For many people looking to start a running routine, springtime is go time. It’s not uncommon to feel discouraged when starting a new fitness regime, but with perseverance and a few guidelines, running is a rewarding way to keep your body healthy.
Step 1: Get your gear
You don’t need much to start running, but a good pair of shoes will take you a long way and help prevent common injuries. Take a look at the soles of shoes you wear often to see where they are most worn; this will tell you where your weight is focused when you walk. Different pairs of shoes are best for different foot types, so research what matches with yours. A “flat foot” requires support and stability, while a “high-arch” needs more cushion for shock and absorption. Many stores—especially independent outlets—can help you choose the best shoe for your pattern of wear.
For optimal comfort, consider the fabric of your running clothes. While a cotton T-shirt is comfortable at the beginning of a run, the fabric retains sweat and can cause chaffing and irritation. “Tech” fabric made of fibers like Lycra, nylon or bamboo allows sweat to evaporate. You’ll often find these clothing items billed as being able to “wick away” moisture, and you’ll also find they make working out more comfortable than cotton.
Step 2: Make a plan & prepare
Don’t expect to run a 5K your first time out the door; give your body time to acclimate to your new activity! Many find a run/walk method of alternating a short time of running with a longer period of walking to be a good way to start out. Be sure to warm up your muscles before you run with dynamic movements, and practice static stretching afterwards to help improve and maintain flexibility.
Another part of preparing your body for running is what you eat. Did you know that digestion usually stops or slows when you run? That means that if you eat right before you run, your food becomes your new running buddy. Eat an hour and a half before your run to ensure your muscles don’t get fatigued but your stomach isn’t full of food while you’re exercising. Hydration is also essential; drink about 20 oz. of water about two hours before your run.
Step 3: Start slow and stay motivated
Start slowly, find a beginning running program online that fits with your current activity level, and don’t give up. It may take your body several weeks to get used to the new physical demands you’re putting on it. Push through the discomfort while being mindful of when enough is enough for your body. Stick with your plan, rest when you need to, and you’ll soon feel stronger.
With the initial discomfort that comes with running, be sure to find something that makes the activity fun. Find upbeat songs to listen to, or a friend or running group to socialize with. Setting a goal can also be a big motivator. If you’re beginning your running journey this spring consider signing up for an event in the fall, such as the Affinity Medical Group Orthopedics & Sports Medicine 5K Run/Walk during the Fox Cities Marathon weekend of events. You can find more information and register at http://www.foxcitiesmarathon.org/fiveK.html.
If you become injured after starting a new running regimen or have a nagging injury resurface, Affinity Medical Group offers the Running Analysis & Clinical Evaluation (RACE). This is a program run by licensed athletic trainers (LATs) that will help treat and/or reduce your risk of injury. During your appointment, the LAT will examine your flexibility, strength and running mechanics to determine any risk factors for injuries. After the appointment, you will receive a written report, videos of your running mechanics and a home exercise program to address any weaknesses. For full details, visit www.affinityhealth.org/Affinity/Services/orthopedic/Athletic-Training/Running-Analysis-Clinical-Evaluation.htm.