Even if you’ve never run before, you’d think running would feel somewhat natural, right? You put one foot in front of another, you just do it a lot faster than walking. But I find I feel a little awkward right now. I have all these thoughts going through my head: Is this how I'm supposed to breathe, these short bursts of air coming from my chest? Why am I clenching my fists? Is it okay if I keep watching the ground? Does the size of my stride matter at all?

So I did a little research and found there is a right and wrong way to run. Let’s get in the habit of using good form now so we don’t have to break any bad habits later or cause any injuries that will derail us from our goal!

One helpful article is at http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=823

I recommend reading the entire thing - maybe even reread it at the start of each week because there's a lot to pick up on and you might not recall it all at once.

But right away, I found at least four things I’ve been doing wrong that I’ll be focusing on my very next run:

* Focus your gaze approximately 30-40 yards in front of you. Looking down when running can lead to greater strain on the neck muscles and spine and lead to fatigue.

* Lightly cup your hand as through you were holding an egg or a delicate butterfly. Don't make a tight, clenching fist or keep your hands too loose that they become floppy.

* Most runners find that mouth breathing provides the body with the greatest amount of oxygen. Make sure your breathing is relaxed and deep. It may take conscious effort in the beginning, but deep abdominal or "belly" breathing is ideal for running. Most of the time, we breath quickly and shallowly into our chests, but that's inefficient—and even stressful—when exercising.

* A common mistake for new runners is overstriding. When you extend your lead foot too far out in front of the body, it lands in front of your center of gravity creating a breaking effect and leading to runner's knee and shin splints. Also, make sure your strides are not too short and choppy so that you appear to bounce; this is just as inefficient. Far better to understride than to overstride, but find a stride length that is comfortable, almost effortless.

I'm sure I'm doing more than that wrong, but I'll work on these Saturday, then pick out another couple of things to focus on Monday. Hopefully by the end of next week, running will feel a lot more natural and comfortable.

Make a mental note of what you change in the coming week. I'm going to ask you about it!

- Paula