7 Tips to Get Off Your Okole and Start Running Today

Running isn’t just for elite athletes and sprinters. Almost anyone can catch the running bug with these tips.

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Starting every March, you may notice an uptick in the number of runners around Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head. That’s because the Honolulu Marathon Training clinic begins hosting group runs to prepare for the annual 26.2-mile race in early December. Seeing sprinters or marathoners can be intimidating for non-runners, but you don’t have to race 26.2 miles or sprint all-out to get the health benefits of running.

Running is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that is appropriate for many people, even if they haven’t run before. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should complete 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking), or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise (such as running or jogging) every week. Running is a free way to get outside and working towards those vigorous exercise goals.

Curious about getting into running or jogging? We spoke with Michael Garrison, PhD, from Hawaii Running Lab and Ron Alford, running coach and president of the Mid Pacific Road Runners Club for insights on getting started. As with any new form of exercise though, talk to your healthcare provider and make sure that you are healthy enough to engage in physical activities or begin a running routine.

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Make a Commitment to Try

Your couch is calling and your bed looks oh so cozy. Sometimes just leaving the house is the hardest part of exercise.

“You have to get out the door to go run. Just get out the door for 10 to 15 minutes. Commit to 10 to 15 minutes outside,” says Garrison. “Then after that, if it's a bad day, okay great, go home. But chances are once you're out there and you're already starting sweating, you're going to realize that the grip that bed or the couch had on you is garbage.”

So, pick a day and make a commitment to give it a go! Read on for details of what to do as you start out.

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Start Slow

You’ve probably seen runners around town moving at speeds that seem impossibly fast. It’s enough to intimidate anyone and make you think running has to be a speedy endeavor. That’s simply not the case though. “You can go very, very, very slow and still get the health benefits out of running and still be running,” explains Alford.

“If you think about it,” he continues, “the difference between walking and running is that in walking, you always have a foot in contact with the ground.” As long as you are at least momentarily losing contact with the ground, that’s running.

Starting slow isn’t just about speed though. Many beginners run to the point of exhaustion before stopping. This can increase the chances of injury while generally feeling unpleasant.

Instead, new runners should start with run/walk intervals to build endurance. Alford gives the following example: “Depending on their fitness level, they might start with say, two minutes of slow jogging and four minutes of walking, two minutes of slow jogging, four minutes of walking and so on and cycle until say, they've done 30- or 40-minutes worth of that and then that's their workout for the day.”

Over time, new runners will decrease the amount of time walking in each workout and increase the amount of running. “Depending on where you start, after 10 or 12 weeks, there isn't any walking,” says Alford.

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Have a Goal

One of the best ways to stick to a running plan is to work towards a goal. There are hundreds of races in Hawaii each year spread throughout the islands. You can look for a 5K, 10K, half marathon or other unique distance to work towards.

Alford stresses that having a specific goal, like a particular race event, works best. General goals such as, “I want to improve my fitness,” or “I’d like to eventually run a 5K” are too vague. “But if it's a specific goal,” says Alford, “like I'm going to run a 5K in three months is very specific. You put down your money, you've made a commitment, you're going to get out there and trying to do it. And so, you gradually do this periodic training and by the time the 5K arrives, you are ready.”

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Keep it Up

“A hard thing to get across to people is that they need to understand that consistency matters,” says Garrison. Running once every few weeks isn’t going to help build endurance. That’s why both Garrison and Alford recommend sticking to a running schedule.

Most running plans found online or from a coach are divided into weekly chunks that either give a distance or amount of time to exercise on different days. Each week in a schedule builds off the week before for increased performance over time. This is a great way to work towards your specific goal.

“If you're out there say three or four times during a week, then you are building on each and every workout, so that you are getting that level of conditioning up and up,” says Alford.

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Find Your Tribe

Running isn’t exactly a team sport. Most people lace up, step outside and go. But finding a running group or partner can increase your likelihood of sticking with it. “If you have a group or a partner, you're more likely to get out the door because they're waiting on you,” explains Alford.

Garrison also recommends finding a “partner in crime” for running. “Just having that accountability partner that makes it fun and also kind of helps push you out the door. Because once they're out and once you have a good rhythm going, man, you're going to be in a great spot.”

If you don’t have someone to run with, find a friend or loved one who you can talk about your progress with to keep you motivated.

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Run for a Cause

There are a number of organizations that use running as a way to fundraise towards worthy causes. Many nonprofits organize charity runs as a major source of income annually. Other groups provide coaching services and ask participants to fundraise a specific amount prior to a race. Some families also run as a memorial to passed loved ones.

Having a cause outside of yourself to get running is a surefire way to stick with it. “You're running for someone who has cancer, you're running for a sick relative, in memory of a relative that you loved or cared about and so on,” explains Alford. “So those people don't quit. That's an extremely powerful motivation.” If there is something that you are passionate about, chances are there’s a way to support it through running.

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Staying Safe on the Road

Pedestrian safety is key whenever you’re running or walking along the road. Here are a few pointers to stay safe while you run:

  • Avoid wearing headphones so that you can hear traffic and other pedestrians or cyclists.
  • Wear reflective clothing in low light so that vehicles can see you. Consider wearing a head lamp if it’s fully dark.
  • Tell someone when and where you will be running if you plan to run alone.
  • Carry a cell phone, cash and ID in case of emergency.
  • Always cross streets with the walk signal and look both ways before crossing.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and do not assume that cars or other pedestrians can see you.

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