Start slow, train smart if walking, running

Special to the Herald-LeaderJuly 15, 2013 



With summer here, many of us have decided to get back into our running or walking routines. Whether you are training for your first race, looking to improve your overall health or trying to lose a few pounds, it is important that you take certain steps to be successful.

One of the main goals when designing any exercise program — including walking and running — is to maximize your chances for success while minimizing your risk of injury.

You could start your training by running or walking 10 miles a day. This maximizes your chances of improving your fitness, but it also maximizes your risk for injury. Thus, this is a very poor choice for beginning your training.

Before you start a routine, consider this advice:

Ask your doctor: It's important that you tell your doctor your plans and find out whether there is anything you should avoid or whether there are special precautions you should take while exercising.

Start slowly: Whether you used to be a great runner or you have never exercised, it's important that you start conservatively and build slowly. Doing too much running or walking too quickly can lead to injury relatively fast. Some common injuries related to increasing mileage too quickly include shin splints, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Any of these overuse injuries can halt your training for weeks or even months.

Check your shoes: If your shoes show visible signs of wear and tear, it is probably time to get a new pair. Even if your shoes appear relatively new on the outside, they might have lost much of their cushioning and protection on the inside.

Make sure you are wearing the appropriate shoe for your type of foot: flat feet, normal or high arches. Wearing worn-out or improper shoes is one of the leading causes of some of the lower-leg and foot injuries previously mentioned while also being one of the easiest to prevent.

Strength and flexibility: Including some days of strength and/or flexibility training into your routine is a great way to further minimize your risk of injury. Strength training can help to improve the strength and resilience of your muscles, tendons and ligaments. Flexibility training can help to reduce the stress on your knees and lower back. If done after your workout, flexibility training can help to prevent some muscle soreness.

Grant Gensheimer is an exercise physiologist with Baptist Health HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center at The Mall at Lexington Green.

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