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How to Become a Runner: 6 Dos and Don'ts for Any Goal

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    DO Invest in Quality Running Shoes

    "Cross trainers and casual kicks (like your cute Chuck Taylors) will no longer fit the bill," Underhill says. "Visit a running store and get fitted for a true sneaker that will support your foot (here are the best running shoes of the year)." A good rule of thumb: You'll generally need to aim for a half to full size bigger for running shoes than for shoes you wear to the office.

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    DON'T Think All or Nothing

    A short run feels good, so a long one will feel even better, right? Wrong. "Strategic walk breaks allow the body to adapt, avoid aches and pains, but receive all the benefits," says Jeff Galloway, an Atlanta-based run coach and director of JeffGalloway.com, who has coached over a million runners and walkers. Skip a day between each run for the ideal ratio for recovery, Galloway suggests. “Start with short running segments of about 10 seconds, followed by longer walking segments,” he says. As you progress and gain endurance, add more time to the run and shorten the walks and soon you’ll be running non-stop.

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    DO Seek Out the Best Surface

    If you're used to just walking or other gym-based activities like the elliptical machine or stationary bike, running can be a shock to the system. "Uneven terrain like grass and dirt trails can be tricky for newbies," Galloway says. Still, "the best surface is the most accessible one," Underhill counters. It's all about removing barriers for beginners, so find something that's convenient, whether it's a treadmill or an even trail, and hit the road.

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    DON'T Underestimate the Power of Music

    Music can pep you up before each run plus help you recover more quickly, according to research from The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. Motivational lyrics and bumping beats can also keep your mind off how tired you truly are, says The Sport Journal of the United States Sports Academy. "It's about finding that balance—a beat that will help you cruise along but won't cause you to take off too fast and tire out," Underhill says. A few of her current faves: "Fire Under My Feet" by Leona Lewis, "Honey I'm Good," by Andy Grammer, and "Ghost" by Ella Henderson.

    Related: Pump Up Your Run with Music

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    DO Fuel Up

    While short runs might not require much extra sustenance, a quick bite (Galloway recommends a 100-calorie snack) half an hour before your after-work run can make a huge difference in the amount of pep in your step. "Grab something easy to digest, like a banana or small granola bar, and keep the portion small," Underhill suggests, so your body won't need to focus too much energy on digestion. Within 30 minutes post-run, aim to refuel with a mix of carbohydrates and protein at a 3:1 ratio—look for a mini meal with about 200 calories, 30 grams of carbs, and 15 grams of protein. (A cup of low-fat Greek yogurt with berries or a slice of whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of nut butter will do the trick.) "Everyone tolerates pre- and post-run fueling differently, so it might take some trial and error to figure out what works best for your stomach," Underhill adds.

    Related: The Top 7 Foods for Runners

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    DON'T Forget About Other Workouts

    While it's crucial to run to become a better runner, you can't abandon all other activities. "Running-specific strength routines give your body a break and build up supportive muscles," Underhill says. Mix routines like those below with non-impact cardio exercises such as indoor cycling and swimming on your non-running days for better balance.