How to Start Running Safely

Let’s talk about how to get started running. There are a lot of reasons people enjoy running. There are also a lot of reasons people think they cannot run or should not run. Few of the reasons people think they should not run are actually legitimate. Let’s dispel some of these myths and talk about how you can get started running.

First, you have to understand that when starting a new exercise routine and becoming active when you have been sedentary requires the advice and clearance of a doctor. There is no substitution for this advice, so visit your doctor before embarking on a new exercise program.

Running gained in popularity with the masses in the 1970s. And beyond the fancier shoes we have today, not too much has changed in regard to participating in the sport. You just need a good pair of running shoes, the appropriate clothes for the weather conditions and yourself.

A lot of people think running is bad for you. Perhaps they think it hurts the knees too much or is just too hard on the body. Long term studies on those running for decades have shown that runners gain a lot of advantages when compared to their non-running counterparts.

A report conducted by Stanford researcher James Fries tracked over 500 runners for 20 years. The study found that runners had fewer disabilities, a greater span of activity in their lives and were about half as likely to suffer from an early death. The study also found that the joint damage that many expected to see from decades of running did not happen (barring injury of course).

A news report published on NPR’s website in May of 2011 also cites several studies that find runners are not at an increased risk of developing arthritis and that jogging may even be beneficial. The researchers do note that if you have had knee surgery or are more than 20 pounds overweight, you should ease into a running program and follow your doctor’s advice.

The best advice I can give on how to get into running is what is stated in the above paragraph—ease into the program. Base how fast you ease into a program on your fitness level when you start the program and listen to your body. Being uncomfortable is ok—you can and should push through that. If you are in pain though, stop immediately. Pain is a sign of impending injury or injury. This is when you should take some time off.

If you are completely sedentary you should start by walking. This also holds true if you are more than 20 pounds overweight. Walk for a certain amount of minutes per day. Pay attention to the minutes and not the miles. Once you are ready, you can start doing a run walk routine. Run for a minute or two, walk for a bit and then repeat.

Work up to longer running times as your body adapts to the new activity. You may experience a good deal of muscle soreness. This is ok. It won’t always be that way. Make sure you are eating a healthy diet too.

Once you are able to run for a good deal of time—30 minutes or so—you can start to investigate the intricacies of running and possibly start to prepare for a 5k, 10k, half-marathon or marathon. There are several types of training runs you can do so take the time to learn about them.

Make sure you stay as consistent as possible too. Do take a break when you are sick and if you experience injury, take sufficient time off to heal.

Finally, go to a running store and get fitted for a proper pair of running shoes. Don’t let price, color or style be a factor. Have someone who knows how to fit a pair of running shoes bring out a dozen or so shoes and watch you run in several different kinds. They will narrow down your choices based on the mechanics of your feet. This is super important. It is amazing how well a good pair of running shoes will fit and feel from the first time you use them. There is no such thing as a break-in period.

Running is one of those sports that do not require much in terms of equipment and time spent learning. It is just something that you go do, and it provides so many wonderful benefits. Take your time when starting a running program and enjoy the journey. That is what it is all about.

Barefoot Running and Such

My journey into barefoot running may have been a bit different than most. It was a long time back when I saw pictures of a few Olympic marathoners who have competed barefoot, and while it struck me as pretty cool, I never thought much about it for myself.

I am a drummer. I have been drumming for over 20 years now and have spent a lot of time playing fast, punk rock. This really developed my right foot (I exclusively used a single bass drum pedal played with my right foot).

In my early twenties I had the great opportunity to rent a storage unit as a twenty-four hour-a-day practice space. I lived in a desert, so the summertime temperatures averaged 115 F. Needless to say, I played with with as little clothing as possible (and a high velocity fan). The shoes also came off.

I practiced and played a lot during this time and began learning with a double bass pedal (playing with the left foot and right foot on bass drum). I still played shows wearing shoes (usually Vans).

After about a month of barefoot practice, I noticed something interesting. My right foot had become stronger and had gained more control. My left foot also strengthened rather quickly too. I was pretty shocked at the right foot improvement. Trust me, my right foot was already really fast and strong (my punk band, in no way, needed to play any faster).

I talked to a lot of other drummers and started studying a lot of professionals. It turns out that many practiced and even performed barefoot. So that was that.

Years later, after spending a year in Thailand where I wore very thin flip-flops a lot, I arrived in Taiwan. In Taiwan I worked barefoot. Except for running, I went months without putting on shoes and it was great! By this time the barefoot running phenomenon was in full effect. I had actually looked for Vibram’s Five Fingers in Thailand and the Philippines to no avail. I would have just started going full barefoot, but the parks where I lived weren’t kept well enough for your feet to reasonably avoid injury.

On a trip to Taipei though, I finally found a pair of Five Fingers and bought them.

I paid close attention to the warnings of transitioning to barefoot running (as you should if you’re thinking of doing the same). I think my transition time was only a few weeks, but I still experienced more significant soreness than expected. I started with 30 to 40 easy minute runs (I should have done less) that were on pavement. It did take time for calluses to build up on certain areas of my feet—particularly on the outside ball of each foot and on the big toe.

After those first few weeks, I used the Five Fingers for all running and exercising except sprints. Unfortunately, I only had a slightly gravelly stadium parking lot to sprint in. You feel even small pebbles with the Five Fingers,and it can hurt.

Now that I’m back in the states, I do almost all of my running barefoot. I’ve also done hiking barefoot and sometimes I just wear the barefoot shoes around town. And now that I have well kept parks around, I do my sprints barefoot (lately without the Five Fingers).

I would encourage everybody to try out the barefoot lifestyle if possible. Do realize that you’re feet and lower legs will need some time adjust. Also, if you’re a heel striker (your heal impacts the ground first when running), you’ll have to get used to a new form of running. There’s a good amount of information about how to make the switch in forums, blogs and websites.

To date, there doesn’t seem to be enough significant, long-term studies on barefoot runners (especially westerners who grew up in shoes). Studies are being conducted now, but I think it will be some time before we really have some definitive answers.

I can’t stress enough to really take care in changing over to barefoot running. I’ve read a lot of articles lately that have stated many foot doctors are seeing increased instances of foot problems due to barefoot running. It’s my opinion that most of these people just went at it too hard, too soon.

Finally, there is something really nice about walking around barefoot or in Vibram’s Five Fingers. It’s nice to feel the ground beneath your feet and not a squishy piece of rubber. So there it is. Barefoot running and living. Check it out.

If you’re that into the barefoot thing, you can always try out bodyweight exercise. check out our TRX suspension trainer review page for a great option in expanding the number of bodyweight exercises you can perform.