By: Grace Derocha, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Running is one of the simplest and most popular forms of exercise. It doesn’t require expensive equipment or a gym membership to start. It’s a full-body workout that can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and help manage weight. Here are eight tips on how to safely start a running program:
- Be realistic with goals: Running is an activity that can be tailored to each person’s skill set. Beginners should start slow and gradually increase speed and distance over time. Doing too much too soon can lead to unexpected injuries as well as physical and mental burnout. Avoid overly ambitious goals and take a realistic approach.
- Have a proper warmup and cooldown: Before each run, start with a light activity that will raise the heart rate and loosen the muscles. This includes stretching or specific drills to prepare and relax the body. Implementing a warmup and cooldown is one of the easiest ways to avoid injury.
- Keep breathing: For a slow, steady pace run, inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. For a faster pace, such as high-intensity interval training, breathe in and out of the mouth to allow more oxygen to enter the body. Both techniques require the runner to be fully aware and in control of their breath.
- Practice your posture: Watch your form when running. It’s important to stand upright while looking forward. Keep the core engaged and the chest lifted. Also, avoid hitting the ground with the heel of the foot. Try landing evenly with a forefoot or midfoot step.
- Rest and cross-train: Most running injuries are due to repetitive motion that strains the muscle. The most common are shin splints, stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis. Reduce the risk of injury by cross-training and having adequate rest days for recovery.
- Strengthen muscles: Runners who also engage in resistance training are less prone to injury. It builds muscle and strengthens bone, which helps to support the body through each run. Some effective muscle-building exercises include lunges, squats and deadlifts.
- Take necessary safety precautions: It’s crucial to adhere to any public safety guidelines established by local and national leadership. In light of COVID-19, outdoor runners should avoid heavily populated areas. If that’s not possible, practice social distancing by staying a minimum of six feet away from others. If a runner is wearing a mask, it should provide effective coverage without compromising their breath.
- Wear the right shoes: It’s critical to wear shoes that are comfortable and provide adequate support. They should be a half-size larger than normal, with ample room for toes and a snug fit around the heel. The sole should be tailored to the arch of the foot (i.e. flat, neutral or high), which may require motion control, extra stability or cushion.
Grace Derocha is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.
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