Fitness Basics: Running for Your Life
Experts offer advice to get you started.
And don't even think about running in your regular cross-trainers, tennis
shoes, or regular sneakers.
"Running is very traumatic," says Forrest Dolgener, exercise
physiologist and professor of exercise science at the University of Northern
Iowa in Cedar Falls. "The mechanics of running creates specific kinds of
forces on the body. Running shoes are designed to absorb and minimize those
kinds of forces."
But don't get too attached to your favorite pair. Running shoes have a
limited lifespan, says Dolgener, co-author of The Non-Runner's Marathon
"Generally speaking, running shoes have 500 miles of life," he says.
"Even though they make look good, shock absorption diminishes after 500
Before you start any new fitness program, it's wise to consult with your
physician -- especially if you're a man 45 or older or a woman 50 or older, the
"I always want anyone who's getting started to know their life digits --
blood pressure, BMI (body mass index), cholesterol, blood sugar," says
Running is not the best exercise for everyone, Dolgener says. So listen to
your doctor and your body.
"The worst thing you can do is start running, get injured, then stop
exercising altogether," says Dolgener.
Once you get a green flag from the doctor, don those new running shoes and
start out with a combination of walking and jogging. For example, you might
alternate walking for five minutes and jogging for two minutes.
Over time, steadily increase the amount of time you spend running until
you're able to jog for 20 minutes at a time, suggests Isphording. Once you
achieve that, start increasing your distance.
For someone who has been sedentary, Dolgener recommends starting only with
walking, then progressing to brisk walking before adding any jogging.
"Progression is the key element for someone who hasn't done this,"
Your cardiovascular system will adapt more easily than your musculoskeletal
system, says Dolgener. People don't usually give up running because their
hearts can't adapt but because of injury. Gradually conditioning yourself with
a combination of walking and running gives your body time to adapt to the new
stress on the joints and muscles.