Running and Jogging Tips

General techniques for the beginning runner or jogger, including injury prevention, workout strategies, and shoe selection.

Whether you are a Cross Country runner or a Track runner, a distance runner or a sprinter, or you just jog to keep in shape, this article will explain the basics of running and some tips to keep you on your feet for a long time to come.

Picking your shoes.  Your shoe is one of the most important factors for determining the quality of your run. If you are wearing a poorly made pair of shoes, or if your current pair is old and beaten, getting a new pair should be a top priority.  All you really need to buy is a good pair of running shoes, and possibly some ventilated socks, which is a fraction of the club and equipment costs involved with other sports. While running shoes can range from $50 to $300, price is not really a determining factor. Keeping your shoes in good shape is the most important passive technique that a runner can utilize. Any shoe store should have running shoes, but FootZone, FootLocker, and Super Jock and Jill offer excellent service and reasonable prices, especially since a large portion of their shoes are geared towards runners. The process of buying running shoes is not one that you want to rush - if the shoes at one store just don't feel right, don't settle for a pair that's just "okay". Buying an expensive pair of running shoes that are not perfectly comfortable can get very irritating after the third mile of your jog. If you are a casual runner and you usually just go for jogs to keep your fitness level up, the recommended price range is about $100 to $150. If you go any lower than $100 the shoes usually take a dramatic fall in quality, and you'll end up paying more than you would have if you bought a more expensive pair due simply to replacements. If you are on a Cross Country or Track team, or if you're a dedicated runner, you might want to consider heading up into the $200 price range.

Getting that second pair.  You're going to need a second pair eventually, and not as a replacement. Don't get it right after your first pair - the point of having two pairs of running shoes is to minimalize the usage and prevent them from "squishing down". If you wear the same pair of shoes every day, the soles of the shoes tend to become less stable after a while and it can drastically increase your risk of injury. The second pair doesn't have to be as expensive as the first one, just quality enough that you can wear it every two days or so as a replacement. After running with a pair of shoes for a day or two, you want to let them sit and regain some of their cushion and spring in their soles.

SuperFeet.  SuperFeet are shoe inserts that help to prevent both over pronation and under pronation. Over pronation is when your feel roll inwards too much while walking or running, and under pronation is exactly the opposite (outwards). The most common form is over pronation, experienced by the majority of the running community. This is not a defect - most people over pronate, but never really notice it. Pronation simply becomes especially obvious during running, because prolonged jogs can place too much pressure on either the inside or outside of your food (depending on which kind of pronation you are). SuperFeet help to mitigate this problem by providing additional support in the sole of your foot. When you are buying running shoes, the salesperson will usually have you walk away from them and then back. This is when they look for pronation in your step, and if you have an especially serious case, they will usually recommend SuperFeet. They vary in price depending on both the level you need to compensate for your pronation and the size of your foot, but you can usually find a good pair of the inserts for $50 - $100. Replace the inserts that come with your shoes immediately - the ones shipped with the shoes are usually cheap and provide almost no support whatsoever.

Shin Splints.  The curse of every runner, making up 10% - 15% of all running injuries.  Shin splints are an extremely common injury for beginners, caused by excessive stress on the lower leg area.  This stress is amplified by running on pavement and other hard surfaces - running on softer surfaces such as trails will reduce risk of injury. 

Socks.   Socks aren't the most important part of running, but having a good pair of ventilated socks can make a big difference if you sweat a lot. Having sweat collect in your socks while you run can lead to warts and other infections that you don't want. Mesh socks are the most common form - these are socks that look normal, except the top of them has a small amount of ventilation to let out extra moisture. Many people don't need to worry about this, but if you find that the skin on your feet is peeling after running or have other foot-related problems, running socks might be a solution.

Spikes.   There won't be too much detail on spikes in this article, simply because most runners who need spikes are most likely experienced in the area. Spikes are shoes with additional traction, only used for running cross-country or on the track. Spikes can't be used on pavement, and if you're going for casual jogs you don't even need to worry about them. Spikes are usually used during races to decrease times.

Warming up.  First of all, DO NOT STRETCH. A basic "limbering up" exercise is fine, but don't go into any serious stretching before your run. Studies have shown that doing so can actually increase your risk of injury. In a University of Hawaii study, 47% of all male runners who stretched regularly were injured during a one-year period, while only 33% of male runners who didn't stretch were injured. The results were not as drastic for female runners. Stretching is important, of course, but it is far more effective to get in a good stretching session after your run. This is not unfounded evidence. Many coaches and runners are too indoctrinated by the old tradition of "pre-run stretching" to change their strategies. Knee-raises, butt-kicks, and strides (short sprints) are a good way to get warmed up.

The Jog.  Start slow. A good strategy for a newer runner is a one-mile warm-up. Set a pace for yourself and keep it. It doesn't have to be in numbers; if you're listening to a really good song, try to keep pace to the beat for about a mile. It shouldn't take your more than fifteen minutes for an average jogger. Next is the most important part - the beginning jog was not your run. After a brief rest, you need to actually push yourself. Launch into a 2 - 3 mile run (not jog) and keep pushing yourself to the limit. A good strategy for beginning runners is not to change the distance of your run, but rather change the speed of your run. For example, if you run from your house to a specific point on a trail about two miles away and then run back, you know the way. After a few times, you can visualize how much distance you have left to cover. This will allow you to pace yourself, and instead of changing your jogging location, you can merely just complete the same run a little bit faster every time.  When you think that you have reached the minimum time in which you can complete the run without getting too tired, increase the distance and keep it at an uncomfortable, yet maintainable, pace. The trick to running well is to push yourself. Going for a brief run without a specific goal or distance in mind usually doesn't yield too many results except getting some fresh air (not that it's a bad thing!). Make a plan and stick to it. Grab a running buddy if it helps you get motivated!

Timing.  Either run every day, or every other day. Never just run when you feel like it, as that defeats the purpose. Your body will be much more comfortable adapting to a routine running schedule, and not only will you feel great, but many people find that they are able to sleep better by maintaining a schedule.

In essence: get two pairs of good shoes, start slow, and get motivated. Find the pace that works for you, and let running be a release for your energy. Happy jogging!

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lucia anna
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Posted on Dec 15, 2010