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How to make 2014 your best running year

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A New Year offers an opportunity to set new goals and start fresh. For many people, it is a time to make running goals and forge success in the sport.

Running offers many benefits. As an aerobic exercise, it helps to improve heart health. It gets your heart pumping, which helps to improve your cardiovascular system. Running also offers a great way to lose weight, boost confidence and prevent depression.

There are several factors that can improve your success at running.

The right equipment
Running is an exercise that does not require a great deal of equipment or monetary investment. With a good pair of running shoes and comfortable running attire, you can get ready to hit the road and run.

To find the right pair of running shoes, visit a physical therapist or a local running store for a gait analysis. The professional will have you run on a treadmill to determine how your foot strikes the ground. Based on this and your running history, they will provide a recommendation for the right shoe for you. Having the right running shoes will ensure that you don't get injured and are able to support your body appropriately.

In addition, make sure you are wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing on your runs. This will ensure that your body has the freedom to move during your workout. If you live in a cold-weather climate, wear layers to keep yourself warm as you run.

Solid, reasonable goals
If you are a new runner, set reasonable goals to ensure your success. For instance, gradually build it into your daily schedule. Start with 10 or 15 minutes a day, and slowly build up to 30 minutes. Alternating between running and walking offers a good way to build up your physical fitness without causing injury.

Many people set resolutions to run their first marathon or other race in the New Year. If this is the case, make sure you build up a base. A base will ensure that your body is physically able to tackle the miles that are required when you start a training plan. A good base, for instance, would be the ability to run four days a week for at least three miles each time. In building your base, make sure you are not increasing your weekly mileage or your longest run by more than 10 percent. This will ensure that you aren't causing injury to yourself.

Because of the time that it takes to build up a base, consider training for a 10k or a half marathon before tackling a marathon.

Proper nutrition
Jennifer Fisher, blogger at TheFitFork, notes that it is important to also pay attention to your nutrition.

"After intense training runs, make sure that you’re consuming adequate protein within 30 minutes to build back up muscle cells," states Fisher. "There’s no point in doing all that hard work if you’re going to starve your muscles – it’s not about being skinny, but being strong!"

Chrissy Carroll, owner and Registered Dietician at Inspired Wellness Solutions, echoes Fisher's advice.

"Proper everyday eating helps you maintain a healthy weight, and weight is just one factor that influences speed on the course," said Carroll. "If you're running for more than an hour straight, you'll want to take in carbohydrate during your run. Not only does this help provide energy during the run, but it also has been shown to keep your immune system working strongly so you avoid getting sick during training!"

Effective resources
To be the most successful at running, surround yourself with people who support and encourage your passion. Find a local running group to network with local runners.

In addition, there is an extensive network of fitness enthusiasts online. FitFluential, for instance, offers a way to connect with these enthusiasts through their blogs and social networks, while providing access to events and exclusive discounts on fitness gear.

In addition, tracking your runs through a program like DailyMile can serve as a further incentive to keep going. It also offers a way to connect with other runners online. Using online tools offers a way to keep your motivation and support your goal to make 2014 your best running year.

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