How to Start Running

Dr. Robert Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Are you ready to join the ranks of 60 million American runners and joggers? Maybe you even have your sights sets on becoming one of 17 million Americans or so to cross a finish line at an official race event this year.

Whether you’re looking to lose a little weight, build your personal fitness and stamina, improve your mood and outlook on life, or just explore and enjoy the outdoors, developing a running habit is a great way to do it. But if you’ve never done much running before—or you’ve started and quit over and over again—it isn’t always easy to develop a program and stick to it. A few easy-to-make mistakes can lead to faster fatigue and even increased injury risk.

Stretching before running

If you want to build up the habit the right way, follow these tips:

The right shoes make a big difference. When you’re just starting, it’s tempting to just throw on your everyday walking shoes and head out the door. But because running places very different kinds of stresses on your feet and ankles than walking does, it’s important to invest in a good pair of running shoes (and we do mean running shoes, not cross-trainers, tennis shoes, etc.) matched to your foot shape and gait style. A specialty running store can help you choose a good pair.

Wear comfy athletic clothes. Lightweight, breathable athletic wear is highly recommended, including a breathable, well-fitting sports bra for female runners. If you do go out running in colder weather—say an early winter morning—it’s better to layer so that you can remove as necessary as you and the environment both heat up.

Start slow. If you’re not used to exercising regularly, understand that in the first few weeks you’re probably going to be doing just as much walking as running, if not more. Alternate light jogging and brisk walking, on/off, as you are able. It may take several weeks, but you should slowly improve until you can get through an entire 20-to-30-minute run at a slow-but-steady jog. Only once you get to this point should you consider ramping up your pace, duration, or mileage—but even then, keep your increases to 10% per week or less.

Listen to your body. If you’re in pain or out of breath, slow down! Overexertion or pushing through pain is a great way to wind up with an injury. You should be able to have a conversation with someone while running—if you can’t imagine getting out more than a word or two without gasping for air, ease off on the throttle.

Don’t run every day. Your body needs time to rest, recover, and work other muscle groups. Plan on running 2-3 days per week, and never on consecutive days. If you’d like to stay active on your “off” days (and you should!), focus on workouts with a lower impact on your feet and joints. Go for a swim or a bike ride, or hit the weights.

Have realistic expectations. Many people get discouraged if they feel they haven’t made much progress after a few weeks, or even a few months. Remember that the process takes time and that building healthy habits is hard work. If you’re patient and disciplined, though, it can make a big difference in your life.

Do whatever helps you stay motivated. At some point, you’re probably going to want to quit, or find yourself getting bored with your runs. You may need to trick your brain a bit in order to help you stay focused and motivated. For example:

Run with a buddy. You can encourage each other!
Use a fitness tracker or app, so you can see how much you’ve accomplished—and improved.
Set small, bite-sized goals that are within your immediate grasp. Your longer-term goal might be to lose 20 pounds or 5 inches on your waist, but focusing to hard on something still several weeks or months out of reach can cause you to get discouraged.

We hope that’s enough info to get you started and keep you going through those early weeks—long enough to solidify a habit that can help keep you happy and healthy for a lifetime! If you do experience any foot pain, whether a result of running or otherwise, you know where to find us. Give Parker Foot & Ankle a call today at (281) 497-2850.

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