Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

Articles: Fitness & Health

Fitness Forecast: Running 101
by Jan Johnson

Q: I'd like to start running but all the runners I know seem to get injured. What should I watch out for?

A: Though running isn’t inherently harmful, it’s smart to take precautions before you start something new. Alan Hreljac, a biomechanist at California State University in Sacramento, offers these tips:

Based on the findings of a study Hreljac conducted on avoiding overuse injuries in runners, Hreljac also suggests the following:

  • Stop before you get tired. Once muscles become fatigued, they don’t absorb as much impact as they do in the beginning.
     
  • Stay on soft surfaces to lessen impact. Run on grass and dirt, not sidewalks or streets. Choose level places. Hreljac himself runs on adjacent football fields because they’re flat stretches of grass.
     
  • Rest one or two days between runs. Injuries can occur when bone or tissue is continually taxed without time to rejuvenate.
     
  • Stretch and strengthen. Stronger muscles absorb more impact. Try a lower-body move like squats.
     
  • Don’t increase speed or distance too much from run to run Running “microdamages” the body, explains Hreljac, so the body must rest and “remodel” itself. Overuse injuries occur when bone or tissue is continually microdamaged without enough rest in between.
     
  • Examine your running style. If you have a higher “impact peak” (yourheel strikes the ground with a lot of force) you will have to run more slowly, says Hreljac. Why? Reducing speed usually reduces impact. He also advises runners to move quickly off the heel into a push-off position. This helps a runner become stable faster, which reduces the chance of falling or slipping.

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This article originally appeared in Fitness May 2001.

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