How to start running

How to start running

Getting started with exercise can be very challenging. We know that keeping up with an active lifestyle is crucial to long-term well-being, but so many people never start because they don’t know how! Running is one of my favorite ways to stay in shape. Here are five things to consider when starting to run.

1. Start slow. Don’t risk injuring yourself by increasing the intensity too quickly. You put yourself at risk for muscle strains, tendonitis, and stress fractures, just to name a few common injuries. If you are unsure as to how you should progress, consider walking or running for a certain length of time rather than a pre-determined distance. This sometimes helps to keep you from trying to set any land-speed records and over-training.

2. Include strength training. Whether you are a casual or competitive runner, weight lifting is key to remaining injury/pain free. Many common running injuries could have been prevented by performing simple stretches or strengthening exercises done 2-3 times per week. Weight lifting has also been shown to improve running performance. This means that you might finally get that PR (personal-record)!

3.Check your shoes. I typically recommend that runners replace their shoes every 300-400 miles or at least twice per year. If you wear your running shoes during the day, then it likely should be even more frequently. This is because the padding in the shoes which become compressed throughout the day, are unable to rebound to their original shape after long-term use. The more compressed the padding, the less the shoe can reduce the pounding being put through your legs and back with each step. 

Side-note: There is some science to show that running barefoot is actually better for shock absorption due to the qualities of muscle tissue in the arch of the foot. However, switching to barefoot running should be done very gradually and carefully, as our foot muscles are not prepared for the increased workload without proper training. This is a result of wearing shoes throughout our entire lives.

4. Keep an eye on what you’re eating. Running requires energy. Energy comes from food. Make sure that you are taking in enough calories to maintain the increased energy requirements from running. That doesn’t mean that you should be eating just anything. Make sure that you are getting enough protein and carbohydrates, as well as drinking more water. General recommendations range anywhere from 4-6 glasses of water each day. Runners need much more than this, as you will sweat out much of the water you drink each day. You are what you eat, so try to keep it lean but don’t be afraid of fat altogether. For example, the fat in peanut butter is called Mono-unsaturated fat and is actually necessary for life, as are omega fatty-acids which can be found in fish or chia seeds.

5. Consult your family doctor if you have heart conditions or any other life-threatening ailments, to make sure that running is healthy for you. However, just because you can’t run, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t exercise. In some cases, exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist for a few weeks would be a great way to transition into a regular exercise program!

I hope this helps and that you get started on your path to healthy living!

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Dr. Cameron Dennis, PT, DPT

IG: @scdennisdpt