Running 101

Two girls running It’s no secret I love running.  I came up with the name for my website on one of my runs in Central Park, in New York City.  Running burns more calories than many other activities, it’s great for your heart, good for your bones and all you need is a good pair of running shoes.

Besides the physical benefits, running also provides valuable mental benefits.  For morning runners, it gives you time to plan the day ahead.  Evening runners, have time for reflection and processing of the day accomplished.  Running helps relieve stress, lifts your mood and gives you confidence to help tackle your goals and ambitions.

I hope you’ll enjoy your runs as much as I do.  Here are some tips to help get you started:

1.  Get a good pair of running shoes.
I recommend you go to a sports or specialty running store and be fitted for the right shoe.  They can determine if you need a stability (normal), motion control (flat feet), or a neutral- cushioned shoe (high-arched).  Running shoes should be about ½ size bigger than your normal size shoe, to allow your toes some room.  If you normally wear an 8 get an 8 1/2, otherwise you’ll end up with black toenails, no toenails and/or  blisters, I can vouch for that.

You can visit the American Podiatric Medical Association website for more information and a list of approved running shoes.

2.  Warm up and cool down.
Your warm-up and cool down can be 5-8 minutes of walking or slow jogging.  Leave the stretches for after your workout when your muscles are warm enough to be stretched.

3.  Start slow
As motivated as you may be right now, it pays to start your running program slowly and safely;  this will prevent injuries and burn out.  Run 3 days a week, every other day to give your legs a rest.  This helps prevent injuries and allows your leg muscles to rebuild themselves.

4. No music.  When you first start running, I recommend not listening to music.  The music may help motivate you but it prevents you from really paying attention to your breath and foot strike.  Your breathing should be regular and your foot should hit the ground quietly.

5. Form.

  • Look ahead and forward instead of to the ground.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down instead of hunched by your ears.  Check yourself throughout your run, shake out your arms to help relax your upper body.
  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees, keep your hands unclenched with your fingers lightly touching your palms.
  • Swing your arms forward and back instead of across your body.
  • Run tall by keeping your upper body naturally straight.  When you feel yourself slouch, take a deep breath, this will help straighten your upper body.
  • Take fast light steps and try to glide over the ground instead of bouncing.

6. Keep a training log.  Studies show that people exercise more when they log their progress.  Got to my post Free Apps to Track your Weight and Fitness Goals for options.

Some final words, you may not like running in the beginning.   And that’s understandable, your breathing may be difficult, your body may be sore, and it may just be difficult to get into a rhythm.  But don’t despair.  Give it some time, your body needs to get used to the activity.  The more you run, the easier it will get and the more you will enjoy it!




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Walking 101

Woman walkingWalking is one of the easiest ways to get in shape, burn calories and improve your health.  Because walking can be done whenever and wherever,  it is also one of the most practical types of exercises to maintain for the long-term.

The National Weight Control Registry, a registry which tracks the habits of over 5000 people who have successfully lost and maintained their weight loss for more than a year, has found that most people exercise about one hour a day and most of them walk as a form of exercise.  So, if weight loss and or weight maintenance is your goal, gradually increasing your walking time to 60 minutes a day is a good long-term goal for you.

Besides helping with weight loss and weight maintenance, walking has numerous other benefits.  Walking is good for your heart, strengthens your bones, helps prevent chronic diseases, improves sleep, reduces depression and helps your brain function better.


Getting started:

1.  Find out what your “baseline” is.   Baseline is the length of time you have been walking or can walk without discomfort.    Let’s say you walk 5 minutes a day.  Five minutes is about 500 steps or 1/4 mile, that’s your baseline.

2.  Determine a SMART goal: It should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time bound.

Specific:  “I will walk 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday before work.”

Measurable: “I will walk for 10 minutes.”

Attainable or doable: “I have walked for 10 minutes before, I know I can do it again.”

Relevant:  “I want to be able to walk with my children and/or husband at the park without feeling tired and winded. “

Time bound:  “I want to be able to walk three miles for the charity walk which is at the end of the month.”

An example of a good goal would be:  “I will walk 10 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before work.” A bad goal would be “I will try to walk more.”

3.  Each week increase your workout by about 10%-20%,  if you have a pedometer add 500-1000 steps a day, keep adding either time, distance or steps until you have reached your goal.


Proper Form and Workout Guidelines

  • Warm-up. Always use the first few minutes as a warm up by walking at an easier/slower pace.  Once your body is warmed up, increase your speed to a brisk, purposeful pace.
  • Form.
    • Keep your head up, shoulders relaxed, abs tight and eyes focused about 10 feet ahead.
    • Bend your arms about 90 degrees and swing arms front to back. Elbows shouldn’t swing higher than your sternum. Swinging your arms this way helps you walk more briskly as well as prevents your hands from swelling up by accumulating too much fluid.
    • Foot position. Land on your heel, then roll through the step and push off with your toes.
    • Take natural and comfortable strides; avoid overstriding as this may cause injury. If you want to walk faster take shorter and quicker steps.
  • Intensity. Use the “Talk Test” to moderate your intensity.  You should still be able to carry a conversation when you walk.   If you are breathless and can’t talk you are walking too fast.  On a scale from 0-10 with 0 being at rest and 10 being maximal effort, you should be between a 5 and 6.  You can talk but not sing.
  • Stretching. Use the last few minutes to stretch and hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds.








1. The Walking Site. Beginning a Fitness Walking Program. Accessed on May 15, 2011.

2. Daily Step Goal of 10,000 Steps: A literature review. Clinical Invest Med. 2007, 30(3): 146-151

3. Public Health Agency of Canada/Health Canada. Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living. Cat. No. H39-429/1998-1E. Ottawa: Health Canada, 1998. (Last Updated 2003-10-08.) Accessed on May 15, 2011

4. City of Ottawa. Step Up and Be Counted: Let’s Get Walking with a Pedometer. Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 2004.



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