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Taking Up Running? Pay Attention to These 5 Need-to-Know Tips

The warm weather is finally here. Don’t you want to get outside and be more active?

You probably have friends, coworkers or family members taking up running. In addition to improving your health and helping you lose weight, running boosts confidence. Just think how great you’ll feel having completed your running goal—whatever it may be.

According to John Vasudevan, MD, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Clinical Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Penn Medicine, running should be treated like any other sport. “Running requires athletes at any level to understand basic technique, the common training errors, the difference between fads and the tried-and-true, and how to establish a plan to work progressively toward a goal.”

So, before you lace up your running shoes, keep these five tips in mind:

Do your research—then develop a plan.

Dr. Vasudevan recommends doing your research before anything else. “In order to prevent injury, you must first understand the common injuries, risk factors and any of your predisposing factors that may be present. I strongly advise finding a trainer, coach or physical therapist with relevant experience to help determine your strengths and weaknesses prior to establishing a running plan.”

Take it slow.

As a beginner, you need to prepare your body to handle the strain that running places on your muscles and joints. Start with a combination of walking and jogging, and don’t worry about your pace in the beginning. Dr. Vasudevan advises: “A runner who varies the pace is better equipped to minimize fatigue and cumulative use injury.” Also include days of rest: Running every day puts a lot of stress on your body, and a couple of days off will rejuvenate your muscles and joints.

Always warm-up and cool-down.

Running is a high-impact activity requiring proper warm-up and cool-down activities; the key is to increase and decrease your heart rate gradually. “The warm up and cool down are less exciting, but essential,” Dr. Vasudevan says. “They not only reduce injury to trunk [torso] and leg muscles, but are also needed to protect the heart. Most catastrophic events with running occur when demands shift too quickly for the heart.”

Switch it up.

Cross-training is a great way to switch up your activity. “Simply put, cross-training can help you achieve better form and results,” explains Dr. Vasudevan. “Cross-training improves strength and coordination in ways that running alone cannot.” Try incorporating cycling, swimming, or a fitness class to build strength and flexibility in muscles that aren’t worked by running alone.

Make it fun.

Running can be fun if you make it. Reward yourself for a job well done with your favorite snack or TV show. Listen to music when running, create your own playlists to get pumped, or do a search for fitness and running apps to download to your Smartphone to help track distance, pace, and calories burned. Or find a partner or join a running group, because let’s admit it: Running with others is just more fun and provides support. There are a variety of running groups in Philly and the surrounding areas.

Keep these tips in mind to be safe and healthy, while making running an enjoyable activity you’ll want to continue. And after awhile, you will no longer be a new runner— you’ll be an expert.

Penn Medicine’s brand-new, state-of-the-art Musculoskeletal Center—which conveniently brings together multiple medical specialties—is a team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists who take a whole-body approach to diagnosing and treating joints, muscles, and bones. Seek medical care at Penn’s Musculoskeletal Center for advanced treatment in orthopaedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pain medicine, and rheumatology. Visit www.PennMedicine.org/MSK, or call 215-615-2576.