Running can improve your cholesterol levels, help you maintain a healthy weight, and lower your risk for serious health conditions. Whether you've just bought your first pair of running shoes or you've been jogging for years, these seven steps can take your running game up a level.
Step 1: Identify your goals.
Why do you want to become a runner? Maybe you want to improve your heart health, lose weight, or cross something off your bucket list. Your physician can develop a comprehensive plan to help you reach your goals in a healthy way. Try to determine realistic goals for which you have the time to prepare. For instance, if your goal is to run a 5k, you may need to start training most days of the week for at least five weeks before the race.
Step 2: Get a physical.
In addition to creating a plan to help you reach your goals, your primary care physician can make sure your body is ready to run. Joint problems and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can make exercising difficult and sometimes dangerous. It’s important for people over the age of 40 – especially those who have not exercised in a while – to get the doctor’s OK before beginning an exercise plan.
Step 3: Pick out the perfect pair of shoes.
The right shoes can improve your running experience and prevent injury. Choose a pair with plenty of shock absorption to protect your joints and the proper amount of support based on your arches. A podiatrist can determine whether you have high, normal, or flat arches. Depending on your arch shape, you may need shoes that offer more stability, cushioning, and motion control. Get a fresh pair of running shoes every eight months.
Step 4: Focus on your fuel.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your run to stay hydrated. Before your run, eat a snack with carbohydrates, such as whole-wheat toast with peanut butter or a banana, to give your body some fuel. If you’re preparing for a long-distance or high-intensity run, you may need to consume a larger amount of carbs for extra energy.
Step 5: Warm up and cool down.
Determine your running path, preferably one with flat, soft ground. Stretch thoroughly and take a five-minute walk to warm up before working up to a jog. Save some time to cool down at the end of your run with another five-minute walk, then round out your workout with more stretching. Warming up and cooling down are essential to reduce your risk for injury.
Step 6: Challenge yourself gradually.
Start slowly and listen to your body as you begin. Once you are comfortable in a jog, gradually increase your distance and speed over time. Change up your trail to vary the inclines and declines you run in order to work different muscles. Avoid overusing your muscles, and always rest after injury.
Step 7: Breathe in...Breathe out.
Once you’ve mastered the previous steps, improve your endurance with rhythmic breathing. Try using a five-step running pattern: inhale for three steps and exhale for two. For a faster pace, make it a three-step pattern: inhale for two steps and exhale for one. Stay focused on your breathing and take breaks as needed.
Whether you’re preparing to start running or need help getting back on the track after injury, your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group physician is on your team. Easily schedule an appointment online at ApptASAP.org.
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