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10 Tips to Keep on Running!

by Jenny Pinkal Atchley

Running is peace and quiet and freedom. --Terry Anderson

Does it seem like you never have time to work out, or do you have a hard time staying motivated? Exercise is important because it helps you look good, lower your stress level, and increase your energy.

Running has always been my exercise of choice, but sometimes it's hard to maintain a regular workout schedule. I have discovered several things that have helped me to stick with my workout schedule. The following ten tips are based on my own running experience, but I hope they can help you stay motivated and trim as well!

1. Take extra time to stretch, especially when you're first starting out.
The first few weeks that I started running again I had mild shin splints and the joints in my knees were sore. However, I found that by taking a few extra minutes to stretch before and after my run, my muscles stayed looser and didn't hurt as much. A sore body makes it even harder to keep working out.

2. Drink a lot of water during the day, and take vitamins.
I've found that the more hydrated my body is, the better I feel when I'm running. I've also been taking calcium and iron supplements in the morning, and I've noticed that my body has more energy throughout the day before I run. Numerous articles have been written about nutrition, and I know that it's especially important for women to replenish the iron and calcium in their bodies if they exercise a lot.

3. Coordinate your workout music to match each stage of your run.
Music tempo and beat has a definite impact on how energetic I feel while I'm running. I try to coordinate my running tape so that I have slower music during the first several minutes, faster music during the middle section of my run (when I'm starting to get tired), and then calmer music again during the last few minutes.

By having slower paced songs at the beginning of my workout, I don't run too fast and use up my energy when I first start, and I can get more into the run several minutes later when the music starts getting faster. By the time I'm ready to slow my pace and start to cool down, the music gets slow again and I can decrease my running speed to match the songs. I let the music guide me through the changing paces of my run, and it helps me to stick with a set amount of time I want to run.

4. Visualize the potential results you'll experience from working out.
Instead of focusing on how tired my muscles start to feel or how hard I'm breathing while I'm running, I try to picture myself in desirable situations. Sometimes these images might be of my toned body in a bikini on the beach, or what I'll look like in a short dress during the summer. A more unrealistic, yet still motivating image I picture, is of myself pulling up to a nightclub in my new Dodge Viper, and watching every head in the place turn to catch of glimpse of this obviously successful person. Whatever you imagine while you run, the picture in your mind can be a powerful motivating tool.

5. Measure your progress with an article of clothing, instead of a scale.
The last time I got on a scale was about five years ago when I had to get a routine physical at my doctor's office. I don't know how much I weigh, and I make a point to measure how my workouts are going based on how my clothes fit.

I have a pair of jeans I call my "skinny jeans" that I use to gauge if my body is in satisfactory shape. I've been running regularly again for about two months, and my skinny jeans fit looser than they did when I started. Find a pair of jeans or a tight shirt, and measure your exercise success by how your clothes fit, instead of the numbers you read on a scale.

6. Set goals that work with your schedule.
Don't have enough time to workout? Well, no one does. The key is to figure out how much time you can allot to working out, set a consistent time of day and amount of time you want to spend, and make exercising your priority for that allotted time.

You can always make time. I used to devote an hour and a half to my daily run, but my life is different than it was a year ago, so I have to adjust my running schedule to fit those changes. I spend less time running than I used to because I don't have as much time, but I still make sure that an extra hour on certain days are set aside to spend at the gym. Once you make a conscious decision to devote time to working out, it becomes as regular as brushing your teeth or taking a shower.

7. Allow yourself to take a day off, or to have a bad workout day.
Sometimes unplanned circumstances arise, or you're really tired, or you need to deal with another life issue and you don't have time to workout. That's OK. Don't beat yourself up just because you miss a day of running. Your body won't lose its muscle tone just because you wait an extra 24 hours to workout again. Accept that you will have bad days or missed days, and then keep going. Don't use temporary distractions as an excuse to cancel your exercise routine.

8. Run earlier in the day if you can.
I've found that I can run longer and faster when I run in the mornings. After working or sitting in class from 8 to 5, the last thing that sounds appealing at quitting time is to exert more energy to run three or four miles. However, if you don't have time to run in the mornings, make sure you get enough sleep and eat well during the day so that a run at the end of the day doesn't seem so bad and won't completely wear you out.

Be careful not to let a temporary feeling of exhaustion deter you from your workout, though. Sometimes I start a run wondering how I'll ever make it for 30 minutes, but by the time I'm done I'm bouncing off the walls with my "runner's high" of new energy.

9. Don't compare yourself to other people around you.
During the winter I run on an indoor track, and it's usually crowded with other people walking or running. Sometimes, I tried to run faster to keep up with others, but then I would have to stop sooner because I got tired. I noticed one day, though, that a lot of people get on the track, run really fast for a few laps, and then are done running.

If you're trying to build endurance, it doesn't matter if other people seem to be in better shape just because they run really fast for a few laps. It gives me a sense of pleasure now when I realize that I could probably outrun any of those quick runners, especially if they tried to run the same amount of time that I do.

10. Get good shoes.
The advice I follow concerning running shoes is to replace them once a year. I just recently got a new pair of running shoes, and I know that has helped me physically and mentally. My knees don't hurt like they did with my old shoes, and just knowing that I have new, cushioned shoes on my feet makes me want to run all over the place because they're so comfortable. Good running shoes are important to prevent injuries, but they also just make you feel good.

I hope some or all of these tips help you reach your fitness goals!

' Jenny Pinkal Atchley - Reprinted with permission

About the author: Jenny Pinkal Atchley is a freelance writer and is currently pursuing her master's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She enjoys running, reading, and camping. Jenny was recently married and lives in Boulder.

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