YOU Magazine - January 2007 - Run for Your Life! Discover the Health and Fitness Benefits of Running By Dan Goldstein Subscribe to YOU Magazine and other timely market alerts from Linda Winters.

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Linda Winters     Linda Winters
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Run for Your Life!
Discover the Health and Fitness Benefits of Running
By Dan Goldstein

Run for Your Life! - Discover the Health and Fitness Benefits of Running - By Dan Goldstein

During the holidays, it's easy to overindulge. A cookie here, some candy there, and who has time to work out with all of the demands of the season? Suddenly it's January, and our clothes aren't fitting the way they used to. What should we do? Well, why not run away from the problem? Literally!

Running is one of the most practical and effective ways to exercise. Nearly anyone can benefit from it. Running burns calories like crazy and costs very little money. In addition, you can run almost anywhere and at any time. Let me tell you how I got into running 13 years ago and why you may want to the same!

Slow but Steady
In May 1993, I was a reasonably fit 28-year old. I had worked out with weights since my teens but eventually became engulfed in my career. As a result, I was working a lot, and eating and drinking at very odd hours. It never occurred to me that I might not be in very good shape. One day, my company held a chili cook-off. After consuming a beer or two more than I should have, I got into a conversation with a co-worker who was training for a marathon. The next thing I knew, I had committed to run the 1994 Los Angeles Marathon.

I had never run competitively, but, being a goal-oriented person, I laced up my sneakers the very next day and decided to start training. At a not-so-lean 170 pounds, I made it only a few blocks before my joints gave out. Needless to say, I had to walk back home. The next day, I went out again and made it one block further. As the days went by, I continued to lace up those shoes and was gradually able to run for longer distances and longer periods of time.

Within a month, I noticed that while I was hungrier and eating much more than I used to, my pants were literally falling off. Running just an hour or two per week was melting pounds off my body, and it felt really good. Within three months, I was down to 145 pounds.

Stop Dieting - Just Lace up Those Shoes!!
You don't need to train for a marathon to get into running. However, it's good to have a goal in mind. Perhaps your goal is to NEVER read another diet book again! If you like the thought of eating without guilt, then running may be right for you. A 150-pound person can burn over 600 calories for each hour of running. All you need is a decent pair of running shoes, and you're off.

I didn't start off with a top notch pair of shoes when I began running. In hindsight though, it would have been helpful. Take the time to find a store near you that specializes in running shoes, and ask a professional to help you determine which shoe is best for your particular foot type. Road Runner Sports and Fleet Feet are two popular running specialty retailers. You may pay a little more at a specialty store, but it is worth it to get the right shoe and the right fit.

Where Do I Run?
The beauty of running is that you can do it almost anywhere. Don't have much time? Just slip those shoes on and run around the block a few times. Need to get back to nature? Find a nice trail. Want to watch a show while getting your workout in? Head to the gym and run on the treadmill! Babysitting? No problem, find a used running stroller on Craig's List, and your baby will love the ride! (My 1-year old, Bradley, finds the rolling sensation quiet lulling.)

As far as terrain, the softer the pavement, the less wear and tear it will be on your body. Dirt trails are the best, and asphalt is softer than cement sidewalks. If you run on surface streets, be sure to run facing traffic, and try to find streets where traffic is lighter. If you have to run at night, be sure to wear a reflective vest. If you're planning on traveling, then by all means pack your running gear for the trip!

Just…Do It!
When it comes to running, Nike's catchphrase says it all. You've just got to get out there and start running! Don't wait. Don't make excuses. Make it a habit. Tired? Try starting your run really slowly, or even walk, and see how it goes. You might feel an energy surge. Too busy? Aren't we all? Set your goals low if necessary, but get out there! Your body will love you for it.

Make a commitment! Find a local 5K race three months away (two sources for locating one are Runner's World and Running Times Magazines). Placing a local fun run on the calendar will provide you with another reason to train regularly. Find a local running group. Run at lunchtime. Make some running friends. Whatever it takes to make running a part of your life, just do it!

Listen to Your Body and Your Doctor
While my main advice is to go out there and JUST RUN, sometimes it's best that you don't. Running at a moderate pace when you have a head cold may not be a problem. However, if you have a more significant illness or a painful injury, you should think twice before lacing up. Also, it's a good idea to have a physical exam prior to engaging in a running program, especially if you or your family has a history of heart problems.

Walk if You Don't Run
Some body types are less suited for running than others. Many of my friends simply do not have the passion for running that I have, but they are out there walking at a decent clip. Walking, particularly when done on a consistent basis, is a viable alternative to running. It may not burn off the calories as quickly as running, but walking is a lot easier on your joints. So for those of you who either cannot or will not run, I'll be out there looking for you on a long, brisk walk!

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
While running may melt away the calories, you still need to eat a well-balanced diet. But this doesn't mean "dieting"! Nor does it mean you have to count calories or track your protein and carbohydrate intake. What it means is that you should eat a variety of healthy foods and use a little common sense. The good thing about running is, if you don't really need to lose weight in the first place, the extra calories burned will allow you to eat more of the foods you enjoy. In my case, anything chocolate will do!

Running gets your heart going and makes you sweat, so be sure to drink enough water and other fluids throughout the day. Should runners drink beer and other alcoholic drinks? Moderation is key, which means have a drink if you enjoy it!

Run for Fun
So after I lost the pounds, I began to really enjoy training for 5K and 10K races, and eventually my first half marathon and full marathon. While the races provide great motivation for me, what I really enjoy is the camaraderie of training with others. By training at a "conversational" pace, you are building up your fitness and your friendships at the same time.

So go on, get out there, don't procrastinate! Time to start running…for life!

Dan Goldstein, CFO of LoanToolbox, is a former 2:35 marathon runner based in Westlake Village, California. He can be reached at

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