Tips for New Runners: How to Start a Running Program and Remain Injury Free

As the New Year approaches, many people’s thoughts turn to New Year’s resolutions. Losing weight is often at the top of those resolution lists, and starting a running program is often the weight loss vehicle of choice. For individuals who are new to running, initial enthusiasm often turns to overtraining and injury. Here are a few tips to help new runners avoid the injury bug:

Get Professionally Fitted for Running Shoes

Although there will be temptation to grab low priced running shoes off the sales rack when one is new to the sport, resist this urge. The only cushion between a new runner’s irreplaceable knees and feet is the soles of his or her running shoes. Low priced shoes often lack adequate cushioning and support that new runners need. Specialty running stores can be very helpful in recommending proper shoes for a new runner’s unique gait and size. Buying from a specialty store will be a little more costly than buying from the local discount store, but it will save money on doctor’s bills in the long run (no pun intended).

Walk Before Running

New runners should really start as new walkers. For individuals who have never run for distance before, walking for a time should precede running. When the new trainee can fast-walk continuously for 30 minutes, he/she is ready to begin light jogging. At this point, one minute of running, alternating with one minute of walking, for 20-30 minutes total duration is reasonable. The walking breaks will allow the legs to recover from the new stress of running, and will decrease injury risk.

Run on Softer Surfaces

Softer surfaces, such as cinder tracks (such as those seen at most high schools), are far more forgiving on the feet and legs, and will help runners, both new and experienced, avoid injury. Asphalt roads are relatively soft as well. Concrete (the material used in most sidewalks) is hard and unforgiving, and should be avoided if possible.

Warm up and Stretch – In That Order

Stretching cold muscles can actually increase, rather than decrease, the risk of injury. Training sessions should always begin with an easy warm up, consisting of 5 to 10 minutes of brisk walking. Stretching is done only after the warm up. Stretching should be performed with slow, steady movement. Bouncing into a stretch should be avoided, to prevent over-stretching or tearing muscles and tendons.

There is No Shame In Resting – In Fact, It’s Mandatory

New, enthusiastic runners may feel the need to run every day, to prove they aren’t slacking off in their training. This attitude is nothing more than a fast track to overtraining and injury. Rest days are vital to staying injury-free. New walkers/runners should limit running to 3-4 days per week for the first 3 months.

Don’t be a “One Trick Pony”

If overall health and fitness is the goal, new runners should incorporate some cross-training activity into their program. Resistance training/weight training, especially for the upper body, is important in order to maintain all-around fitness. Yoga and stretching are also important components in a well rounded fitness program.