Whether you want to train for a marathon, sign-up for a fun run, or just go for a jog around the block — there are plenty of reasons to get into running.
Unfortunately, many beginning runners find themselves injured before they’ve really had a chance to work up a sweat.
But if you do your homework and kick-off your running adventure with these eight steps, you’ll find you can carry on for thousands more.
Check your mechanics
Before you lace up your brand-new kicks and head out the door, it can be a good idea to get a professional to look at your lower-body structure.
Most running injuries are caused by poor biomechanics and muscle weaknesses, explained sports scientist Tony Boutagy who has trained Olympic-level runners.
If your biomechanics cause your feet to strike the ground incorrectly, you will likely end up with ankle, knee and lower-back problems.
The most common biomechanical issues are:
Feet that are flat (no arches), pronated (roll in) or supinated (roll out);
Knees that collapse inwards in when running, instead of pointing forward;
Externally rotated hips, which cause your feet to splay out to the side (duck feet).
Most of the time, these issues can be fixed with strength training and/or orthotics. But sometimes they can’t.
“If that’s the case you can always use low-impact forms of cardio like the stationary bike, cross trainer or rower,” Dr Boutagy said.
“Your joints will be safer because there won’t be four times your body weight put through your skeleton with every step.”
First… you walk
To avoid injuries unprepared new joggers often come up against, start slowly, Dr Boutagy said.
“My starting point with people is how far they can walk comfortably,” he said.
“To become a better runner you need to apply stress. If you’ve never run before, that stress could be adding an extra walk per week or even walking an extra 10 minutes.”
Once you can walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes most days of the week, it’s time to start a walk/jog regimen.
“Still move for 30 minutes, but now jog for two minutes then walk for eight,” Dr Boutagy said.
“Slowly increase the minutes you’re running and decrease the walking until you’re jogging for nine and walking for one.”
From that point you’re ready to run consistently.
The foot-striking repetition is what causes most overuse injuries in casual joggers, Dr Boutagy said.
“So by changing your speed every few minutes, you’re reducing the risk of this early on, while still building your cardio fitness.”
And change up the terrain regularly. Try running on surfaces other than the pavement, such as stairs, hills, on grass and along rocky trails.
Challenging your muscles and joints on different tracks will increase strength and stability.
Pick up the pace
Are you able to jog for 30 minutes straight three times a week? Congratulations, you’re ready to go next level: interval training.