Spring is a wonderful time to start a running program—the weather is lovely, and after a wet and weary winter in Southern Oregon, all of our spirits could benefit from some time in the great outdoors. 

Even better? Getting into this form of exercise won’t take too much of a toll on your wallet. For the most part, all you’ll need to get started is a great pair of running shoes, a place to train…and a plan to protect your feet, toes and ankles from common running injuries such as stress fractures, tendinitis or even blackened toenails. 

But why does running increase your risk for such injuries? Well, every time your feet strike the ground—whether you’re training outdoors or inside, on a treadmill—the force of the impact adds stress to the joints, tendons, muscles, bones and ligaments. As such, without proper care, the increased pressure could lead to injury. Hoping to stay active and avoid that outcome? Here’s how our podiatrists in Southern Oregon can you start a running program safely. 

Get Cleared for Activity Before You Start a Running Program

If you spent the winter curled up, inactive on your couch, or if you’ve been pretty active, but are newer to the sport of running, you should you’re your feet checked before you begin training. 

Here at our Medford, Oregon podiatry practice, we can evaluate prospective runners to get a better picture of your current foot and ankle health. We can also monitor your gait, check your current running shoes, and determine how the structure of your feet and ankles might impact your risk for running injuries. Then, if we notice any imbalances in your body, or biomechanical concerns, we can fit you for custom orthotics to help reduce your risk for injury when you do start a running program. 

While you’re in the office, we can also make sure that the shoes you want to wear are well-fitted to your feet, and aren’t showing signs of wear and tear. Then, once you’re cleared for workouts, we can provide guidance on how to ease yourself into a new exercise program in order to avoid pain and injury.  

At First, Include Walking in the Mix three people running in a city setting

Many new runners make the mistake of lacing up and running for as long and as fast as they can, until they reach the point of exhaustion. Unfortunately, this is a recipe for pain and injury. 

Looking for a safer—and less strenuous—way to start a running program? The answer lies in starting off your routine by combining walking and running in your training program. Here’s what that might look like. 

Start by setting your goal of moving your body for 30 minutes. Now, plan to run for between two and five minutes. Then, once you complete that running block? Slow down and walk for the same exact time period—that’s one cycle. And, for the rest of your training sessions in the first week of your program, repeat the cycle until you reach your goal of 30 minutes of exercise. 

Now, as the weeks progress and your strength increases, you can gradually increase the number of minutes you spend at a running pace. You can also keep following the exact same pattern of running and walking, but increase your total movement time slightly. Either way, make sure any increases are gradual—move up to six minutes of straight running from five, but don’t jump straight to 10 or 15 minutes stretches. You see, by giving your body time to adjust to more strenuous workouts, you can avoid many common overuse injuries. In turn, the start of your running program is unlikely to end with you hurt or experiencing chronic foot or ankle pain. 

Don’t Forget to Rest 

When planning your running program, make sure to build rest days into your training schedule—that means taking a day or two off between scheduled running schedules. Why is this step so important? As we mentioned in the introduction, running is a strenuous form of activity. In fact, every time you exercise vigorously, small tears develop in your muscle fibers. Now, your body is able to repair that damage—and build up stronger muscles in the process—if you take a break from strenuous activity and allow it time to heal. But if you run every day, the minor damage could become major. And that would leave you sidelined with a running injury, meaning you’d have to take a break from training that lasts far longer than a day or two. 

Of course, just because you can’t run on your rest days doesn’t mean you have to give up on any form of activity. Instead, engage in cross training on those days. Try weight-bearing activities or low-impact cardiovascular exercise. These choices can help increase your stamina and build strength in the muscles that support your runs, further reducing your risk for future injuries. 

When you Start a Running Program, Listen for Signs That it’s Time to Stop 

Whether you’re new to running or a total veteran, you have to get over the instinct to push through pain and keep training. You see, when you experience pain, before or after a run, that’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. In some cases, the problem could simply be that you’ve worked out new muscles, and your body needs a break. If so, the pain should resolve after a day or two of rest. 

But if that pain persists after you’ve stopped running and rested for a bit? That’s likely a sign of a developing injury. So, if you want to keep growing as a runner, and enjoying an active lifestyle—free from injury—it’s critical to seek immediate medical attention. So call our podiatry practice in Medford, Oregon at 541-776-3338, or click here to request an appointment with Dr. Evan Merrill or Dr. Devin Dimond, running podiatrists serving our neighbors in Southern Oregon and Northern California. 


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