Put on your running shoes and hit the starting line.With its warmer weather and longer daylight hours, May is an excellent time to begin a new exercise regimen. There are numerous sports and outdoor activities to partake of here in New Hampshire, but if you're looking for some serious fitness results, you'll get the most bang for your buck (and your time) with running.Apart from the more obvious benefits - like increased metabolic fitness and weight loss - regular running improves your cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure and keeping the arteries elastic. It also aids in slowing down the aging process. Regular runners experience bone and muscle loss at a slower rate than their non-running or sedentary peers. The physical demands of running can increase and help to maintain bone density, helping to prevent conditions like osteoporosis. Not to mention the decrease in stress and the great rush of endorphins that come with a good running workout.A great way to stick to a running schedule and keep motivated is to sign up for a road race of a manageable distance, like a 5k. Once you register for a race and have it up on the calendar it's an excellent incentive to keep to your schedule. There are numerous online training programs available for novices to help with running advice, tips for keeping properly fueled and hydrated and motivation to keep you on target to meet your running goals, whatever they may be.For a list of upcoming races in your area, check out www.coolrunning.com, then check back post-race to view your finish time results.Impressive FactAccording to www.coolrunning.com, a nationwide source for road race results, there were more than 173 recorded 5k races in New Hampshire in 2010 alone.Gear Box(See Gear Box photos above)While it's important to get fitted for your very first pair of running shoes, Saucony makes a shoe for every type of foot and the ProGrid Jazz 13 is a great, neutral runner that won't break the bank. ($60-$80)Made of a lightweight, wicking fabric with UPF 50+, the Athleta Stability Run Short ($44) is a perfect staple of your warm-weather running wardrobe.Nike's Seamless Women's Running Shirt ($45) is made from Dri-FIT fabric to wick away sweat and its flat-seam construction minimizes chafing while running.The Everyday II Run Visor from Asics ($16) is a simple running staple that will help keep all that sweat from blinding you as blaze your way through your running workouts.Expert AdviceMuriel Saliba is an R.N. at Elliot Hospital and the mother of two grown children. The Hooksett resident works with the Athletic Alliance Running Club of Manchester and started running eight years ago when she turned 40. She is also an avid cyclist and swimmer and has since added triathlons to her list of racing accomplishments. This October Saliba will run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., with her daughter.What are some of the first steps to beginning a running program for a first timer? Don't go into it over your head - baby steps. I remember the first year I joined Athletic Alliance. I was running on the treadmill as part of my gym routine and one of the members who I know as a cyclist asked, "Muriel, when are you going to join?" I said I am not a runner, I am a cyclist. With encouragement from friends, I became a runner. I ran that 5k and thought this is good; it is short and I am done. Then came the 10k and I said, oh, I don't have to kill myself as much. That led to a 10 miler, a half marathon, a 20 miler and, yes, a marathon. It is addicting if you take your time. Run/walk/run/walk is not bad.How can joining a running group/club help you to meet your running goals? Joining a running club is absolutely the best thing a person can do for their training. You form groups, you look up to the person in front of you running faster and you challenge yourself.How should I go about choosing my first race in which to run? Choose one that is well established, within your limits and that is appealing, either because someone you know is doing it, it's local or it may have a great shirt that you will love to wear. Some people pick a race secondary to who benefits from the proceeds or they may have great giveaways and maybe beer at the end. Don't go right for the half-marathon or marathon - baby steps will always be one step forward instead of one forward and two backwards.Do you have any special advice or tips for the day of the race? People have so many rituals before a race, from laying everything out the night before to obsessing over every detail. Print up the information on the race at least a week or so prior. Know where you are going, what time the race and registration is. For me, not knowing the course is better, but some have to know where the next hill, flat spot, etc., is, so if you are one that needs to know the course, drive or run the course beforehand and know your mile markers. Never change anything the day of the race. Everyone will tell you, don't wear new socks, new shoes or try out a new brand of shorts or shirt. You can end up with blisters, chafing or be just plain uncomfortable. And it is always more fun if there are people going that you know. There is a lot of camaraderie in running events. Most of all for race day, make a plan just to cross the finish line and enjoy that accomplishment - you deserve it. You got off the couch.When and where did you run your very first 5K road race? (and how did it go?) My first race was the Hangover Classic in Salisbury, Mass., January 2004 and I was 41 years old. This race kicks off the New Year, it was a 5k and my time was 23:51. It was actually kind of interesting that this was my first race because who the heck would pick their first race for the dead of winter? The crazies I run with would because of tradition - Athletic Alliance members have now been doing this race for 14 years! Again, why? Because the race ends with an optional plunge into Salisbury Beach. Now for the reward of a 'Plunge Mug', everyone will go in quick and run out quick. Not Athletic Alliance though! "Everyone will do it for the mug, but you are not a true plunger unless you go in a second time." And yes, I gave into peer pressure!
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine