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Start Running - How to Avoid the Hurdles

By Maggie Miller

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete looking to stay active or a coach potato searching for something to do, running can be extremely rewarding and an easy way to stay in shape. Before getting started, there are a few important tips every runner should know. Below are a few pointers to help you get started.

 

Find the right shoe for you

Finding the right shoe is essential to any dedicated runner—your choice can ultimately make the difference between a horrible and great first experience. Running puts a lot of stress on your lower body; if your feet don’t have the right support or cushioning, this can cause a lot of discomfort and can lead to injury. One of the biggest mistakes beginning runners make is not putting enough thought into what they’re wearing. If you’re planning on running often, dedicating some time and effort to finding a good running shoe will keep you injury-free and give you the comfort to keep going. 

 

Keep in mind that everyone’s feet are different. Instead of spending hours at home trying to determine your foot type, I recommend going to a running specialty store. These stores have highly trained employees who will take time to ask questions and learn more about exactly what you need. Even better, most of their staff will likely have extensive running experience and can offer you additional advise. Most major cities will have a variety of these stores; try searching the Internet to find one near you. One of my suggestions is [Fleet Feet], which offers a variety of locations and has a great shoe selection. Make sure that you find a store that exclusively focuses on running; larger department-type stores usually don’t train their staff in the specifics of one sport and won’t be able to offer much help.

 

Start slow and set a plan

Don’t be overly ambitious when first starting out. Running too frequently or for too long, especially when your body isn’t used to the stress, can lead to overuse injuries and burnout. Although you may be making big progress when starting out, keep in mind that even the smallest injury can prevent you from hitting the road for weeks. If you’re having a hard time deciding on how much or how often to run, find a training plan online to help you get started. One of my favorite websites for this is [active.com], which boasts a variety of training programs and information for running just getting started. As you become a more seasoned runner, there are additional training plans available as well for intermediate and advanced runners.

 

Be smart

While feeling tired after a run is normal, feeling pain is not. Running and injuries are common, especially in the knees and feet. The most common injuries runners experience are shin splints (sharp pain on the front of the shin), tendonitis (there are several tendons located throughout your knees and feet, any of these can be affected), and muscle strains. If you start to experience pain from running, my best advise is to see a doctor. While preparing for my first marathon, my feet (which I had never had problems with before) became a big obstacle. After seeing my doctor a couple of times and following his advise, I was able to run for nearly twice as long without any discomfort. More importantly, if you start to feel pain, take a break. Running with an injury can make the extent of it worse.

 

Have fun!

Most importantly, running should be fun! Make a running playlist on your iPod or run with a friend. Once you get used to running distances, consider signing up for a 5K. Not only are these races a lot of fun and a great way to meet new people, but will you be supporting a good cause in your community as well. Many races will offer free food at the finish line; almost all races offer participants free shirts or other items for participating. My favorite website for finding races is [runningintheusa.com]. This website allows you to sort by location, distance, and gives you all of the information you need to know before signing up. Most 5K races will have an entry fee $20-30, most of which goes to support local programs and those in need. Find something you feel is important to support and go for it!