Mix Things Up
A lot of new runners will feel very enthusiastic at first, but find that that motivation wears off and the task of running feels more mundane. To avoid this, mix things up. Some days run really fast for 30 seconds and then walk for 30 seconds. Other days do the whole workout as a light jog. Some days go at 5:30 AM, other times go at 9:30 PM.
You want to run as much as you can in the first 3 weeks. Get out there as often as possible. This is because it takes approximately 3 weeks for something to become associated as a "habit" in your brain. Tons of workout enthusiasts will tell you that so much of exercise is about mental willpower and knowing that you can do things. And while motivational posters and Rocky movie reruns are great, you have to let exercise and running be considered part of your routine. You'd feel weird and awkward if you suddenly didn't brush your teeth one day. Your body would just know that something was wrong. By having the same mental association with running, you've won the biggest battle of all.
Get Some Running Apps
Running has evolved, and almost anyone that does this often or as a hobby is involving the built in GPS in their cell phone. Whether you want to track your running statistics or just try and make things more interesting, there is a cell phone application for you. Here are a few you should check out.
All links will be for the Android mobile operating system. However, every app here can be found on the Apple iPhone marketplace as well.
Couch-to-5K ($1.99) - One of the most popular running apps out there is Couch to 5K. It helps you do exactly what is in the name- get from your couch to running a 5K. It's really cool because it already has some goals set up for you, and congratulates you on achieving them (sound like familiar advice?) You get to pick your own virtual trainer to keep you motivated, listen to music with the in-app media player, and keep track of all your statistics. If you truly are a beginner this is probably the best app for you. The app promises that it will take about 6 weeks to fully prepare you for a 5K. Check out local listings and find an upcoming one, sign yourself up, and commit to your better health!
Nike+ Running (free) - This one is a personal favorite. It may not have as many features as some of the other running applications, but it is simple and easy to use. It has a lot of statistic training, and is particularly good if you have friends that are into running as well. You can all set up profiles and compete with one another, trying to one-up each others best times. Competition will drive you to work harder, and this free app shows it.
Zombies, Run! ($1.99) - Have you ever thought about what great shape you'd be in during the zombie apocalypse? This game allows you to create that experience. Activate the app every time you go out running and it will track your statistics and routes. You can complete challenges, collect items and resources, and finish more than 40 missions. Items can be used to build your own base to survive the zombie onslaughts. It mixes things up and at times you will have to run faster to outrun the oncoming zombie hoards. A very cool way to game-ify your exercise experience.