How To Join the Running Revolution

10/14/2011 08:14 am ET | Updated Dec 10, 2011

If the 1980s were a decade of marathon craze, we're now in a decade of marathon madness. More running races are popping up around the globe than ever before, and they aren't just marathons. From 5Ks to 10Ks to half-marathons, the running revolution is moving full steam ahead -- and you're about to learn how to go from your recliner to running safely and effectively.

The absolute best way to ease your body into running is by using walk-run intervals. Depending on your level of fitness, you should start by covering a total distance of one to three miles, and using a three-to-one walk-run ratio. What this means is that for a one mile workout, you would perform a fast, brisk walk for three minutes, then run one minute, and then walk three minutes again, and continue this pattern until you've covered one mile. You can perform this workout three to four times per week, and add a quarter or a half mile each week.

After three to four weeks, or after you've made it up to two or three miles, you can then progress to a two-to-one walk-run ratio, with walk efforts of two to four minutes, and run efforts of one to two minutes (depending on how good you're feeing). Using this ratio, keep yourself at two or three miles for one to two weeks, and then progress to a one-to-one walk-run ratio, walking and running for an equal distance of time, but only running a maximum of four minutes at a time. So at this point, you are covering two or three miles, and walking for two to four minutes then running for two to four minutes.

Staying at three miles, you then begin to reverse the walk-run ratio by running two minutes for each one minute of walking. Do this for a week, and progress to a running three minutes for each one minute of walking. After a week of this, you can eliminate the walking altogether, and run the entire two or three mile distance. If you want to add more miles, you can then begin to increase total running distance by about 10 percent each week.

Here are a few Quick and Dirty Tips for successful, effective running:

1. Use actual running shoes. Not basketball shoes, cross-training shoes, tennis shoes, or dress shoes. The best place to buy them is in a store that specializes only in running shoes, as they sales staff will be able to advise you on which shoe best fits your body and running style.

2. Focus on proper form. New runners tend to run with tight shoulders, neck and jaw, and erratic breathing. When running, concentrate on keeping your shoulders relaxed, breathe from the back of your throat, and occasionally push your tongue against the roof of your mouth to relax your head, neck, and jaw muscles.

3. Have a friend video record you running. From head to toes, here are three things you should be looking for: a slight forward lean, elbows bent at about 90 degrees without excessive swing, and a mid-foot foot strike rather than a heel strike.

The biggest barrier to joining the running revolution is injury or discomfort. But by using the strategies above, you'll be running fast, injury-free, and with good form within eight weeks!

Ben Greenfield is a fitness and triathlon expert and host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network. His book, Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Dream Body - A Workout Plan for Your Unique Shape, will be published by St. Martin's Press in May 2012.