If a running regimen and weight loss goals are part of your New Year’s resolution, set yourself up for success by following these simple steps from SJ orthopedic and sports medicine professionals.

SMART STEP 1

Keep it slow, keep it steady

Being dedicated to your new workout routine will help you keep your resolution, but being overly ambitious could result in injury. New runners shouldn’t try to keep up with exercise partners who may be more experienced, cautions Nathan Holmes, MD, of Advanced Orthopaedic Centers.

“People tend to start a running program with someone they know, and they feel like they need to keep up,” Holmes says. “It’s important to remember that it is OK to walk. Everyone’s body is different. Keeping that in mind can prevent injury.”

If you are new to running, alternate between running or jogging and walking, says Chris Carey, MD, of Orthopaedic Reconstruction Specialists. Carey suggests new runners walk a half-mile for every mile they run.

SMART STEP 2

Stay off the street – for now

Pounding the pavement right off the bat may be a bad idea if you are a new runner, especially if you are overweight.

“For patients with a couple extra pounds on them, I recommend doing something with a lesser impact load at first,” Carey says.

Each step a runner takes sends impacts through the heel and into the joints of the ankle and leg. It’s a good idea to strengthen those joints with gentler exercises before strapping on the running sneakers.

“An elliptical or stationary bike can be a great option,” Carey says. “It’s better for your joints and gets your cardio back up and your joints in shape before you even start running. And when you do begin to run, it’s a good idea to start indoors on a treadmill. That’s a surface with the least amount of impact and a lot more give than a hard surface.”

Once spring temperatures lure you outside, run on a soft, grassy surface before moving to a rubberized track, says Merrick Wetzler, MD, of Advocare South Jersey Orthopedic Associates.

“Runners should know the surface they’re on, and adjust speed and mileage accordingly,” Wetzler says. “It’s fine to run on the street once you’re comfortable, as long as you’re aware that it’s hard, high-impact and there are things to trip over.”

SMART STEP 3

Go shoe shopping

In case you needed an extra excuse for shoe shopping, Wetzler says the right pair of running sneakers can completely change the way you move.

“So many of the injuries I see are people running with improper shoe-ware,” he says. “I always tell my patients their running sneakers are for running, not walking. A good pair of sneakers is only good for 200 to 300 miles. After that, they may look nice, but they aren’t functioning the way they should be.”

Wetzler suggests that all runners, both new and experienced, take the time to get custom-fitted for their running shoes.

SMART STEP 4

Ease up your warm-up

For decades, conventional wisdom has suggested that stretching before a workout can loosen up the muscles and prevent injury. But new research shows stretching prior to an intense exercise session or a run could be detrimental, according to Brad Bernardini, MD, of Virtua Sports Medicine.

“There’s been a big shift in the last few years about the role of stretching,” Bernardini says. “Especially when it’s done before a run, deep stretching is associated with a higher incidence of injury.”

Instead, Bernardini suggests doing leg raises or jumping jacks to get blood flowing before setting off on a run.

“The general rule is dynamic, not static,” he says. “Rather than a static stretch, do a dynamic warm up. After your run, it’s appropriate to do some static stretching, followed by a cool-down walk.”

SMART STEP 5

Take a day off

Physical activity breaks down bone and muscle tissue. When it heals, it regenerates stronger than before, building muscle and strengthening bones and joints. If your workout regimen doesn’t include recovery time, it could do your body far more harm than good.

“Rest days are so important,” Holmes says. “You’ll see runners start out on a new program and say, ‘OK, I’m going to run every day in the new year.’ Then they do, and they start having pain. They stop running, and that’s the end.”

A runner should also know the difference between soreness and injury. It’s fine to be sore; in fact, Holmes says soreness is a sign your body is growing stronger.

“You’re breaking muscle down, and that often comes with soreness and pain,” he says. “The soreness fades as it rebuilds, and if you don’t give yourself time to heal and rebound, that’s how you develop overuse injuries. So if you run one day, and the next day you’re very sore, it’s better to go for a half-mile stroll than run through the soreness.”

January 2015
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