But, even though it's accessible, it isn't always easy starting running. It takes time to build up the endurance to run for even a short period of time, even if you've been walking, cycling or doing other activities. Don't give up! There's a way to become a runner without killing yourself if you're patient and follow these easy steps.

Step One: Get Geared Up

The Shoes

The most important piece of equipment you'll need is a quality pair of running shoes. Your best bet is to visit a specialty running store. If you have an old pair of running or walking shoes, take them with you. The sales staff in running stores are experts and can often look at the wear pattern on your old shoes to help them pick the right shoe for you. Wear or bring the socks you plan on wearing while you run and test the shoes out by running or walking around the store. Plan on spending anywhere from R849-00 to R1500-00 for a good pair of shoes.

The Clothes

What you wear when running comes down to comfort. A simple pair of shorts and a tee shirt will work fine. Most runners opt for running shorts, which generally have a split leg, built-in underwear and a nifty key pocket. It's a good idea to buy clothes that wick sweat away from the body such as CoolMax or Lycra. The specialist running store would be able to advise in this regard as well.

Step Two: Set Your Goals

First, figure out where you'll run. If you're going outside, try to find roads made of dirt or asphalt rather than concrete, which is hard on the body. Remember to wear reflective clothing when running at night and to run towards traffic so you don't get nailed by a car. If you go to a gym, the treadmill offers a cushy surface to run on while protecting you from the elements.

Second, realize you'll spend more time walking than running your first time out. Start with a brisk 10-minute walk and then alternate 30 seconds of running with one minute of walking about 3 days a week. Each week, increase the amount of time you run and decrease the amount of time you walk. Your pace should be comfortable so that you can hold a conversation. If you can't breathe, slow down! If you're following your program consistently (i.e., at least three days a week), you should be running continuously for 20 to 30 minutes by the fourth week. When you start out, you should be focused on time not intensity. Once you can run continuously for 30 minutes or so, you can start going faster.

Step Three: Dealing With...

Side stitches are fairly common when you start running. No one knows why they occur, but there are some things you can do to minimize them. One cause is running before you've completely digested a meal, which may cause stomach cramps. Wait 2 to 4 hours after a large meal before running. Side stitches can also be caused by weak stomach muscles. Your abs do a lot of work to keep your body in position while you're running. Doing consistent ab and lower back exercises will help strengthen your torso and reduce those stitches. If you get a side stitch while running, slow down to a walk and try holding your hands up in the air as you take deep breaths. Sometimes pressing into the cramp and massaging it can help, too. As like every pain, see a doctor if it continious.

Shin splints are another distressing side effect of running, particularly if you're a newbie or if you've increase your mileage or intensity. One way to avoid shin splints is to cross train with another activity like biking or swimming. If shin splints are a recurring problem, you'll want to make sure that your shoes are still providing support and that you stretch after your run (or after a warm up if your shins feel tight). Follow the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method of treatment immediately after your run and reduce your mileage and/or running surface if it's a chronic problem.

Running is a great way to get in shape, burn lots of calories, make your heart healthy and increase bone density. Be consistent and you'll be training for your first race in no time!

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