Running is a go-to form for making strides in your health. But there's more to it than simply hitting the track, pounding the streets, or trekking to your favorite trail. For many, knowing where to start can be a daunting task.
For the healthiest running, it's important to start with a solid foundation.
Tom Bottorff, an Athletic Trainer for Mercy Health, says it's important to go at your own pace and start at a comfortable level.
"Start slow," he said. "You don't want to be overly ambitious and try to go five miles your first day."
For a slow introduction, Bottorff suggests working it into your regimen.
"I would suggest starting to walk a little bit and as that becomes more comfortable maybe add some intervals where you're walking for a short distance, running for a short distance, slowly change that up so you're walking less and running more until you're basically able to run for the whole time or the whole distance," he explained.
For a beginning target, Bottorff suggests going for distance, rather than a set time. Start out trying to run a half mile and then slowly work up. He says that working toward a goal of running a 5K race is easy for most beginning runners.
Once you have a goal in mind, start from the ground up.
"You want to have some good shoe wear, some good footwear," he said. "Now there's multiple different brands and all different types of shoes. I would suggest going to your local sporting goods store and ask one of the associates to point you in the direction of a good walking/running shoe. That would be a good starting point."
And be sure to take care of your body.
"Plan proper hydration, you want to stick with the water, the sports drinks. Try to avoid high caffeine- pop, coffee, and of those energy drinks, the high sugar energy drinks," Bottorff explained.
He also suggests watching your food intake before and after runs. Before a run, opt for complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal, in order to give yourself energy. After a run, opt for foods that are a mix of carbs and proteins.
"Chocolate milk is good for that," he says. "There's actually a lot of evidence on that."
Don't forget to prep your body for any workouts, especially runs, by warming up.
"We advise that before you do any exercise, so walking or running, that you do a light warm up," he said. "Say you're a couple of weeks into it and you're starting to be able to run may be close to a mile, basically you're going to want to start slow, you don't want to just step off your front porch and get into your stride. So maybe as simple as walking might be a feasible warm up."
The goal of a warm-up should be to get your heart pumping and your blood flowing to your muscles.
"Running doesn't just use your legs, um, a lot of running involves your core stability. that's basically, a lot of people think your core is just your abs, yes it is your abs, but you're also using all the small muscles around your pelvis, your lower back, your spine, even up into your upper spine as well," Bottorff said.
While you're running, Bottorff suggests letting the worries go and focusing on what feels right.
"There's a lot of science that goes into it. Stride length, stride form.," he said. "Don't worry about that, I would say if you're just starting, do what's comfortable."
And as the saying goes, you should expect to 'feel the burn'.
"Some soreness is ok and to be expected, but if you're. Your body will let you know if you're hurting itself. If the soreness lasts for more than a couple of days, you're having sharp pains in a joint, especially while running, that's a good indicator to stop," he said.
"A very easy rule to follow is that you should be able to carry on a conversation. if you're walking or running with somebody you should be able to have a conversation. now you might be breathing heavier, that's normal obviously, but if you're able to carry on a conversation you're working at a decent level without overexerting yourself."
If you do feel something is out of place, stop running and take care of yourself. Bottorff recommends using the mnemonic RICE.
"R would be rest, I is ice, C is for compression, E is elevation," he explained.
Bottorff said a good rule of thumb is to do active rest, working some light stretches in and keeping the body moving.
For ice, apply the ice pack or cold pack to the affected area for 20 minutes or less at a time.
Compression can be easily done using any type of wrap or bandage material. Bottorff suggests keeping the wrap loose enough to put two fingers between the skin and the wrap so it doesn't cut off circulation.
And keep the swollen or injured area elevated above the heart.
Bottorff says if after a week or so the area doesn't feel better, it's time to call your doctor and make an appointment to be seen since something more serious could have taken hold.
For typical post-workout soreness, Bottorff says the key is to keep moving.
"Some people call it the recovery jog," he said.
It's a mild post-workout-workout that can relieve the tightness and soreness in muscles following a run.
As for where to run, Bottorff says everywhere comes with its own set of risks and rewards, since trails can pose tripping threats and asphalt or pavement can be harder on the knees. But, ultimately he suggests choosing somewhere that will make you happy to run and keep you comfortable.