Because we live in South Florida, we’re fortunate to have good weather nearly year-round. Still, there’s something about the longer days that’s definitely energizing. We’re more active, ready to push our bodies beyond what we’ve asked of them in the past. One of the activities that many people are turning to is running. It’s free (except for the cost of shoes), and can be done anywhere, at any time. Plus, your concierge family practice physicians at MD 2.0 in Jupiter, Florida, absolutely encourage incorporating this into your healthy lifestyle.
But to avoid injury and get the most out of your run, we recommend against jumping right in without some preparation.
Therefore — here are some tips to get you started.
Get Checked Out First
We know you’ve heard it thousands of times before, but in this case it’s important: “Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.” Running is good for you, but it can also lead to substantial injuries.
We can help you decide how much testing you should have before you slip on your running shoes, but some factors we’ll consider include: how active you’ve been in the past; whether you have bone or joint issues like arthritis or tendonitis; whether you have a family history of heart disease, or whether your current health or lifestyle (e.g., smoking) puts you at risk for problems if you run.
Start With The Right Shoes
Because this is likely the only investment you’ll have to make, it’s worth it to spend the money on the right shoes. Wearing the wrong kind can not only cause unnecessary pain and discourage you from pursuing your running habit, but can also result in injury.
Visit a store specifically catering to runners to have your foot type and running style evaluated, then buy the best shoe you can afford. And be sure to replace them often because shoes wear out just as tires on a car do.
Ease Into Your Routine
You should be able to carry on a conversation while you’re running. If you can’t, you’re pushing it. Be patient with yourself. Your body isn’t used to the demands you’re going to be putting on it, so don’t get mad at it for not responding instantly—and painlessly—to what you’re asking of it.
Warm up, cool down, run slower than you think you can at first, and not as far as you want to. Alternate running with walking. No one is keeping track of how much you do, so take it slowly. Even if you think you’re in fairly good shape from other physical activities such as tennis or swimming, you’ll be using a whole different set of muscles and putting stress on parts of the body—joints, muscles, bones, ligaments—that are not used to running.
Listen To Your Body
There will be the typical aches and pains associated with unfamiliar activity, and then there are the warning signs. The old dictum of “push past the pain” is dangerous, especially when it comes to running. Just don’t.
If your pain continues or worsens while you’re running, you notice swelling with the pain, or if the pain doesn’t subside within a day or so afterward, stop running and see us for an evaluation. If you experience chest pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, unusual shortness of breath, or nausea and cold sweats while exercising, stop immediately and get help. These could be signs of a heart attack.
And don’t think about how much longer or faster your buddy can run. Remember, you’re still a beginner; you’ll get there.
Schedule Rest Days
As anyone doing weight training will tell you, you need to schedule at least one or two days off per week to allow micro-injuries in your body to repair themselves, even if you’re an experienced runner. This helps avoid shin splints and stress fractures. You also need to allow your muscles to assimilate the new lessons you’re teaching them.
Humans have been running since we began walking upright. The benefits include improved cardiovascular health, stronger bones, better balance, increased longevity, improved mental health, and increased resistance to a host of diseases. Just don’t expect to go from sedentary to marathon runner in a matter of weeks. And be sure to consult us with any questions you may have about this rewarding activity.