Starting a running routine while avoiding injury

By The Health News Team | May 19, 2020
Man walking up a hill

Quarantine has many of us thinking about priorities and what we want life to look like when stay-at-home restrictions are finally lifted. Some people are trying to maintain their fitness routine while at home, because gyms and studios are closed, while others are looking for ways to start a fitness program.

Running is always a popular outdoor activity, but especially now as it allows you to get outside and maintain social distance from others. Starting a running routine while avoiding injury does not have to be difficult. Stewart Sanders, a physical therapist with Sharp Rees-Stealy and director of Sharp’s running clinic, shares some recommendations that can help you be successful from the first step.

1. Set a running goal
Do you want to run for a specific distance, specific time or run without stopping? Having a goal means that you are more likely to adhere to the plan that you create because you have something that you are striving for. Sanders recommends that those who have never run should start walking daily to create a habit of exercising. “Frequency is important and that creates habits,” he says.

2. Make a plan
There are many resources that provide free or paid running plans; running magazines and running websites are a few options. If available, scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist is another option. They can create a plan designed to help you meet your running goals. They can also recommend exercises targeted to strengthen areas such as your glutes, calves or hips. According to Sanders, these areas are shock absorbers for the joints, which need to be strong. They support your body so that it is strong enough to perform. Sanders’ first-time running clients are usually on an eight-week walking and jogging program. Each week, he decreases the duration of their jogging time while increasing the time they are running.

3. Gear matters
Proper running gear is important to feeling good and avoiding injury. Start out with the basics to support your goal, but do not spend more money than is necessary and do not get overwhelmed with all of the available options. It is essential to be fitted for the correct walking or running shoes. This can be done at any local running store, where someone will analyze your walking and running style and suggest shoes that will work best for your gait. Call ahead to make an appointment as many stores have different policies during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect employees and customers. Purchasing a pair of socks that do not cause blisters is also important, as is making sure you have comfortable, lightweight clothes to move around in.

4. Get moving
Lace up those well-fitted shoes and put your plan into action. Some of us are motivated to start a plan on our own. Others might need support from friends or family to help keep them accountable. Check in with a family member or friend to share your progress. Once quarantine restrictions are lifted, you might find it beneficial to find a walking or running group to join. Asking someone who has similar experience and goals to participate in the plan with you could be beneficial, too.

5. Protect yourself from injury
Nutrition and hydration are important factors in avoiding injury. Many people overlook how important sleep is to recovery as well. Sanders recommends that you make sure you are getting quality rest so that your body can heal itself. Studies show that muscle recovery increases with proper rest. Incorporating dynamic stretches at the beginning of your fitness routine can help prevent injury by warming up your body.

“Respect your body’s boundaries as you start to challenge yourself,” Sanders says. He encourages anyone starting a running plan or any new fitness program to have a professional perform an assessment of their body for evaluation of any mechanical flaws. Understanding these flaws from the beginning and creating a plan to work on them will help to avoid long-term injury. Due to social distancing, some of these evaluations might be done over video instead of in person.

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