Well, the holidays are becoming a memory, but maybe you have a nagging reminder of all that good food you ingested during that festive time of the year and as a result you’re carrying around with you a few extra pounds. Well, it’s high-time now to hit that button from overindulgence to exercise. It never fails that come this time of year, usually after the New Year resolutions have been made and by this time, mid-February, many are broken, that people turn to running to help get them in shape. But like most of those resolutions, these are soon left by the wayside as well.

But for those that are steadfast in following through on their commitment to getting in better shape, running or even a fast jogging regimen is probably one of the easiest and cost effective ways to get yourself in shape. After all, there’s no gym membership fees. All you’re really investing in are a good pair of running/jogging shoes with the right supports and rugged enough soles that help you to negotiate the rugged terrain you’re going to be confronting this time of year.

I put together a few simple things to take into consideration when you’re starting out running, even if you’re a runner that has spent some time away from getting out there and running down a hillside or mountain path, or a newbie, who is looking at tackling something different in the ways of physical activity.

Pace Yourself: As a “New” runner, you should focus on the amount of time you spend running versus aiming for distance. With each run, you’ll notice that time span gets a little easier, because you’re building your endurance and cardiovascular health. Your pace will drop naturally and you’ll run more miles. Maybe the first time you will only be able to get a couple miles in, but over time you’ll gradually notice 2 miles turns into 2.5, then 3 and so on.  If you’re looking then to increase your time, then keep your regular pace going and after you’ve reached about 2-3 miles into your run, dial it up a notch and run for about 1-2 minutes at a higher pace that makes it difficult to sing a song out loud while your pushing yourself. Time it, and do this every time you head out on your training run for about 2 weeks. You should at this time see that it’s getting easier to maintain a slightly faster pace because of your having pushed your body. Again, this is only for increasing your regular pace. It’s also a good idea to do this about every   month or so in order to keep pushing your body, so it can keep improving and not find you falling into a running rut!  After all your body is a creature of habit, it can get used to the paces you’re putting it through and it will no longer improve itself if you don’t push it every now and then. You need to do this on a regular basis, this way you will keep burning more calories and your muscles will continue to strengthen as they did when you first started out.

Keeping track of that pace and the increased work you’re putting your body through should be monitored.  This way you can keep track of just how well you’re doing and what you need to do if you’re not reaching your pre-determined goal.  And make no mistake about this. YOU NEED TO SET A GOAL THAT IS ATTAINABLE!

Set a goal and make a plan: Some people struggle after a few weeks when their initial enthusiasm has waned. A great way to stay motivated is to set a realistic goal. Once you have decided on a goal, you need to devise a plan that lays out what you need to do and when.

One thing you can do in order to keep track of your pace, distance, along with your heart rate is by getting a fitness monitor, like a smart watch. This way it’s just on your wrist, no bothersome heart rate transmitters that you need to strap around your chest before you even get dressed in your winter running gear. One smart watch that fits the bill is the Garmin Forerunner 630 GPS Running Watch. The Forerunner 630 provides all the extensive data you need for monitoring your progress, now and later when you become more experienced. Once Forerunner 630 learns your lactate threshold, which you will set up through a guided test, you can apply it to your heart rate training when setting up fitness zones. These zones will help you realize just how well your doing and how you can keep improving. Overall training routines, sleep, nutrition and general life stress plays a role in how you will perform in a tough workout. And the Garmin 630 will provide you with all this information for you to track. This will give you a better idea of what days you should aim for a tough workout or when to use as a recovery day.  Remember, a fitness watch, like the Garmin 630 is a tool for you to use in order to get the most out of your run. Like any tool, the more you use it, and get familiar with all of its capabilities, you’re going to realize just how much you can do with all that data it’s collecting about your fitness habits!

Now that you have your watch picked out. It a good idea to get some things set down on a scheduled time frame on when you can get your running program started. How many days a week you should plan on running, how far the distance will be, initially and how long of a time frame you’re going to allow yourself to just get out and do it.

Plan your route: it’s all well and good setting off Forrest Gump-style without a route in mind, but it’s probably more sensible to plan it in advance. If you use Google Maps or a running app such as “Strava” or “MapMyRun” to plot your route, then you will know the exact distance and height gain involved so there won’t be any nasty surprises.

Plan when you eat: Fitting in your meals around your run can be tricky. On one hand, you want to make sure you have enough fuel on board and on the other, you don’t want to be too full when setting off. The key is to plan ahead – experts say you should allow two hours for a large meal to digest before running. Of course you could have a small snack up to 30 minutes beforehand – you just need to experiment and figure out what works best for you.

Make sure you are visible!!: Thanks to the short days in early January and February, you are probably going to end up doing a lot of your running in the dark, so it’s vital to ensure you are visible to others. Don’t be one of those ninja runners dressed head to toe in black. A bright yellow running jacket is a good start and make sure your trousers and runners have reflective strips. If you are running in an area without street lights, you should use a head torch and a blinking red light.

Don’t forget to warm up and cool down: Heading straight out the door at full speed is a recipe for injury. Warming up gives your body a chance to prepare for exertion by gradually raising your body temperate and heart rate. Start out at a very gentle pace, walking if necessary, for the first five minutes. Likewise, at the end of the run, ease down to a walk or slow jog for the last five minutes to allow your breathing and heart rate to return to normal levels.

Now again, these are just a few, sensible things to take under consideration if you’re looking to either get back into the running game or if your brand new to the sport and what to “Hit the ground Running” (Sorry for the pun, but I just had to )

So take the above into consideration and you should be well on your way to losing that extra baggage you’ve been attached to, since the holidays.

Happy Running!