A few years ago I became a really enthusiastic runner. For about 45 minutes, I would run like a race horse on the treadmill of the apartment complex's gym. My towel neatly draped over the handle bar, my pink mp3 player strapped to my arm, and with my cute Sigg bottle in the cup holder, I thought I was so cool. And then one day, my right ankle started to hurt. A lot. Forget running, walking was about all I could take. The doctor took one look at me and said, "Dear, you have tendonitis." In a nutshell, my Achilles tendon was overused and inflamed. I was instructed to keep my foot elevated and to ice it every few hours. My overzealous attitude, my failure to stretch properly, and my ignorance about easing into an exercise program landed me into a two week long rest and recovery phase. Suddenly, I was about as cool as marshmallow.
Running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise and it burns calories like nobodies business, but it's a high impact workout and, as I learned the hard way, it takes it's toll on the feet, shins, ankles, and knees. Don't avoid it, just be smarter about how you implement it, especially if it's your first introduction to a real exercise program.
Here are a few important factors to keep in mind:
1. Start off slow and gradually increase your running time. Consult a personal trainer or exercise program, such as Runner World's 8 Week Beginner's Running Training Program.
2. It's normal to be out of breath when running, but be careful not to overdo it. If you can run while carrying on a conversation, you're at a good pace. Once or twice a week, go for a shorter run at a higher speed, which will increase your cardiovascular strength.
3. Invest in good running shoes. Most metropolitan cities have specialty running stores, such as Big Peach Running Company in Atlanta, where you can have your run analyzed.
4. Last but not least, don't avoid strength training in fear of branding some major muscles. Unless you're a body builder, that's not going to happen. Strength training is important for injury prevention and it will help increase your speed.
Helpful hint: Want to tone up your butt and thighs? Go for the hills!
For more info, check out Fitness Magazine's Running 101: A beginners Guide.
Other Sources: Running Planet
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