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Why Run?

by Michael Mahoney

Copyright 1998 Michael Mahoney. All rights reserved.

Ever wonder what goes on in the minds of joggers? If you're a non-runner like me, there's nothing stranger than seeing some sweatsuit-wearing, red-faced individual panting past you on the sidewalk in the dead of winter. It doesn't matter how many times we see joggers sprinting past us each day - we just don't get it. We can only shake our heads in disbelief, wondering why they haven't been put to sleep to save themselves all that misery.

But maybe, just maybe, all those joggers are thinking the same things about us.

After all, running is one of the most convenient ways to lose weight and stay in shape. All it takes is a pair of comfortable shoes and a little dose of daily discipline. It's simple and inexpensive and can be done almost anywhere, any time of day or night. Maybe it's the non-joggers who don't get it.

Yes, you can lose weight if you run regularly. Running burns roughly 100 calories per mile, depending on the individual. Beginners can lose up to one pound a week. But interestingly enough, you won't lose more weight if you run faster. It's not speed that counts, it's a combination of running long distances slowly, which burns more fat.

But where to start? Some of us non-runners can barely make it to the bathroom without losing our breath, and those runners we see everywhere are in such great shape. Well how do you think they got that way? No matter what you do, you have to start somewhere, and there are plenty of Web resources to help you out along the way.

You might want to begin by asking joggers how they started. Twenty-four hours a day, you can talk to people who are fitter than you are, through Internet chat programs atRunChat! or On the Run.

Once you've talked to actual runners and realized they are people too, you'll need to get yourself some comfortable running shoes. Buy basic, well-cushioned shoes that fit you well. You can shop for shoes at World Wide Running or RoadRunner, where Shoe Dog will pick out the best shoe for you after you give him your personalized fitness information.

You might also want something to help you keep track of your progress, or lack thereof, before you voluntarily begin wearing spandex pants in broad daylight. For professional software that keeps track of your distances, times and paces, visit RunLog and download a fully functional 45-day demo of the software. For a free Web-based run log that will track your miles and graph your progress, head to

All runners, beginning or not, should eat a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet with moderate (not excessive) protein. It's also crucial to drink lots of water throughout the days you are running. (Make sure you're near a restroom at all times.) For basic running nutrition, go to Kick. At Nutribase, you can analyze anything you shove into your mouth. Nutribase contains an interactive nutritional database of 20,000 food items and will figure out your proper calorie intake for you. If you visit theNational Runners' Health Study, you'll receive a free analysis of your diet, weight and physical activity that can be automatically sent to your physician. This site is an ongoing study to identify foods, supplements and exercises that will increase the life expectancy of runners.

The most common injuries for beginning runners are calf muscle soreness and shin splints. For information on how to prevent straining body parts like your gluteus maximus, check into Dr. Pribut's Running Injury Page. Dr. Pribut gives you the causes of running injuries, their symptoms, and how to prevent them.

The key thing to remember when you begin to run is to go slowly. Don't push yourself too hard. Find a time to run every other day and stick to it. Start by walking 15-20 minutes a day for a week. Then begin to mix in some leisurely jogging in between the walking. Land on your heels and midfoot, instead of your toes, and don't bounce. Run slowly. You should be able to have a conversation when running without too much effort. If you're not training with a partner, it's okay to test this by talking to yourself out loud - remember, you're a jogger now, so people will already think you're strange. If you're gasping for breath, you're going too fast (or you've fallen into a lake).

Once you are comfortable walking and jogging, begin to walk then jog, walk then jog. Gradually increase the length of time you are jogging and decrease the amount you are walking. Remember to walk at the beginning and end of your workouts. Then begin to increase the length of your weekly mileage in small amounts. Increase distance, not speed!

Before you know it, you'll be a regular Bruce Jennings. There are several Web sites that will keep you up to date with training, nutrition and running news as you begin your training. Runners Niche, a free email magazine, has training advice, news, humor and running book reviews. The most famous and comprehensive spot on the Net for running information is the online version of Runners World. Here you'll find everything from nutrition articles to a city-by-city runner's guide and a special section on women's issues in running. For more basic info, there's also Running Online,Do It Running and The Running Network, which contains 24 regional and specialized running magazines.

Now that you've gone over to the other side, you might want to officially become "one of them." If so, there are plenty of clubs and organizations that can give you the support and social events you need. The Road Runners Club of America is a national, not-for-profit organization with over 500 chapter clubs in the U.S., containing over 160,000 members. Member benefits include a personal fitness program. You might also wish to become a member of the Dead Runners Society. If so, send an email, with "SUB DRS your name" in the message.

If you're interested in becoming more in touch with your mind and body, increasing your energy and learning more about self-reliance and determination, running may be just what you're looking for. When you run, you become utterly dependent on no one but yourself. The ultimate independence, running can teach you lessons about yourself that carry over into the rest of your life. And isn't that what we're really looking for in a recreational activity?


Mike Mahoney is a freelance writer and copywriter living in Madison, WI. The former editor of statewide music and sports magazines, his passions include travel, mythology/storytelling, novel writing, and going bar hopping with his golden retriever, Cyrus.


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