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Dos and Don'ts of Running

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Do...

...start off SLOW.

Walking is a good way to warm up. It also helps you lower the exertion level, which conserves resources for the end of your workout and reduces heat build-up.

...wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing.

Loose-fitting clothes allow heat to escape. Try not to wear cotton clothing while running. There are several different synthetic materials that will wick some of the perspiration away from your skin, which reduces chafing and helps the body cool faster.

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...drink cold water.

Cold water leaves the stomach of a runner quicker than any type of fluid. In addition, it produces a slight physiological cooling effect and an even greater psychological cooling effect.

...cool down.

Five to 10 minutes of light jogging/walking will slowly decrease body temperature and remove waste products from the working muscles. Also, stretching can be an appropriate way to cool down as it helps the muscles to relax and increase their range of movement.

...be ALERT!

Do not wear anything with headphones such as a Walkman or portable CD player. You will not be able to hear cars. Survival on our roads depends on being able to hear cars coming up from behind, around the corner ahead or just over the hill.

...keep your head up.

This will help keep the rest of your body in alignment, which will help prevent injuries. It will also allow you to run slightly faster (about 30 seconds for a 10K).

...watch your arms.

A huge mistake even among experienced runners is bad arm form. You want to keep your shoulders in, keep your arms relaxed, and avoid excessive arm movements. Additionally, your arms should be at approximately 90-degree angles. Don't clench your fists.

...run your own race.

Don't run at a pace two minutes faster than your usual pace; challenge yourself, but don't overextend yourself. Don't get discouraged because you can't keep up with these people. Listen to your body and run at a pace that is comfortable for you.

...take care of injuries.

Don't press yourself to run while injured. To recover from an injury, use the R.I.C.E. method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Don't run if you have an injury as you will only make it worse.

...join a local running group.

This is a particularly useful thing to do if you don't enjoy running alone. Sometimes when you are in the middle of a good conversation you will forget that you are running. In addition, you will gain tips by running with others.

...speed work. Speed work will teach you to run faster. Speed work involves running intervals of shorter distances at a faster pace than you normally run at. There are many ways to do speed work. You can go to a track and run intervals there. You can run intervals across the grass in a park or up a hill (they can be really short). Speed work can even be incorporated into your normal run, by running for a minute or two at a faster than normal pace in your run.

...breathe on cadence.

The best way to maintain a proper breathing cadence is to breathe in or out every time your dominant foot contacts the ground. Your initial breathing cadence starts with your dominant foot (for many runners this would be when the right foot strikes the ground). Simply put, each time your dominant foot touches the ground you will either be breathing in or breathing out.

Don't...

...wear a hat in warm weather.

Keep your head cool. Up to 70% of your body heat is lost through the top of your head. Also, it helps to regularly pour water over your head. Remember, wearing a hat can keep the heat from being released through the best vent you have, the top of your head.

...eat a big meal.

Eating heavy meals that are high in protein or fat may put extra stress on your system when you exercise. As an alternative to big meals, try eating light, easily digestible snacks every hour or two.

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...run in the dark.

Whether you are male or female this is a bad idea. You can easily not see things such as trash, a root or a rock sitting on the path where you are running, and then you trip over it and injure yourself. Also, particularly if you are not wearing reflective clothing, it is hard for cars to see you. If you still want to run in the dark after this warning, make sure you are wearing reflective clothing, don't run alone, and bring a cell phone or whistle in case you fall and need help.

...take painkillers.

Never take painkillers to mask the pain from a running injury so you can continue to run. You can do other things while injured, such as work on your form, run in a pool, take a spinning class, go swimming or ride a stationary bike, to maintain your fitness level. Again, rest, ice, compression and elevation will help make it better. You can also take pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help alleviate swelling and discomfort during your recovery.

...run your hardest every day.

You shouldn't come home huffing and puffing and unable to move after every run. Recovery days prevent injuries and make your running experiences more enjoyable.

...land first on your toes when you run.

At this stage in your running you should be landing on your heels. If you get to a certain faster pace (about seven minutes per mile) there is a technique you can learn where you land on the ball of your foot and quickly shift to your heel. Running on your toes will quickly lead to shin splints and other injuries.

...overuse a running shoe.

An excellent strategy is to rotate several pairs of running shoes at the same time, even if they are the same model. This keeps any particular shoe from causing irritation or wearing excessively in a particular area. You'll have to buy a certain number of shoes based on your mileage anyway, so you might as well have them now and keep your body healthy; the shoes will last just as long either way.

Quick Running Tips:

  • Run against traffic.
  • Keep to the side of the road.
  • Do not make eye contact with dogs.
  • If you run at night, make yourself visible.
  • Run with a friend.
  • Rotate shoes.
  • R.I.C.E.(rest, ice, compression, elevation)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg Shealey is a health educator and president and founder of Bio-Fit and Wellness.

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