Running is a great way to improve health, promote weight loss and reduce stress. It isn't too complex, doesn't take a lot of skill, is inexpensive and can be done year-round.
But for beginners and competitive athletes alike, there is always a potential for injury that, with just a little knowledge and preparation, can be prevented.
The most common injuries runners face are shin splints, runner's knee, plantar fascitis, and iliotibial band syndrome.
While fairly treatable, many of these injuries could be avoided with just a little preparation.
Here are some recommendations:
• Invest in a good pair of running sneakers. It may be beneficial to visit a specialty running store for good quality and proper fit. Don't be afraid to wear the shoes for several minutes while in the store to decide if they are the right fit.
• Perform at least a five-minute warm-up and a cool-down, such as brisk walking. Gently stretch the muscles of the legs after your warm-up, holding each stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds. And remember: Stretching should never be painful; if it is, you're doing it wrong.
• Resist the temptation to overtrain. A good approach for beginners may be to start with a run/walk technique - alternating 30 seconds of running with 30 second of walking for about 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week.
Gradually, over time, you can increase the length of your running segments while keeping them at a manageable pace. For the more seasoned runners, the American Running Association suggests increasing your mileage by no more than 10 percent a week.
• Stay hydrated, especially in warmer weather. Drink at least 12 ounces of water 10 to 15 minutes before running, and then again every 20 minutes while running.
• Run on smooth, even and soft surfaces whenever possible. Roads paved with asphalt are a better choice than concrete sidewalks. Just make sure to be careful of traffic.
• Rest. Allow for one or two days of complete rest or a non-running activity, such as cycling, swimming or weight training.
• Most importantly, don't run through pain. If you are injured, take some time off and seek proper treatment instead of risking your future ability to run.
This article was prepared in cooperation with MossRehab.