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As a marathon runner and medical director for two of the largest races in central Ohio, I am often asked, "How do I start running?" That is a great question. Working with runners and walkers on a daily basis, I have unfortunately witnessed and ultimately treated the poor choices some people make when starting a new program. One of the biggest risk factors for injury is starting a new sport. To minimize your risk of injury, follow these simple steps:

First, invest in a good pair of running and walking shoes that have been properly fitted for you. Several stores in Columbus specialize in running and walking shoes. It's important to ensure that your shoes provide proper support and cushioning to protect your bones and joints from the repetitive impact of your feet striking the ground.

Walk before your run! A 5- to 10-minute walk or jog before working out, followed by a cool-down period, can help reduce the risk for injury. If you can't run continuously for the entire time in the beginning, take walking breaks and start running again when you feel up to it.

Frequency - Begin your training program by running or walking at least three times per week. Gradually increase the frequency of your workouts to four to five times per week. Don't run more than two days in a row for the first six weeks. Give your muscles and bones a chance to adapt to the new training program.

Duration - If you're a beginner, focus on sustaining a specified period of time, rather than focusing on distance.
Your running program should be designed to gradually increase the time you spend on your feet, rather than the distance. Begin with 20 minutes and gradually increase to 40-60 minutes. Avoid drastic increases in your program. Don't increase your workouts by more than 10 percent each week.

Intensity - Don't focus on getting faster until you have reached your frequency and duration goals. Be patient! Increasing your intensity while increasing your frequency and duration will lead to injuries. Don't be in a hurry to enter a local road race, no matter how much your friends and family pressure you.

Most importantly, make it fun. Find a friend to work out with. Camaraderie during the workout can make the time go faster. It's also helpful to run or walk with someone to judge how fast you are going. If you can't talk to the person next to you, then you need to slow down. In addition, knowing that someone else is counting on you helps to ensure you will stick with the program. Following these simple steps will help you enjoy running and walking for many years to come.

DARRIN BRIGHT, MD

View Dr. Bright's Bio

MAX Sports Medicine
Medical director for the Columbus Marathon and Capital City Half Marathon.
Coach and medical consultant for the Marathoner in Training (MIT) marathon and half marathon training groups.
Member of the OhioHealth Sports Medicine Institute