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Running away from the couch to becoming a competitor. It’s never too late to start the transition from lazy to laced up.

By Sunil Ramsamooj

If you’re trying to lose weight or improve your overall fitness, running is one of the best decisions you can make. And now the running season is here (it’s always running season!), there’s no better time to get in shape. To help you get started, we turned for advice to Jonathan Cane, a competitive runner, cyclist, triathlete and president of City Coach, an online service that coaches runners at all fitness levels.

Start gradually

No matter how fit you are, running puts more stress on your joints than cardio activities such as cycling or swimming, so you have to transition into it slowly. “For the first couple of weeks, stick with short runs,” Cane says. Always do a brisk five-minute walk to warm up. Then, alternate between a couple of minutes’ running and walking for a total of 20-30 minutes. As your timed walk/run becomes easier, move to specific distances. After your warm-up walk, jog 200-400 metres, then walk the same distance, and then run 200-400m more. Repeat the walk-run cycle until your half-hour workout is up.

Allow for recovery

Limit your runs to three times a week, Cane says. Run one day, then recover the next. The time off allows your joints and connective tissue to adapt. Complement your running with strength training. Working your glutes, abductors, adductors and core can amp up fat loss as well.

Set a goal

Each week, try to cover more total distance in your workout or run at a slightly faster speed so that you’re always making progress. “Come back aggressively each workout,” Cane says, “but don’t overdo it.” You want to make steady gains and improvements every week, but you need to be smart so you don’t end up with an injury before you’ve barely started.

Pick the right location

When getting started, soft terrain such as a treadmill is ideal, Cane says. “It’s more forgiving on your joints.” As you get better at running indoors, start increasing the incline on the treadie so that it more accurately mimics outdoor runs. “When you’re ready to head outdoors, try to find a hard-packed trail,” Cane says. “Avoid concrete if you can. Even asphalt is softer and more forgiving.” Use your first outdoor runs to help re-establish the kind of mileage you’re used to running on the treadmill while giving your joints a chance to get used to running in the “real” world.

Consider a race

Even if you’re not planning to compete, training for a race is a good way to stay motivated and keep yourself on track, Cane says. Pick a shortie such as a 5K. Don’t worry about your time or placing — the goal should simply be to finish. By the time you have a couple of races under your running shorts, you’ll know if you want to try anything longer. And by then, you’ll have built the skills and habits you need to keep running regularly, even if it’s just around the neighbourhood instead of under the gun.

800 – As a general rule, that’s how many kilometres the cushioning on most running shoes lasts.