Running is known as one of the best cardiovascular exercises to burn calories, lose and maintain weight, and improve overall health, and the benefits outweigh the physical challenges that beginners may face when starting a running routine.
Chicagoland native Shameka Jones' dream of being in shape and able to run started at a young age. She continued to hold on to that dream as she got older, but didn't think it was possible because of her obesity. But she hung on to her dream.
"I've held onto that image throughout my fitness journey, which is what inspired me to strive toward being able to run. I stay motivated by thinking about where I was and how far I've come," says Jones. "I couldn't bend down to tie my shoes without having to hold my breath. I couldn't walk a block without getting winded. To climb a flight of stairs was so difficult and would often leave me with a stiff back and upset my arthritic knees. When I think about this, it makes me push forward because I don't ever want to experience that kind of living [again]. Now, I can jump up and down, I can skip and I can run."
Jones thinks that women can be intimidated by running because they compare themselves to others. To avoid internal negative dialogue, Jones advises women to stop doubting their own potential based on someone else's fitness level.
"I remember a time when I was on the elliptical and there was a girl going hard on the treadmill. I thought to myself, 'I want to run nonstop like that. Yeah! But can I really do that, and how long will it take me?' This definitely made me question whether I could get to that point, so I was hesitant at first, because I didn't think my body could carry the weight and pounding that running causes."
Determined to learn how to run, Jones sought help from personal trainer Rick Applewhite, who put together a progressive exercise regimen that took her from the elliptical machine to the treadmill. She started on the treadmill, walking at first, and then advanced to interval training, where she alternated between walking and running.
"Then I graduated to a five-minute run as a warm-up. I could hardly believe it. On days that I wasn't with my personal trainer, I utilized a running program that would keep me on track toward running for longer periods of time. I can now run 20 minutes straight at a moderate speed."
Jones enjoys the feeling she gets after running and says the endorphins that are released give her an awesome sense of clarity and strength. By incorporating running into her fitness regimen, Jones has noticed that her endurance has increased tremendously. Running has also helped her manage her stress levels and lose weight over time.
"Even in the times when I've experienced weight fluctuations, running helps keep my fitness level and metabolism going so that I don't experience significant weight gains. Since I've started running, my flexibility has increased. I've also had more weight loss within a shorter span of time, and I feel more balanced. Overall, I feel great!"
Jones encourages women who want to run but have never tried it to set their goals and put a plan in place to accomplish them.
"Share these goals with someone that you trust, because this will hold you accountable. Also, if you need help getting started, encourage some of your friends to get involved and hit the track together," says Jones. "Lastly, just start and let everything else fall into place. It's just a matter of time before you reach your goals!"
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