Running may look simple — but getting started isn’t always easy.
Fortunately, no matter your fitness or experience level, anyone can get started running after taking into consideration a few common-sense tips. It’s important to be patient with yourself as you get started and find your own pace.
Running is an excellent way to get fit, improve your cardiovascular health, and even manage your mental health. Here are six tips to help you get started.
1. Wear the Right Shoes
The most important thing you’ll need before you hit the pavement this summer is a good pair of shoes. They don’t need to have all the latest bells and whistles, but they should fit well, provide the right support, and be suited for the type of running you’ll be doing. Ron DeAngelo, LAT, director, UPMC Sports Performance, recommends getting fitted by a professional to find the shoe style that works best with your foot type. This can help avoid injury and keep your feet happy for miles.
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2. Start Slowly and Increase Gradually
Many beginner and novice runners often make the mistake of running too hard and too fast right out of the gate. Jeanne Doperak, DO, a primary care sports medicine physician at UPMC Sports Medicine, cautions that although enthusiasm and energy are key components to any workout, make sure to start with a manageable pace and work up from there. A good rule to follow suggests running until you start to feel fatigued, and then slow down to a brisk walk. When you feel ready to start running again, go for it! Just remember to listen to your body if you feel you’re overexerting yourself. Slow and steady wins this race.
3. Work on Other Areas of Your Body
Weak and underused muscles are prime targets for injury. While running and jogging exert the lower body most, all major muscle groups should contribute to your workout. Our experts recommend cross-training or strength training on your off days from running. A 30-minute workout of moderate intensity should focus on all areas of the body, not just the hips, knees, and legs. A well-rounded and balanced workout routine can help the entire body avoid injury. Also, don’t be afraid to rest and take days off from running if you experience aches or nagging soreness.
4. Stay Flexible
Keeping your body limber and flexible can go a long way in avoiding injury. Stretching before each run is extremely important. It not only prepares you for your upcoming run, but also helps to condition and warm up your muscles. Our experts recommend the gold standard of dynamic warm-ups, which incorporates movement into stretching. This helps increase blood flow, oxygen, and range of motion. To learn more about dynamic warmup, watch this video from Ron DeAngelo.
Keeping your body properly fueled is very important, especially during the hot summer months. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after a run. Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition, says that staying hydrated can help prevent muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, and fatigue while running. Leslie recommends drinking 20 ounces of water before your run, and to drink according to your rate of sweating while running. Afterwards, refuel with a sports drink of your choice.
6. Find the Route That’s Right for You
One of the most fun and exciting parts about running in the summer is the chance to explore your surroundings and enjoy your community. Whether it’s a nature trail or a busy urban area, make sure to scope out your route before delving into unfamiliar territory. Dr. Doperak recommends finding a reliable and safe running route to serve as your “go-to” course. Websites such as MapMyRun.com help measure exact distances, which can help determine just how far to venture out.
With the right preparation and knowledge, this summer can be the start of a lifelong running adventure. Maybe you’ll even enter that first 5K!
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
About Sports Medicine
An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.