It's one of the most popular forms of exercise so start the right way. New runner Diana Clement passes on her tips.

Part 1 of a 3-part series

Every year thousands of Kiwis don running shoes for the first time in years and hit the road training. Pavement pounding helps tone your physique, de-stresses you, and gives you new goals in life. But it should be approached with care at first, unless you plan to boost your local physio's business.

First up, you need to visit your doctor to make sure you're up to the job, and then buy some decent shoes. These come in a mind-numbing array of choices, and specialist sports shoe shops will give good jargon-debunking advice and often offer money back on shoes if you've made the wrong choice.

It's not essential to buy high tech clothing to get started, but you might need a sports bra if you're a woman.

Once you've got the gear, it's time to get started. That probably means walking or a mixture of walking and running. Get yourself a training schedule from your local gym, or download one from the internet. The Couch to 5k Running Plan on alternates 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes. They also have 10km, half-marathon, and marathon training programmes on the same website as well as a New Runners section.

If running really isn't your thing, then you can get fit by other means. Both ACC and Sparc have websites which offer training plans for walking, cycling and running. Vary your routes: try checking out parts of Auckland you don't know. Our steep volcanic cones and parks such as One Tree Hill and the Waitakere Ranges add interest and avoid repetitiveness.

For route ideas check out or

If you're still procrastinating after reading this, then get yourself a buddy or join a local social running group at your gym, YMCA, marathon clinic, or a club such as the Auckland Joggers Club. You can even find buddies online at Whatever you do, warm up, cool down and don't overdo it. No matter how tempting it is, don't go beyond what your training schedule suggests.

Training tips
* Buy specialist running shoes to avoid injury.

* Get yourself a running buddy for motivation.

* Have a written training schedule so you don't over - or under-do it.

* Drink plenty of water.

* Always warm up and stretch before and after a run.

Next week
Gathering pace - how to improve your distance and speed.