People of almost any age can run for exercise. It can be done virtually anywhere at minimal cost, and you do not have to be an athletic superstar to participate. Nevertheless, there are some basic guidelines you should know to help keep your running program productive, safe, and injury-free.
Your running shoes do not have to be the newest, fanciest, or most expensive. But they should fit properly and comfortably, be well cushioned, and give your feet proper support. If you run on trails, you will want to buy shoes for trail running to grip the terrain and protect your feet.
Find a local running store that does gait analysis to help you select your shoes. You will be asked to try on different running shoes. The sales person will watch how you run in different shoes to determine which ones will provide the best support for your running style.
Expect to replace your shoes every 3-6 months or 350-500 miles (563-805 kilometers). By that point, the shock absorbing ability of the shoe will have lessened. If your legs begin to get sore, they may be a sign it is time to replace your sneakers.
Though often overlooked, safety concerns should be a part of your running routine on the road or on the trails. All runners should follow these basic safety rules:
Running injuries tend to be nagging rather than severe, but they still require attention. The best approach is to avoid them. Common runner injuries can be avoided by taking simple steps.
No matter how careful you are, you are likely to suffer a running-related injury. Generally, running injuries can be divided into four levels:
In most instances, running-related injuries begin as a level one or two injury and progress to level three or four if not treated. The key is to treat the injury quickly and properly.
Immediately ice any area that is painful or tight from running. Apply ice wrapped in a towel for 15-20 minutes. Ice as many times as possible each day until the symptoms improve. It is important to rest your injury . Failing to rest a low-level injury can make it worse. In general:
Use anti-inflammatory medications to control inflammation, not pain. Masking pain so that you can continue to exercise after an injury will lead to a more severe injury. If a level three injury does not get better after a week of proper treatment, consult with a sports medicine specialist. Level four injuries require immediate medical attention.
Come back slowly from an injury. Recognize that it will take at least as long as the time you took off due to the injury to work back to the training level you were at prior to the injury.
Unless you have access to an indoor track or live in a mild climate, you will have to deal with extremes of heat and/or cold. However, if you take the proper precautions, neither temperature extreme should slow down your running.
Running in extreme heat poses the danger of heat exhaustion, which is severe dehydration. It can also cause heat stroke, which is a failure of the body to regulate heat level. This can cause damage to your organs. To avoid heat-related injury from running, take the following steps:
Running in cold, wintry weather can lead to injury from slips and falls, strains or pulls due to cold muscles, and frostbite. To avoid these injuries, take the following precautions:
Finally, as with any training regimen, it is best to get a check-up with your doctor before you begin.
American Council on Exercise
American Society of Exercise Physiologists
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations for Endurance Athletes.
Am Fam Physician. 2000;73(3): 547.
Cold weather running tips. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: http://www.rrca.org/education-advocacy/cold-weather-running-tips/. Accessed November 13, 2013.
Hot weather running tips. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: http://www.rrca.org/education-advocacy/hot-weather-running-tips/. Accessed November 13, 2013.
Know when to replace athletic shoes. Michigan State University website. Available at: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/know_when_to_replace_athletic_shoes. Accessed November 13, 2013.
Running. Georgia State University website. Available at:
Accessed November 13, 2013.
Last reviewed November 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
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