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5 Tips for Starting Runners

So you've decided to take up running? Maybe you are starting back up after putting it off for years. Here is a list of tips that I have found beneficial to the starting runner or even the seasoned pro.

1. STRETCH THOSE LEGS AND FEET ?BEFORE AND AFTER ? Stretching is the number one thing to remember in any running program. Keep your muscles flexible and relaxed, your joints mobile, and relieve tension and strain by doing a few gentle stretches before AND AFTER your run. I cannot stress enough how important it is to stretch after the run and to cool down. I have found most new runners miss this vital step in their exercise program.

You don't want to start off doing too much too soon. Build your body up while you prepare yourself to meet the demands that you are about to ask from your body. Make sure to loosen up your hamstrings, quads, calves, iliotibial (IT) band, hips, buttocks and the plantar fascia (area at the bottom of your feet between the heel and ball of foot). Stretch until you feel tension but not pain. NEVER bounce because this can tear your muscles and cause more serious problems.

2. POSTURE! POSTURE! POSTURE! ? This isn't finishing school, but the principal is the same. Running gets your whole body in motion and the proper posture and body mechanics will help reduce the strain on your body.

Keep your body perpendicular to the ground. Don't lean into it. Hopefully you aren't running into wind tunnel.

Swing your arms naturally and go with the flow.

BREATHE! How many martial art movies do you need to see to know this is important??? Never stop breathing. Oxygenate the blood. Feed your muscles. BREATHE!

Your feet should hit naturally on your heel, roll forward and push off with your metatarsals (the area we call the ball of the foot). It should just feel right. Make sure the soles of your shoes aren't worn down in the heel or on the sides. This could cause you to hurt yourself and take away from the natural progression of your stride.

Don't pick your feet up too far. This is running, not a marching band tryout. By keeping your feet closer to the ground an increasing your stride, you will reduce muscle fatigue.

3. ALWAYS WEAR YOUR PROTECTION ? As you start up your running routine, you are going to find out that aches and pains are a typical reality that we all must face. However, this doesn't have to be the end of your run if you just take the proper precautions. Keep these simple rules in mind when you begin your program and you should be good to go for a long time!

Hydrate yourself: Drink lots of water before, during, and after your run. People perspire, it's a fact, but if you let yourself dehydrate, you will be in for a world of hurt. I like to bring a water bottle with me on my runs for those mid-stride liquid replacements. It's a good idea to drink 2-5 cups per hour during your run. Note, every person perspires at a different rate. If you happen to be someone who leaks sweat like a sieve, drink more water. Don't forget to fill up again once you are done stretching, too.

If you are running in a colder climate, layer your clothing. We all know it gets hot under all those clothes, but you have to slow the rate of heat loss. You'll want to wear some sort of moisture-wicking material. I like to wear fleece. But there are other brands out there like Polartec. Also, ALWAYS wear a hat!

I prefer to run on paved trails in our local park system, but if you find yourself running in areas where there is the potential for traffic, please remember to wear bright clothing and if you must run at night (which I wouldn't suggest) wear reflective garments to increase your safety.

4. REDUCE STRAIN ? Running takes its' toll on a person's body. It's good to switch out different activities. Besides running, try other cardio-exercises like bicycling or swimming. Your body will thank you and it can break down on the monotony. Pain is the body's signal that something is wrong. If the pain gets worse after your run, it's time to take some time off. Don't swallow a couple of aspirin and think you are good to go.'

Definitely take care of your feet! A good pair of running shoes is essential for preventing injury. You have to find the pair that's best for you. Change them out often because the soles will wear down quickly.

And while you are at it, don't forget the orthotics. The insoles that come in your shoes are usually very cheap and only meant for about 20 miles of wear. If you are like me, that's one week! Proper orthotics provide cushioning and support and reduce a huge amount of strain from your whole body ? not just your feet. While custom orthotics are available, I wear a brand that offers a selection for arch type and are made with a silver material that reduces blisters and athlete's foot. If you are interested, you can see them at www.footdefense.com.

5. CALL YOUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL ?In business, it's always best to hire a consultant. So why, when you start doing something as important as your health wouldn't you speak to an expert in the body? A medical professional can help with any injury and return you to your running program as well as advise you on hurting yourself again.

In closing, please remember that safety should come first. Be aware of your surroundings, the people that you run with, and most importantly, your own well-being?

James Fowler is a free-lance writer who lives in Northeast Ohio with his wife, Maggie. You can contact him at fowler.james@gmail.com

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