The holidays are over, you've packed on a few pounds and now you're ready to get rid of them. But why stop there? Start a running routine, set some goals and you'll be racing toward a healthier lifestyle in no time flat.

The holidays are over, you've packed on a few pounds and now you're ready to get rid of them. But why stop there? Start a running routine, set some goals and you'll be racing toward a healthier lifestyle in no time flat.

Getting started by yourself

If you're new to running, Bonnie Havens, president of Southern Oregon Runners in Medford, recommends checking with your doctor first. If your physician says it's OK, go to an athletic store and buy a good pair of running shoes. A running outfit — something that is comfortable and wicks moisture — is also beneficial. Ladies need to invest in a high-quality running bra.

Once you're equipped, it's time to hit the road — but slowly. Set aside 30 minutes a day three times a week to walk. Then bump the routine up to five days a week. Once you get into the habit of walking and your body gets stronger, you can increase the pace to a jog for part of your 30-minute outing. "I think people find that they feel so good, they want to jog more and walk less," Havens says. She reminds walkers, joggers and runners to stretch before and after workouts.

Getting started with a trainer

Fitness professional Ryan Kridel of Pride Personal Training in Medford suggests investing in a National Academy of Sports Medicine trainer who can help design an individualized resistance training program that focuses on improving posture through a proper flexibility routine and corrective exercise program. "Ensuring that you have a well-balanced body will not only help prevent many common running injuries but also help you reach your personal best times," he says.

A balanced fitness program

Stabilization is the ground-floor phase of training for all athletes, Kridel believes. According to the fitness trainer, balance training can prevent injuries by up to 90 percent as well as increase coordination. "By doing this, you will feel more confident than ever with each stride you take in your running events," he says.

If you can't afford a trainer, Kridel recommends purchasing a foam roller to help elongate overactive muscles and checking out YouTube videos to learn foam-rolling techniques. "This will help with performance and recovery," he says.

A balanced diet

"As far as diet goes, start thinking of food as fuel instead of comfort or fun," Kridel recommends. "I always suggest that my clients stick to whole foods and organic if possible."

Nutrition is often overlooked by most, the fitness trainer contends. "If you want to be a great runner, then you have to eat as if your body is a temple," he believes. "It is worth it to sit down with a fitness professional or a nutritionist to ensure you are getting the most out of your nutrition plan."

Staying motivated

Setting a race to run in as a goal is a good way to stay motivated, Havens believes. Finding a running buddy also helps. But it's important to set attainable goals, she notes. If you just started walking in January, don't sign up for a half-marathon in March. Aim for a 5K instead and realize that, although you start out jogging, you might end up walking over the finish line, which is perfectly acceptable.

Once you get into the routine of running, you might want to do it seven days a week. Havens advises taking a day or two off a week. "Give your body a break," she says.

After you've finished your first race, keep going. "Picking running events during the year is great for goal setting, meeting training partners, motivating and staying accountable," Havens observes.