Dear Running Doc,
I am 25 years old and have always exercised when on vacation; swimming, kayaking, bicycling, windsurfing, etc. I do not like working out in the gym. I would like to make regular exercise a part of my life. I have thought about running but don’t know how to start. Running Doc, can you please tell me how to begin a running program?
Harris B., Manhattan
Thanks for the great question, Harris. You really have begun by having the courage to ask and be willing to do it right. Follow these easy steps and you will be running in no time:
1. First get a complete head to toe physical exam by your primary doctor. Regardless of age it is always smart to be cleared to start a regular exercise program.
2. Pick out a good pair of running shoes. Don’t skimp here. Really, running shoes are your basic equipment. I always suggest new runners start with a structured running shoe to help prevent lower extremity aches and pains that can get annoying.
3. Before starting a running program, you must start a stretching program. Stretch your hamstrings, and calves. Make sure you warm up before stretching – jumping jacks, light jog or bike. When you start to sweat, it means that you have raised your temperature one half degree so your muscles can stretch like warm taffy. Stretch four times a week. If you don’t know how to stretch, pick up a book written by Bob Anderson who specializes in stretching. Flexible muscles will decrease annoying small tears once you get going.
4. Now it’s time to begin running and walking. Living in Manhattan it’s easy to judge distance; if out of Manhattan judge a similar distance. Start by walking around one square block four times a week.
5. Once your comfortable walking around the block briskly it’s time to run a bit. Run until you feel very short of breath then drop back to walking until you feel you can run again and do the same thing. When you start, you will be mostly walking but as you progress you will get to running the whole way. Do this for two weeks without increasing the length of the run, four times per week.
6. Congratulations, you are now a runner! Now start by increasing to two blocks. Again, you can walk and run until you can get to the point of running the entire new course for two more weeks.
7. Know you are on our own. Increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week.
Harris, and everyone else starting a running program, we wish you good health. If any questions come up along the way feel free to write in and have them answered here.
Enjoy the Ride!
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Lewis G. Maharam, MD, FACSM is one of the world’s most extensively credentialed and well-known sports health experts. Better known as Running Doc™, Maharam is author of Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running and past medical director of the NYC Marathon and Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series. He is Medical Director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program. He is also past president of the New York Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. Learn more at runningdoc.com.
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