Ready, Set, Run!
It may not be as trendy as Pilates or power yoga, but running is still a great aerobic
workout to burn fat and reduce stress. Experts have long linked many health benefits
to running. It helps increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol; helps with weight loss; builds
strong bones; improves balance and coordination; lowers your risk for heart disease
and diabetes; and helps improve sleep.
Nearly anyone can run, at any age, and many people make it a lifetime habit.
Most people can ease into a running program on their own. However, If you are a smoker, have
a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or problems
with your hips, legs or feet, it’s wise to check with a health care provider first.
Getting your health care provider’s OK is also a good idea if you are older than 40,
especially if you have not exercised for a while. If you are obese, you may want to
try a less demanding type of exercise first, like walking or swimming, because running
puts extra stress on your muscles and joints.
If you are ready to try running, it’s best to start slowly and not push your body
too hard. Be patient, and remember that it may take a while to get into shape and
achieve the performance level of experienced runners. Everyone is different, and your
progress will depend on your fitness level and energy.
Before getting started, you’ll want to buy a good pair of athletic shoes to help you
cover ground comfortably and avoid injury. Shoes don’t have to be expensive, but they
should have a flexible sole, solid heel support, and good shock absorption. Replace
your shoes every 300 miles to 500 miles. Just like tires on your car, shoes will wear
Stay on track
Warm up before you run, by walking for a short period first. If you are a beginning
runner, try walking and gradually add some jogging to your routine. If you can comfortably
talk while running, you are running at a good beginner’s pace.
Choose a safe running area, preferably flat, soft ground instead of concrete. To help
prevent injuries, avoid running too far or too fast too soon. Even with slow, easy
exercise, it is normal to have small aches and pains at first. These will quiet down
as your muscles get stronger. You can treat most minor injuries with rest and ice.
See your health care provider if you have pain that does not quiet down within a reasonable
amount of time. You may also want to take rest days to help your body fully recover
from the impact of running.
The most common running injuries affect the knees and feet and result from overusing
muscles. Athletes often use the term “runner’s knee” to describe a variety of knee
injuries that overuse, poor stretching habits, or muscle imbalance can cause. It’s
important to listen to your body. If running results in pain or discomfort, try changing
your running habits or stop and rest for several days. See your health care provider
if the pain lasts.
Although running burns calories and improves endurance and cardiovascular fitness,
it is not as good at improving flexibility and strength. For these benefits, add other
types of exercise into your routine like swimming, bicycling, and lifting weights.
A combination of activities will improve your overall fitness and reduce your risk
Running is a year-round activity. It is convenient and enjoyable, and it can get you
moving, outdoors or indoors.