If you already lead an active lifestyle, you’re ahead of the curve. You already know how awesome it feels to exercise each day, get enough sleep, drink enough water, and eat nutritiously and wholesomely, more often than not. Chances are you’re already familiar with all the benefits — physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, just about everything — that regular daily exercise can incur to a person and his/her health. Congratulations! You are kicking butt and taking names already.

Eventually, though, you may find that you want to switch things up a bit and begin to try something new. Switching up “types” of exercise periodically can do a number for your health — both by working different muscles, differently, and to help prevent injury and/or mental burnout — and if you’re looking to try something new, allow me to suggest a sport that’s arguably as old as humanity as we know it: running.

The nice thing about running is that it’s really versatile and accessible. Provided you a) have the interest in doing it and b) a safe place to go, that’s just about all you need. You have a ton of variety in the exact type of running you can do — short stuff, long stuff, laps around a neighborhood track, treadmill miles, or miles over and through mountains and hilly landscapes — and therein lies the beauty of our sport. There really is something for everyone.

Below, I’ll describe some tips that will help guide you in making running part of your active lifestyle. I’ve been a runner since childhood, and while I train for the longer stuff (marathons), I’m a huge proponent in people finding the exact type of running and training that works best for them and their lives and schedule constraints.

Some tips to help you make running part of your active lifestyle include the following:

Identify your goals. Before you jump head-first into a training plan, it’ll be helpful for you to first decide what your goals are for your running. Do you want to go as fast as you possibly can? Or are you more interested in being able to cover super far distances? Maybe a combination of the two? Knowing your goals will help you decide your next steps: both literally and figuratively.

Work with a coach. If you’re completely new to running, it’s obvious but worth mentioning that you don’t know what you don’t know. With this sentiment in mind, it’d probably behoove you to work with a coach to ensure that you’re running and training in a way that is both sensible and safe. Many times runners injure themselves pretty badly — alas, most runners have been injured at least once during their running life — and lots of injuries stem from doing too much, too fast, too soon. In other words, runners unnecessarily do themselves a huge disservice and get injured because they run too many miles before their bodies are capable of absorbing the shock, at much faster paces than what they should be doing, and far, far too early in their training program. Having a coach working alongside you, guiding your training, will help ensure that you are training in a way that won’t be deleterious to your health.

Sign up for races if you’d like. Depending on your goals and your coach’s input, it may make sense for you to sign-up for some local races. Having a race on the calendar can be great for accountability and motivation each day, and it can be the benchmark around which you tailor your training each training block. As an added bonus, signing up for races — and then doing them — is a great way to meet other people who are similarly-minded and who may have similar health and fitness goals. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your new best friend or your next training partner at the next race you do! Allow yourself be open to this exciting opportunity.

Be creative and flexible with your running. Sometimes running can be a tough obligation to balance alongside everything else we have going on in our lives. Remember, though, that running is something you get to do, not something you have to do, in your life. Unless you’re a professional athlete, no one is paying you to run; it’s supposed to be fun! Maybe some days you won’t be able to hit your favorite trail after work; instead, consider run-commuting to work from home, or from work to home, that day. Perhaps you can’t do a long lunchtime run, but you have thirty minutes to hammer out a hard speed session. Go for it! Take the challenges as they arise, and remember that running is extremely versatile and flexible. Take advantage of this great characteristic.

Join a training group, running club, and/or Strava. Finally, runners absolutely love to talk running with other runners. Surround yourself with like-minded people — and possibly people who may be your next training partner(s) — by registering yourself with a local training group or running club. If you’re not already, hop on Strava, a social media platform for athletes, primarily cyclists and runners, and connect with other local athletes. By surrounding yourself with people who share the same virtues and interests as you, you’ll likely find that the motivation to get out there each day and pursue your goals is rather abundant. As a bonus, your patient and loving family members won’t have to hear your never-ending banter about running any longer. 🙂

Running easily fits in with an active lifestyle, and fortunately, how you’d like your running to look largely depends on you and your goals. Once you’ve identified what you’d like to achieve from your running, you’ll be able to go to great lengths to pursue these goals (and hopefully, under the careful and deliberate watch of a well-qualified running coach). Running’s a great activity for a healthy lifestyle, regardless if you’re 8 years old or 80 years old, too. What type of running you want to do — and how, exactly, you’d like to do it — is up to you, and therein lies the excitement and thrill.

May your miles be merry this year!