Skip to main content

How to Get in Shape by Running

Stephanie has run seven marathons, including the Boston Marathon and numerous half marathons, 10Ks and 5Ks. She loves running and exercise!

Running is an Easy, Inexpensive Way to Get in Shape

My all-time favorite exercise is, and may always be, running. Unlike other sports and exercises, you do not need to learn how to do something you don't already know how to do! What I like the most is that you can run just about anywhere - just open your door and you're on your way to getting in shape.

All this being said, you should definitely consult your doctor before starting this exercise regimen, as it is relatively intense, and you can run the risk of injury, if you are not well-informed.

If you suffer from chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, you will also want to discuss potential side-effects of medication and intensive exercise. Once you get the green light from your doctor - let's get in shape by running!

Running is an efficient way to burn calories and get in a fast aerobic exercise in little time. Overall, running is an inexpensive way to get in shape. You don't have to pay for a gym membership or classes. All you need is a decent pair of running shoes and a little motivation!

Pros and Cons When you Undertake Running to Get in Shape

Compared to other types of exercise, running hosts a number of benefits. Among other things, you can easily get in shape by running because:

  • Relatively inexpensive; little gear is needed other than good shoes
  • Flexibility as to time; you can run just about anytime - no scheduled classes!
  • Burn calories quickly and efficiently; a 150-pound person will burn approximately 10 calories per minute (300 calories for 1/2 hour)
  • If you travel, its easy to "take on the road" - no need for gear other than your running shoes and maybe headphones and portable music
  • You can train for upcoming races to motivate you and push yourself to improve your running

Of course, there are drawbacks to running, as well:

  • High impact on knees and other joints - especially if you run with poor form
  • Potential for stress fractures
  • Running is usually a solo activity, unlike group classes
  • As you age, it may be more difficult to continue the sport
  • May be difficult to stay motivated because you are not paying for an exercise class or gym membership

How to Start a Running Exercise Routine

Before you start trying to get in shape by running, consult your doctor first, to make sure you are in good enough health to begin an exercise regimen, and ask him or her if they believe you are an appropriate candidate for running. If so, you should begin slowly, particularly if you have never been a runner before.

The first thing you will need to do is get a decent pair of running shoes. Your best bet is to go to a sports store and get properly fitted. A knowledgeable salesperson will find the appropriate size, style and fit for you, based on your foot shape, arch, pronation and stride. This is so important! You want the right shoe to prevent injury and discomfort. Some stores even have treadmills that you can run on so the salespeople can properly observe.

If you belong to a gym, or if you have a treadmill, you may find that working out inside is more comfortable than going outside, at first. In that case, make sure that the incline is set to "0" - flat - and start the speed at about 4.5-5.0 miles per hour (note that runners that are training for races often set the treadmill to 1-2% incline to better mimic outdoor conditions).

Gradually increase your speed, if you desire, until you reach a comfortable pace. Depending on your overall fitness level, aim to run about 1-2 miles the first day, walking part of the distance, if necessary. Alternate cardio days with rest days (or, if you have a gym membership and can work with a personal trainer, you may wish to do some weightlifting exercises). During the first week, you should not increase mileage, so as to prevent injury.

In the second and third weeks, work up to 3 miles per day, and/or see if you can increase your speed slightly. Do not try to do too much, too fast. Many runners can attest to sprained ankles or stress fractures from piling on the miles too quickly.

By week four, you are probably ready to run outdoors. You may even feel like you are starting to get in shape by running. At this point, you may also have a sense of the distance you are covering in an allotted time. Running outdoors feels different than indoors and may be more tiring. Take it easy the first few times. Terrain changes may be challenging, and you'll have to watch for traffic, dogs and other hazards. Pace your breathing and watch for cramps.

Run a 5K race

Training for Races: Take your Running Exercise Routine to the Next Level

Some people complain that running can be boring. My advice is to vary your route, try using trails, if possible, and definitely use music to entertain yourself! Many runners enjoy using MP3 players to listen to their favorite tunes. If you run on a treadmill, you may be able to watch television or movies, as well.

It may help motivate you to have a goal towards which to work when you are first starting out to get in shape by running. Road races are fun and usually help to raise money for great causes through registration fees and sponsorships (i.e., March of Dimes, Breast Cancer research, various scholarships, etc.) Distances can vary, anywhere from 5K (just over 3 miles) to ultra-marathons (over 100 miles!). While there can be winners in certain age categories, I find it more fun to compete against myself. I look at my pace per mile in the previous race and see if I can shave off a second or two in the next race.

Scroll to Continue

Perhaps it is a life goal of yours to complete a half-marathon (13.1 miles) or a marathon (26.2 miles) someday. You need not be a world-class athlete to do so! In 2008, I ran my first marathon - the Portland Marathon. Last year, in 2011, I completed a total of 4 marathons, as well as six 1/2 marathons!

There are many training schedules available in books and on-line that can help you realistically work up to either or both of those goals. I have a friend who had never been runner, start training last fall, and she just finished her first half-marathon in 2 hours' time!

How to Start Running for Beginners

What can you Expect When you Get in Shape by Running?

If you are new to the sport, don't expect a "runner's high" right away! This may develop after time, once your body is accustomed to the movement, and you can get into a nice, smooth rhythm. The release of endorphins (feel good chemicals) may occur during, or after your exercise once you start to achieve your goals to get in shape by running. But arguably the best feeling of all, is just the overall feeling of fitness! After about a month of running, particularly if you are watching your diet as well, your clothes may fit differently. Maybe a little more smoothly through the waist and thighs, even if there is not a corresponding drop in the number on the scale.

So, run your way to better health! Just 20-30 minutes a day about 4 times a week can make a difference. You may just find yourself making more time to lace up those sneakers than you'd ever imagine!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Stephanie Marshall

Comments

philip lee hewitson from Detroit, Michigan, USA on May 17, 2013:

I love running it's probably my favourite activity, Just completed my first martathon back in April it nearly killed me I'm glad I did it but I felt it was not enjoyable for the last 10 miles.

I've been writing a new blog post about running and getting back in shape in general it maybe of some help to you and your readers http://body2shape.com/get-in-shape-for-women/

thanks

phil

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on July 29, 2012:

Great to hear, Catspage! Keep on running and good luck in your fall race!

CatsPage on July 29, 2012:

I have been running for a little over a year now and I love it... Thanks for reminding me what a positive sport it is..!! I feel great and I am running my second 5k in the fall.. :)

LauraGT from MA on May 01, 2012:

Great, thorough hub on running. I tore my ACL about a year ago and am happy to say that I'm back into the running groove. There really is nothing like it!

Bman40 on March 13, 2012:

You can still smell the roses while running with them in your hand. ~Garth Brooks~ ;)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 24, 2012:

Hi Stessily, there are a lot of running/walking programs (research the term Galloway method). I'm glad you found the marathon hubs so helpful. Good luck and let me know how it goes! Best, Steph

stessily on February 24, 2012:

Steph, One of my goals for 2012 is to alternate walking with running. Over the last decade I've been more prone towards walking because I wanted to take time to "smell the roses", to clear my mind or to think through some issues or to encourage creativity. I miss running, though; the wind feels different.

Your series on running and preparing for marathons has been inspirational.

Thank you for sharing.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 16, 2012:

Hi Turtlewoman - well, if you can currently run 6 miles, I think that 2 months (OK, just shy of it) should be enough! Bump up by 1 mile per week for a weekly long/slow run. Run 2-3 times per week and cross-train if you have time. BEST OF LUCK!!! Keep me posted, Steph

Kim Lam from California on February 16, 2012:

Hi Steph, I like your article. I just signed up for my first half marathon with a friend. I've been running off and on for 10 years but never more than 6-7 miles. We have about 7 weeks to train! Ha! Crazy? I'm not sure if that's adequate time...but I guess I'll find out on race day.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on January 31, 2012:

Wow - that's an impressive result! I have been a life-long runner and swear that my Type 1 diabetes is much more manageable as a result of running. Cheers, Steph

lifeisabeach on January 31, 2012:

I ran 5 km every day for 40 days and my blood pressure decreased by 15%.

abrar on November 10, 2011:

thank you very much

i'll try what you said and see i hope it works for me :)

Ron on July 20, 2011:

Excellent hub. Well written, beautifully laid out, and very interesting comment. Thanks!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on June 08, 2011:

Thanks dprice - looks like another runner/athlete is weighing in! Cheers, Steph

dprice680 on June 08, 2011:

Great read, running has been a hobby of mine for four years and in,my,opinion is he best way to stay in shape

Chris Fry from Cardiff, Wales (UK) on April 20, 2011:

Jo - I would recommend as your exercise intensity increases you shift from nasal breathing to oral breathing. This is because it will allow you to inhale air faster due to less resistance (Jenkins, 2005).

Jenkins, S.P.R. (2005). Sports Science Handbook: The essential guide to Kinesiology, Sport and Exercise Science. Multi Science Publishing Co LTD.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 10, 2011:

Hi Jo, I'm not a doctor, but I find that keeping my mouth slightly open and breathing relaxed is helpful when I am out running.

jo on April 10, 2011:

hi Step, your articles r very interesting, i'm 49 yrs n having big tummy, but i do play futball twice a week n can run 3 miles at the timing of 14 min with no pain n my breathing is normal.Many question asked by my colleague is that while running do we breathe through the nostril or the mouth, as for me i find breathing through the mouth is much of help n more air can be sucked, please advise, although at childhood days i was a asthama patient n very bad feeling, but due 2 cycling n futball n now running the sickness has just vanished but still can run with the tummy.thks

hubpageswriter1 on March 26, 2011:

Great hubpage stephhicks68 you are definitely right about how running is such a good way to get and stay in shape. I actually read this hub page about 5 weeks ago and felt that i should get into running so i did. I followed your advice about how to get into running and getting good shoes and taking it slow and now 5 weeks on I’ve got up to about 5 miles thanks to you. I found when training that drinking a fruit smoothie really helped me perform better. I have always drank smoothies before because of how tasty they are and of course of how good they are for you but didn’t quite realize the affect it had on you when you and how it helped when doing exercise because on the days that i did not have a smoothie i seemed to struggle any way I just thought you might be interested in taking a look at my hub page on fruit smoothie recipe’s here is the URL

Fruit smoothie recipe’s hubpage https://hubpages.com/t/1f29db

Thanks for sharing.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 03, 2011:

Hi Justin,

Thanks so much! I find that running is a stress release for me too. Love running with the iPod too. Appreciate the comment. Best, Steph

Stability Running Shoes on February 03, 2011:

Hey there,

Getting in shape by running is one of the most rewarding ways to burn off some calories while enjoying yourself.

I personally love cranking my ipod when I hit the gym or go for a run outside, it is also a huge stress reducer.

Having a great pair of running shoes is absolutely a must if you run on hard surfaces frequently, I know from experience.

Great article by the way!

I appreciate authentic content,

Cheers,

Justin

shannonvanyperin on January 15, 2011:

very informative. for people with bad knee's ellipticals are great.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 03, 2010:

Hi purpleangel - I too am working in more cross-training into my weeks. I'm only (almost) 42 and want to make sure I can still run years from now. I started spinning classes and also do strength/core training 2x a week. Good luck with your races - I love the 1/2 marathon distance! Cheers, Steph

purpleangel47 from Baltimore, Maryland on November 03, 2010:

Hi stephhicks68! I am definitely living proof that running is a weight-losing dream! I am about 30 pounds lighter from running. But watching my joints is a primary concern for me. I'm 48 years old and I just started running two years ago. I don't run everyday - I either have rest days in between or I practice yoga for that rest day. But I always wanted to run and it feels so good that I've been able to achieve that. I'd like to run a 5k and MAYBE a half-marathon (I'm stressing maybe) I'm not really gung-ho about the marathon thing; I just like the peace of running at my own pace so we'll see. Your information is great ... especially for us older folks. I think running and other cardio is absolutely necessary to keep your metabolism going - but moderation is definitely the key. I think more problems happen when you're pushing your body to go where it doesn't want to.

Thank you ... great info! Peace and blessings :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 07, 2010:

Hi ggerner - we went 13 miles in my marathon training/running group. I used to be a solo runner, but am really loving the time spent with my active friends. I totally agree with your comment :)

ggerner on August 07, 2010:

I ran 10 miles today with my running group. It doesn't have to be a solo activity! It's a great way to meet people, bond, tell stories... My friend used to say, compared to swimming and cycling, running's the b*tch. Definitely a great workout.

Sprint57 on July 30, 2010:

Thanks for the most. Staying motivated can be really tough especially in the winter. I find that using a pedometer watch and tracking my runs in a log book help quite a bit. That way i know if I'm falling behind.

LaRoussou on June 09, 2010:

Thanks for this, I am just returning to running, I always do. Great article.

wazzat61 on March 03, 2010:

I used to be a very good runner in my day, until I cracked my knee cartilage in my mid thirties. Never been able to run since, but man, its certainly an addictive pastime once you get hooked

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 26, 2010:

I feel the same way!! My foot isn't great, and I have a bum knee, but at 41, I feel and look great! Let's keep on running!

theherbivorehippi from Holly, MI on February 26, 2010:

Great Hub! I am a marathon runner and I will agree....its rough on your knees. My knees are wrecked but I can't give it up. There is nothing in the world like a good long run!

TomsFitnessGuide on January 21, 2010:

Interesting hub. Running is a great way to get back in shape.

Good work. ;)

Drew Breezzy from somewhere in my mind on September 16, 2009:

I am getting back in running shape. Hopefully no more setbacks!

BrenLorenz from Atlanta, GA on August 21, 2009:

From Bill's post, "a lot of studies are beginning to show a negligible health benefit to any cardio exercise (running or bicycling, included), and are pointing to the preferred program of strength training".

Bill, now you have me concerned.. and a bit confused..I have been told many times and have read a lot that to lose weight, cardio exercise is the main thing along with strength training also because the more muscle you have, the more fat your body can burn. But this concerns me.. I'll have to do some research on that.

Sammi on August 09, 2009:

For lower impact try running on the grass :)

Todd29 on May 31, 2009:

Diets and diet aids do not help anyone. The only way to successfully lose weight and get the body that you deserve is by using the right information. This information is in the book Lose Weight Using Four Easy Steps which can be ordered through the website www.bbotw.com Everyone who has gotten a copy of this book has lost weight.

best way to lose weight quickly on April 04, 2009:

An alternative to running is cycling. They are recommended for people who are severely overweight or those who have problems related to the knee.

VegVixen on February 08, 2009:

awesome advice :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 15, 2008:

Thank you! I am so sad right now because I sidelined myself with a stress fracture earlier this month from too much running (isn't that ironic)? But I enjoyed running the Portland Marathon last month and it is such an amazing feeling when you're in good shape from running.

betherickson from Minnesota on November 14, 2008:

I totally agree with running as the best tool to get in shape. I can feel my whole body burns and works out unlike some training aparatus. Great Hub! Thanks!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on October 27, 2008:

Hi Bill - I really appreciate your thorough comment on running! Yes, I mean it when I say that people should check with their doctor before starting an exercise regimin. Even those who seem to be in good shape may have issues that could result in injury or illness (I have a marathoner friend in her 30s that just discovered a thyroid condition that was making her very sick - she is now off marathons for 6 months while they work to stabilize her levels with medication). Anyway - running can be hard on joints, etc. It is the one exercise that I truly enjoy and I just started marathon running this year (I have a series of hubs on the topic). Strength training should be part of anyone's exercise routine to build muscle mass which is the key to burning calories, as you point out. I am happy to continue on this subject. I learned a lot of great core exercises at physical therapy last month. A small investment for a medicine (exercise) ball is all that one needs to make.

Cardio exercise can be very pleasureable - bike riding or running, skating, skiing, the like. But overall health should take an integrated approach. Stay tuned - you've inspired me to write more on the subject. Steph

Vicariously Yours from Fort Collins, CO on October 26, 2008:

Yowza! I applaud your candor when you advise your readers to seek professional advice before beginning to run. I had been running since I was fifteen years old (started back in 1968), and ran up until about five years ago, when I developed too many running-related injuries to continue. Now I use a bicycle, and enjoy it a lot. But the truth is, a lot of studies are beginning to show a negligible health benefit to any cardio exercise (running or bicycling, included), and are pointing to the preferred program of strength training. Cardio training, in fact, doesn't strengthen the heart (as has been commonly believed), and while extreme exercise can give you the caloric-deficit required to keep off excess weight, it's highly likely you'll be losing lean muscle mass as well, something you really don't want to happen (take a look at a high-intensity runner, and you'll likely notice highly-developed legs and gluts, but some seriously diminished upper-body mass).

That said, if you truly enjoy running and have the body for it, then run for that reason. Not sure it's a good idea to run for health, though...it's looking as if it's not as healthy a pastime as was once thought.

I'd like to hear more from you on this subject. Anything forthcoming?

Bill C

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 29, 2008:

Thanks Kris! Most definitely you should seek professional advice (or at least talk to someone with experience) before starting a running regime. If you have a medical condition like asthma, its best to get a green light from your doctor beforehand. I hear you on the shock to the system starting out.... even now, I get attacks from time to time and my shins (or knees) hurt after a long run.

KateWest from Los Angeles, CA on August 29, 2008:

Great advice! It is very helpful to start with an organization that will train you so that you have coaches who know what they're doing. Yes, start out small - that's how you win races one step at a time. I have asthma as well and had problems with that, as well as shin splints when I started running for the first time. After several months I can breathe fine and my legs are fine and I can actually think again. But in severe cases, yes see a doctor.

Decrescendo on March 28, 2008:

Getting into shape is so tough

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 28, 2008:

Hmmm... cgull, I wonder what the problem is? I have asthma too. You might check with your doctor. Even if you are not wheezing, tightness in your chest may indicate asthma. Definitely do not run if you are uncomfortable. Wedding Consultant - good idea! I started running again 2 days ago (after a couple of months hiatus - I need to stretch, both before and after!)

WeddingConsultant from DC Metro Area on March 28, 2008:

Good hub, I agree with others. Maybe now you can write a hub on proper stretching techniques after running? I'd be interested as I ran two days ago and am still recovering...!

cgull8m from North Carolina on March 28, 2008:

I do aerobics, weight lifting, tried running but for some reason unable to do. I have breathing problems, not asthma after a certain distance I am unable to run. I also do rope jumping and some yoga exercises.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 26, 2008:

Kanelbullar - let's start moving... :-)

Kanelbullar from Dublin, Eire on March 26, 2008:

As I'm a huge fan of cakes, this helps alot.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 25, 2008:

OK - now you are going to be MY inspiration, PenmanZee! I stopped running last fall after my grandfather passed away. I started again in January, but have had a couple of bouts of bronchitis... and a lot of excuses since then. I'm going to get out and do it too! (my husband asked me when writing this Hub when I was going to start again, anyway...) :-)

PenmanZee on March 24, 2008:

Thanks to you I resumed running today after putting it off for years. I'm a light fellow but felt as if I was made of lead even after taking your advice and doing about two miles for a start. Won't give up though. Thanks for the hub and motivation.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on March 23, 2008:

Thanks for the comments - yes, Whitney, I have to watch my kness (esp. my left one). I like treadmills and trail running in part because its less impact that pavement running. Thanks Barry - hope you get back into it! dsasser... maybe you'll try running?

dsasser from US on March 22, 2008:

interesting info, I like sport

Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on March 22, 2008:

Great hub or blog. Very accurate. I used to run Marathons(17) & train 100kms a week(the best time of my life. Now though my exercise is limited to walking and swimming. Well done hope to get back into some running soon...

Whitney from Georgia on March 22, 2008:

I have bad knees, so running isn't the best exercise option for me, but it's a great cardio workout.

Related Articles