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Running is a recession-friendly sport.

Many of us take up running for the right reasons—because it’s a fun sport, because it’s universally one of the best cardio workouts out there, because it’s a great way to get in shape and lose a few pounds, and because it can nourish our fun dreams like running the Boston Marathon some day.

Yet some of us still belong in the category of reluctant outsiders. We know all the above reasons, and yet we still find this running thing hard to get used to, even borderline boring, and we look on at obsessive runners with mild disbelief. Are they really that much into it? Maybe. But maybe we need a more banal reason to take up running before we seek the runner’s high nirvana. How about this one?

Running is free.

And fool-proof. And easy (well, at least in theory).

You don’t need equipment. You don’t need a special outfit save good running shoes and an iPod for solo runs. You don’t need much training—since you were little, you knew how to put one foot in front of the other, really fast. You don’t even need a special location—the road is indifferent; it doesn’t discriminate. Okay, maybe only by ability.

But wait. Then it gets harder. You actually need to lace up those sneakers and step outside (or on a treadmill when the thought of stepping out into snow, slush, or rain is less appealing than a dentist appointment).

That is the only real obstacle—closing the door behind you and getting going. Once you begin, it’s not difficult to build momentum and continue jogging for at least five or ten minutes. And if you can work out for at least ten minutes every day, you’ll be leaner and fitter than your former indecisive self in no time.

People usually drop exercise programs because they make them too daunting. I’ll work out five to six days a week for an hour, they say. But without the gradual building of the exercise habit, that statement is a recipe for failure. Anyone, though, can commit to ten minutes.

An average person is able to jog a mile in ten minutes (or soon will with a little practice). And it’s much easier to wrap your mind around that than remember to follow a complicated regimen.

By running a mile in ten minutes, a woman of average weight and height will burn 100 calories, more or less. Not a bad deal for a little bit of time.

If you live within a mile of the gym, why don’t you run over to work out instead of driving or walking? It won’t cost you gas, but maybe you’ll catch the sunset. Use the gym for strength training or your favorite class, and run back home to take a shower. At rush hour at the gym, cardio machines get booked up anyway. The free weights area never does. So use it for that.

Remember, you never have to sign up to use the pavement. Or pay for it, either.

Julia Timakhovich

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