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o-rah and Semper Fidelis from Semper Fitness. It's a New Year and a new millennium. I'm sure many of you have made those New Years resolutions and have pledged that you will get yourselves in shape. Well, here at Semper Fitness, we want to help you achieve that goal. In order to assist you in your quest for that physical satisfaction you crave, the series following this article will take you step by step in the process of getting started. We will start with the art of motivating yourself and discuss many aspects of the process, to include times to workout, foods to eat, and the best ways to balance your anaerobic and aerobic workouts. However, before we begin the series, I would like to start the new millennium by helping out a few of our readers that requested my help. Several readers e-mailed us and asked us to help them with running. Being the type of individual that disliked running in the beginning, I can understand their plight. So let's begin.

In the beginning, I couldn't stand running. Before recruit training, I had never run a day of long distance in my life. I was a true and bonifide sprinter. Obviously, when I went to Parris Island that first mile and a half was a rude awakening to me. Pretty soon, like many recruits, I was put through the rigors of running and left "the island" running a 21:38. Not the best in the world, however, not too shabby either. After recruit training and my initial school, my run time lapsed to around 23 minutes. I absolutely hated running. My physical fitness test (PFT) score started dropping. Being the type of Marine that hated people thinking I was weaker (like most of us), I decided to start doing some research on this running thing. I figured there had to be a better way to do this. What I found out during those next few years of research changed my life and allowed me to run a personal best of 18:20 on the run for my PFT. I found that I was doing everything wrong and I do mean everything. So I am going to share with you the results and techniques I learned. I still am not the fondest person of running, however, I am a better runner and that makes all the difference in the new "no kip, crunch" Marine Corps.

Tip number one:
Start with the right equipment. This is very important. Many people don't think that the shoes you wear are important. I'm here to tell you that they are imperative. Invest in a good pair of running shoes. Look for comfort and support. Next, select your socks wisely. Choose socks that fit properly. Socks that don't fit may bunch up causing blisters or stretch out ruining the moisture wicking fibers. Double layered or extra-padded socks prevent blistering, while synthetic fibers and natural fibers keep your feet cool and dry. If you don't have problems with blisters, go thin.

Tip number two:
Fuel your body for the run. The night before you go on a run drink at least a quart of water that night. The body runs less efficiently when it's not hydrated. Eat high complex carbohydrates the night before (rice, pasta). This helps you sustain a good energy level through the night and for that run in the morning. Try to stay away from things that will dehydrate you the night before. Things like coffee, sodas, alcohol, diet pills that contain the previous, ephedrine (or its herbal equivalent ma huang or ephedra). These substances suck water from the body and increase sweating, making you lose water faster. This will in turn cause you to have to replenish that lost water.

Tip number three:
Stretch, stretch and stretch some more. Ensure that you stretch your muscles out before and after you run. Stretch you calves, thighs, hamstrings and lower back before and after you running. The fastest way to get an injury from any type of running is by not stretching the muscles out. Also, stretching helps prevent shinsplints which result mainly from tight calf muscles.

Tip number four:
Work on your form. Many people ruin their run times due to problems with form. First, keep your head up. Try not to look down at the ground when you run. It throws you off balance. Next, don't swing your arms across your chest when you run. This not only slows your forward momentum, it messes up the rest of your form and increases your risk of injury. A suggestion from Runner's World adviser Rick Braver, D.P.M, a podiatrist, suggests this drill to help with this mistake. Find two batons or cut two 1 foot long section from a broomstick or wooden stick. Hold one baton in each hand. First, swing your arms while running in place. Then carry the batons when you run. If you revert to your former bad habits, you'll definitely know.

Further, when you run keep your back straight and try running heel to toe. Some sources say breath through your nose, while others say take in as much oxygen as you can any way you can. I agree with the latter. If breathing through your mouth helps you get more oxygen into your lungs, by all means do so.

Last and final tip:
Stretch, stretch and stretch some more. I cannot stress this enough. Make sure that you stretch before and after your run. If possible, get someone to massage out the tightness in your lower back. The difference will be amazing.

These tips may not make your love running, however, they will make you a better runner and hopefully, that will make you like running a little more. That's the scoop this week from Semper Fitness. Join us the next couple of issues, where we'll tell you how to get started on your quest for physical fitness. Have a great year. Stay pumped, stay motivated and OO-RAH!

Semper Fidelis!

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