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Determan: Running enjoyable when done right

This past weekend’s “Run or Dye” at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds is a great example of running for one’s own enjoyment. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

Growing up, I never really saw the point in running when the only goal was to cross a finish line. I preferred running to the basket, or running to an open spot on the field to catch a pass, but the thought of simply running never seemed appealing.

That is, until about two years ago, when events like last weekend's "Run or Dye" 5k or the upcoming "81 on 81" provided me with fun events that also gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Now simply running, while challenging, is something I greatly enjoy, and if you are looking for a way to get a bit healthier, it may be something you can enjoy as well.

If this is the case, however, there are things you must remember to avoid injury and get the most out of your running experience.

The right shoes make all the difference

Whether you believe in the old adage "you get what you pay for" or not, that is absolutely the case when it comes to running shoes, the most important purchase a runner will make.

A decent, $70 pair of shoes should last you at least 400 miles of running.

Make absolutely certain your shoes not only fit properly, but are comfortable as well. If your knees, shins or feet hurt, consider picking up special inserts.

Know when to stretch

According to Runner's World, stretching cold muscles may actually do more harm than good. Consider lightly jogging for a few minutes before stopping and stretching. Another viable option is waiting until after your run to stretch.

Mix up your route

My street is a 3/4-mile loop, so I thought simply running a few laps on that street would make for solid run. However, every time I ran by my home, my brain would say "why don't we just stop now? We're right here!"

It is far too easy to lose interest in running if an "out" is provided. If you are anything like me, avoid situations like this. Take a different route where you will not reach a potential stopping point every 10 minutes. Either find a bigger loop or go on a "run here, then run back" route.

Keep it loose

It is imperative that you keep your body relaxed while you are running. If your neck and shoulders hurt while you are running, you are, most likely, too tense. Keep your head up and your back straight. Your hands should be by your waist (do NOT clench a tight fist) and your arms bent at a 90-degree angle.

Cool down properly

The worst thing you can do at the end of your run is immediately stop moving altogether.

When finished, don't just plop on the couch. You should remain standing and moving for at least 10 minutes after your workout, even if you're simply pacing in front of the TV during "Wheel of Fortune."

During a workout, your blood is circulating and your heart rate is high. Immediately sitting down after a run can lead to your heart rate dropping too quickly and your blood "pooling" in your legs, which can lead to feeling light-headed.

Keep cool

It is easy to feel overheated during a summertime run. There is an easy way to avoid this: don't run during the warmest part of the day. Wake up an hour early and go for a morning run. If you, like me, are not a morning person, save your run until the evening.

Another way to keep cool is lower your body temperature a bit before heading out the door. Drink something cold. Sit in an air-conditioned room for a while. Your core temperature will not rise as quickly if you cool it down first.

Rest when necessary

This seems fairly obvious, but be careful not to overdo it. If something really hurts, take the day off. That's a lot better than taking a month off due to injury.

Most importantly, set your goals within reach and build up to something better. If you not in the best shape (and we have all been there), it probably isn't realistic to run a non-stop 10k in your first outing. It is important to go at a pace that you find enjoyable and manageable.

By keeping these things in mind, you, like me, can become a competent runner that actually finds it fun.