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Beginning Runners Should Start Off Slow And Easy

Thick shadows stretch across the parking lot. Your car is parked waaaay over there. “I’ll be OK, I’ll be OK,” you tell yourself.

First you act casual. Then you hear it: The whispery sound of movement. Walking faster and faster, you notice the sound grows louder and louder. Soon you’re running.

“Who’s there?” you wonder, heart pounding.

Leaning against your car, breathless from the light sprint, you glance in the rearview mirror and realize the unspeakable truth: There is no attacker. You were running from the sound of your denim-covered thighs rubbing furiously together.

Making matters worse, you also realize that you are completely out of breath from a 200-yard dash.

Maybe now, as mild weather arrives, would be a good time to start that running program you’ve been thinking about.

According to Runner’s World magazine surveys, 30.4 million people nationwide belong to some form of run/jog/walk program.

The March issue of the magazine featured Oprah Winfrey and her journey from nonrunner to marathoner.

“The reason we selected Oprah is because at Runner’s World, we always have the ‘I did/you can’ approach. I think in Oprah’s case in particular, she went out to lose weight, and she did it by running,” says Michael Marchand, public relations specialist for the magazine.

But it’s important, according to experts, that beginners don’t just leap from the sofa, turn off Oprah, then head for the track.

Tom Drum, personal trainer and flexibility coach for the Fort Lauderdale National Swim Team says, “If you just get up and start running, you’re going to hurt yourself. My advice for people is to at least walk a mile first before they ever try to run. Then increase the (walking) pace first.”

Drum also advises new runners to give themselves plenty of time to condition, stretch regularly and pay close attention to the shoes they select.

Oprah had the right shoes and the right moves. From March to November 1993, Oprah went from 222 pounds to 150 pounds. According to the Runner’s World cover story, she began slowly - walking and running - gradually adding more distance, later improving her speed. In October of 1994, Oprah completed her first marathon - the Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, D.C.

“She basically went out and started a program and finished it,” Marchand says. “She proved that not only can she lose weight but take (running) to a higher plane of participation.”

Running burns more total calories per unit of time than any other form of exercise, says Arlette Perry, associate professor of exercise physiology and director of the human performance lab at the University of Miami.

“Running at a slow pace, low intensity,” Perry says, “burns a great proportion of calories used as fat. It also burns carbohydrates. It actually uses both, which is excellent.”

Beginning runners, or anyone new to a fitness program, make a common error, believing that their new active lifestyles will allow them to eat whatever they want.

“In order to prevent weight gain or induce weight loss,” Perry says, “the most important factor is what you’re eating. Running or any exercise program supplements that, but is not an individual’s sole or main avenue to weight loss.”

Perry says that the average 170-pound male runner burns 100 calories per mile. She says calorie expenditure is distance dependent - the more miles you run, the more calories you burn.

Since McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with cheese has 510 calories, that runner must finish five miles to melt away the burger. If he runs a 10-12 minute pace, it means he must run for almost an hour to work off ONE burger.


This sidebar ran with story: DON KARDONG’S TIPS Here are some hints to keep your training on target: 1) schedule your running before the week begins, 2) find a partner or group to train with, and 3) keep track of your running in a logbook, so you can see the progress you’re making. If you prefer, keep track of minutes rather than miles in your logbook. Time and mileage correlate very well for each individual from one session to the next, but many runners find it easier to count time than miles. If you begin to feel dizzy during a training run or race, slow down and look for shade. It’s difficult to recognize encroaching heatstroke, so be especially cautious when you’re running harder than normal, such as toward the end of a race. This is when most heat problems show up.