I've Been Running for Decades, Here's My Advice to Keep it Interesting

Muna Hassan

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I ran my first race when I was in sixth grade. It was part of a school initiative to get kids more interested in physical fitness. We trained as a class, slowly working our way up to running a mile. This was back before running was fully mainstream, and it was somewhat difficult to find races within reasonable driving distance (especially short 1-mile races that are great for beginners and kids).

I will forever be grateful for the teachers who made that possible for my class, because it got me hooked on running.

Since then, I've completed my fair share of races, early morning runs and lazy weekend jogs. Over the years, I've picked up many tips and tricks -- from trying to run faster to making running more fun to simply motivating myself enough to get up off the couch and lace up my running shoes.

As spring and summer are just around the corner, it's prime time to hit the pavement. Here are some of my tried and true pieces of advice to start or continue your running journey and keep it going for years to come.

1. Figure Out Your Goal

Some people start running because they want to be able to do their first (or only) 5k. Others want to run a marathon. And some just want to get off the couch and do something that doesn't require fancy equipment or a ton of time. No matter what your goal is, make sure you set one and continually work toward it. And remember, especially if you're just starting out, your goal does not have to be something huge. Maybe you want to start with running once or twice a week while you slowly build your stamina. From there, your goals can build.

2. You don't have to go from 0 to 60

Speaking of stamina ... if you're very new to running and don't have much of it or if you are trying to increase your distance, remember that fitness is a journey. Being able to run longer distances or cover ground faster takes time. It takes practice. And most of all, it takes consistency. You don't have to hit your goal on your first attempt (plus, if you do, you need to set your sights higher). Also, running for a distance followed by a brisk walk to catch your breath is not only a great way to break up a longer run, but this style of training can also make you better (read: run farther, faster) in the end.

3. Find a Running Buddy

This is probably one of the most common pieces of advice you'll hear, because it works. If you have an accountability buddy, not only are you more likely to get your run done, but it also makes the process more enjoyable. My advice: Find someone you don't mind hearing you huffing and puffing -- and vice versa -- considering that's what you'll both be listening to during your time out.

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4. Skip the Music

Hear me out on this one. While studies show that exercising to upbeat music can make your workouts more efficient and effective, there is an argument for leaving your earbuds at home. Especially when you're just starting out or when you're upping your distance, going sans music can help you tune into what's going on with your body. You can actually hear yourself breathe and regulate your inhales and exhales accordingly. You can listen to the sound of your footfalls to see whether or not you're essentially stomping each time your feet hit the ground. Also, it's generally safer to be able to hear what's going on around you. (Like if there is a car coming when you're going to cross the street.)

5. Or Don't

Some people won't even entertain the idea of not listening to music when they exercise -- including running. If you're one of those people, the good news is that study after study has shown an increase in exercise productivity when you turn up the feel good tunes while working out. On the days that I listen to music when I run, I try to find songs that are not too fast and are not too slow. Too fast and your legs with try to keep up with the beat, tiring you out faster or throwing your breath pattern off. Too slow and it might feel like you're essentially walking with a bounce in your step. Typically aiming for songs between 140-160 beats per minute (bpm) is a good range for me.

Have you started running recently? Or started running againn after a hiatus? What has helped you hit your goals and/or keep yourself motivated?

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Muna has been a journalist and fitness professional for more than 10 years. With degrees in exercise science and dietetics, Muna focuses on informing people about how to lead a healthier lifestyle. Muna is the owner of Body and Mind by Muna, an online gym for at-home workouts, as well as MuslimahFit, a fitness app for women.

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