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Back on Track

June 25, 2001 -- If you're an experienced jogger who hasn't run a lot recently, or if you're just starting out, you may be tempted to lace on a pair of running shoes and hit the track until you're worn out.

Don't, say the experts.

"Live by the law of the tortoise," says Timothy Maggs, DC. "Do less than you think you can do, go slower than you think you can go." Maggs, in private practice in Schenectady, N.Y., writes "The Running Doctor" column for several magazines.

While jogging isn't a particularly dangerous activity, every way of working out has potential problems, so start out gradually, says Arnold Ravick, DPM.

"It's great aerobic exercise. However, someone who's 30 pounds overweight might want to start out with bicycling or swimming instead," he says. "Jog only four days a week, because if you use the same muscles every single day they never get a chance to rest. That means, if you're jogging, cross-train by also swimming, biking, cardio-boxing, or working out with small weights." Ravick, a spokesman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, is in private practice in Washington, D.C.

Alberto Salazar, former marathon world record holder, outlines a specific "start slow" schedule. For the first two weeks just walk a minute and jog a minute, alternating for a total of 10 minutes. Build up to 15 minutes and then gradually increase your running time: two minutes running, two minutes walking.

"There's no pressure to run at a certain speed," Salazar says. "Even if you've never run before, by the end of a year you should be able to run for 25 minutes per day, four or five days a week. That gives you 90% of the cardiovascular benefits you'll get from running." Salazar, who won the New York City marathon three times, is the author of Alberto Salazar's Guide to Running.

Most importantly, make a commitment to a new habit, Maggs advises. Make a plan and promise yourself you'll stick with it for 30 days.

"Jogging three or four times a week is more than adequate when you first start," he says. "But usually at the end of the first week, your emotions dip and you become less motivated. You need to stick with it for the first month. By then, you'll experience changes and improvements that'll motivate you to continue."

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