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5 Steps to Safely Start Running

Spring is here and as the weather warms, the outdoors beckons. For some the nicer climate also coincides with a determination for a new challenge or restarting a favorite pastime… running. This entry is geared toward those who want to start running for the first time, or haven’t been running in months/years. Running is one of the easiest aerobic exercises to get into. The only thing it requires is a good pair of shoes and a physical able body. Even though it requires little equipment, risk of injury is high. Every year 40-50% of runners acquire a running related injury. Although there are several causes/types of injuries, the majority of injuries are linked to overtraining, or ramping up the exercise intensity too quickly. Compared to walking, running puts added stress upon the body, and if our body’s tissues (bones, ligaments, muscles etc.) are not adapted and prepared for the stress, injury is the result. Follow the guide below to reduce your risk of injury by safely returning to running:


  • Get a good pair of sneakers. The right type of shoe is a discussion in itself. But the best option is to go to a running store where they can measure your foot and recommend a new pair of shoes. If you do not have access to this at this time, start with a good and relatively new pair (purchased in the last year) of running shoes. Know that all sneakers are not running shoes, so check what type of shoe you have.
  • Stretch. Before exercise; start with some active stretches to loosen you up and get your blood flowing. Finish your run then with a stretch as a cool down. Check out our videos that can take you through a routine.
  • Fuel Up. Make sure that you have eaten a meal or snack in the last couple of hours (not immediately before your begin).
  • Stay Hydrated

5 Tips on Safely Returning to Running

  1. Run for time, not speed or distance. Start with 20-30 minutes for each run.
  2. Start with running 2-3x a week. The off days can be rest or other exercises such as yoga, resistance training, cycling, stretching etc. You should only try 1 new thing at a time. If you are initiating running, do not add in a new lifting or new aerobic exercise into your routine until you are able to run comfortably. 
  3. Initiate with a Run-Walk Sequence. DO NOT start with 20 minutes of running. Instead start with a 1 to 1 ratio. Walk for 1 minute, and then run for 1 minute and repeat for the duration of the 20-30 minute run. As you progress each run, increase the time of the run while keeping the walk time the same. 
  4. Run intensity should be moderate. This means that when running you should be slightly breathless, but you can hold a conversation. As the weeks progress the intensity (or speed) can increase till its considered hard (breathless where you can manage only a few words/phrases).
  5. Increase difficulty of the run each week by 10% by first increasing run duration. Don’t rush this! Slow and steady will allow you to finish the “race” without getting injured.

If you have a significant medical history or are unsure about returning to running, contact your physician. If you feel like you need more guidance, contact the therapists at Action Potential Physical Therapy where we can safely guide you in your quest to return to running. 

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

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