Start Running Slow, Stay Well

Text from “Runner’s World Guide To Injury Prevention” book, from Dagny Scott Barrios.

Spring is around the corner and to get in shape, you thought of running.  Good idea.  But to make sure you don’t end up with a running injury, please follow these advices from the “Runner’s World Guide To Injury Prevention” book.

The hardest part about running is starting.  Your body isn’t used to the motion, the stresses, the pounding.  It all feels strange and uncomfortable.  It does get easier with time, but your first weeks and months as a runner are critical because your unconditioned body is more susceptible to injury.  That means you must start gradually and build you training incrementally.  You also need to supplement your running with other strength and cardiovascular activities until your fit enough to handle more running.

Beginners typically run too hard, too fast, and too long on their first few attempts.  To top it off, they wear the wrong shoes, ones that give them little support and not enough cushioning.  The experience tends to be not only extremely uncomfortable but also a terrific way to get injured.  Pain should never be part of the normal running experience.  Sure, discomfort is to be expected as your body adjusts and your muscles get stronger.  But agony shouldn’t be a given in running.  Here’s a plan for running healthy and injury-free.

Get the right shoes for your body type

If you are in the wrong shoes, everything from your feet up to your knees, hips and back could wind up hurting.  Your feet, as the point of impact with the ground, are the most critical link in this series of connections that your body comprises.  That means that foot problems that are not addressed can end up hurting higher up in the chain.  So don’t go for your first run in any old tennis shoes you have moldering in the closed.  Shop at a running speciality store – one that’s staffed by runners for runners.  These stores stake their livelihood on the fact that their staff can help you match the right shoe with your unique foot and stride.

Walk and run when you first get started

The best way to slowly indoctrinate your body to running is to alternate periods of walking and jogging.  These intervals can start out very short for people who have not been doing any regular exercise: jogging for 15 to 20 seconds and then walking an equal period of time.  If you’re more fit aerobically, alternate 1 minute of jogging with 1 minute of walking for your starting point.

After several days of this, lengthen the intervals.  If you’ve been alternating periods of 20 seconds, increase those to 30 seconds, then after a few more days to 45 seconds.  Eventually, when you have increased to 2 minutes of jogging, you can shorten your waking breaks so that you are running more than your are walking.  When you get up to 5 minutes of jogging, you can start to phase out the walking altogether.  Do longer stretches of jogging with just a brief walking break.  Your overall goal as a beginner should be eventually jog for 30 minutes straight without walking, taking anywhere from a few days to a few months to achieve.  Don’t rush; it’s better to progress gradually than to have to stop after a few days or weeks.

Run slower than you think you should

Speed comes with time and conditioning.  Only after you can comfortably jog for about half an hour you should even think about your speed and pace.  For beginner, completion is the goal, not minutes per kilometer.

Don’t run every day

Rest days are crucial for repair and rejuvenation of all parts of your body.  Beginners should aim to run 3 or 4 days a week. Or alternate 2 days of running/walking with a rest day.  However, while you shouldn’t run every day as a beginner, you can and should do other exercise (swimming, biking, lifting weights, elliptical trainer, etc) that complements running.  This will help you to get in shape, build muscles that running doesn’t emphasize, and minimize the chances of injury.

Have a good end of winter and pain free runs!