Six Common Beginner Excuses

"I'm out of shape, overweight and I've never run before."

Just like the millions of couch-potatoes-turned-runners before you. "Beginners all say, 'This seems crazy. Can I do it?'" says Bob Glover, co-author of The Runner's Handbook (£9.99, Penguin), who taught his first running course in 1973. "I tell them, 'Yes, anyone can do this. Runners come in all shapes and all ages. You just have to take your time, and stick with the programme.'"

"I'll have to see a doctor first."

Maybe not. The NHS says check-ups are necessary only for people over 45 or who have existing health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or joint problems. Even so, it's a good idea, says Dr Lewis Maharam, medical director of the ING New York City Marathon. "You especially need a check-up if you haven't seen your doctor in a while, and you're just starting to run," says Dr Maharam. "Be sure to discuss your plans. Your GP will pay particular attention to certain things during your check-up, and you might get an extra test if it's warranted."

"It takes too much time!"

We hear you, but consider the pay-offs of just 150 minutes a week of exercise, as recommended by the NHS. With five 30-minute run/walk workouts per week, you can expect a reduced risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer, breast cancer, anxiety and depression.

"I've started before but I never stick with it."

Sports psychologist Ethan Gologor, PhD, points out that we're all quitters, in the sense that we have dropped out of some activity at some time. There's nothing wrong with starting again (and again). Author of Psychodynamic Running: The Complete, Definitive Madman's Guide to Distance Running and the Marathon (£10.99, Gazelle Drake Publishing), Gologor says, "If you miss one or two workouts, that's not the end of the world. Runners shouldn't 'must' themselves to failure with thoughts like, 'I must run every day my plan says to.' You can miss several days and still get back into your routine."

"I'll get hurt and have to stop."

True, runners get occasional muscle and joint aches, but these should go away quickly. When coach Jeff Galloway began teaching beginners in 1974, he was worried about some of the participants. "But everyone finished the class," says Galloway, RW contributor and author of Running: Getting Started (£10, Meyer & Meyer). "You don't get injured if you follow the 'no huffing, no puffing' rule," - running at a speed that doesn't make you breathless.

"I can't afford new running shoes."

A pair of light, good-fitting trainers or walking shoes works fine. "You don't want to wear old trainers that don't even fit," says coach Budd Coates, who has been teaching running for 20 years. "But you don't need to buy new shoes. You're not going to be doing high mileage at first."

This article is a preview of our February 2010 issue, available on the newsstand from January 4. Also in this issue: 21 easy ways to burn fat, an easy-to-follow yoga circuit, stacks of marathon training advice and our Races of the Year 2009 chart as voted for by you on