For people looking to get in shape, there is at least one reasonable method that doesn't require an investment in fancy fitness machinery nor a membership to the local health club. Running, or jogging, is one of the better ways to work yourself into shape, and it is a workout that can be started almost immediately.

Certified running coach Rogelio Quintanar offered several tips to those looking to begin a running program. Like with anything health-related, Quintanar recommended an initial visit with your health care professional.

Following that, only your dedication to your program is the limit.

"For anyone thinking about making the transition into running, either for the first time or coming back from a long layoff from the sport, I always recommend they first meet with their doctor and have a physical," said Quintanar, a St. Simons Island resident who is certified through the Road Runners Club of America and is also an ultramarathoner who runs 50- and 100-mile races. "This will ensure there aren't any existing health issues that need to be addressed first, and it will give you a base line of your current fitness level.

"Once you have the green light to start, the next thing to do is develop a training plan. The Internet is a great resource but I would stick with reputable sites like www.runnersworld.com and www.competitor.com. Developing a plan will help keep you focused on your goals and increase the likelihood of success."

As for the respective plan a new runner devises, Quintanar said each runner should first ask himself a few questions.

" First, what's my motivation? What is it that I want to achieve? This will help to determine how much you should be running. Second, what's my ability? Different fitness levels will impact how much someone can run in the beginning and doing too much too soon could lead to injury. Third, what are your life constraints? Taking on any new activity requires a holistic approach since all of us have many different responsibilities -- daily activities, our jobs and our families. By considering them before you start, you can schedule your running so it compliments your life and doesn't become its own obstacle.

"Fourth, it's very important to identify mini goals as part of your plan. If your goal is to run your first race and it's eight weeks out, set different training goals for the week. This will help keep your training exciting and fun."

Quintanar said, like with any new endeavor, there are pitfalls. There are definite "do's and don'ts."

"Do set realistic goals. If you've never run before and you would like to run your first marathon in eight weeks, that may not be very realistic. Running, by nature, can be a solitary experience, but I encourage first time and experienced runners to run with other people. Here, in the Golden Isles we have groups like the Golden Isles Track Club and the Golden Isles Triathlon Club that have organized runs and welcome runners to join them.

"Do listen to your body and let it recover. Our bodies are great communicators and will tell us if we're overdoing it or if something isn't working. All runners of differing levels need to let their bodies recover from training, and you will be a more efficient runner if you incorporate rest into your plan.

"Don't do what other runners are doing just because they say it works for them. Each of us has our own running identity and what works for me may not work for you. Don't be afraid to run fast. Incorporate speed training into your plan. It will make you a more efficient runner and burns more calories."

Running in the proper shoes is paramount, also, said Quintanar, and every foot is different, so do your research and invest in the proper type of shoe. He also recommended buying reflective gear so as to always be seen by motorists in the early morning or evening. Finally, a stopwatch to keep track of your time and distance is also a must, he said.

"Have fun," Quintanar said of the one thing to not forget.

"Anyone making the choice to start running is also making a commitment to their well-being and self-improvement.

Whether you're making the transition from the couch to your first 5-kilometer or planning on running your 10th marathon, running can bring a lot of benefit to your mind, body and soul, and you should enjoy the journey."

* Sports Editor Dave Jordan writes about local sports. Contact him at djordan@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 319.

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