Tips to Start Running

Stay healthy and avoid injury with safety tips from doctors and physical therapists

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The Olympics can inspire people to start running. But first follow a few key health and safety tips to keep from getting hurt.

Medical professionals gave their two cents about running safety. Exercise is more of a big picture, long term effort than just today’s workout.

"Start out slow and build strength and stamina over time."

John Harrell, MD, director of Baylor School of Medicine's Diagnostic and Interventional Musculoskeletal Ultrasound, and Dana Tew, PT, doctor of physical therapy and program manager, Physical Therapy Orthopaedic Residency Program, Quentin Mease Community Hospital, talk about how to keep the body healthy as a runner.

Dr. Harrell and his colleagues advocate starting out slow when beginning a running regimen.

Dr. Harrell said, “Aches and pains are normal when you run. Most pains that are muscular or tendon-related tend to improve once you’re warmed up.”

“Feelings in your leg that get worse as you run farther are concerning for a more serious problem and are usually a good warning sign to get checked out.”

Normal fatigue and soreness will go away, but Dr. Harrell warns that pain lasting longer than 2-3 runs and a week of rest need to be assessed by a doctor.

If rest and stretching don’t do the trick, or swelling, skin color changes or unusual weakness occurs—go to the doctor.

Dr. Tew said, “With every exercise, be smart about what you’re doing. If you’ve never run before, talk to your doctor about it and listen to his or her advice.”

“Don’t assume you can run a marathon if you’ve never trained before. Longer runs require lots of training; with runners building many miles a week to properly prepare.”

“Also, consider that a physical therapist can detect muscle imbalances, joint restrictions and other steps to minimize possible injuries.”

Specific running injuries can include ailments of the foot and heel, Achilles tendon and calves, as well as the knees and hips.

For foot and heel injuries, they recommend strength exercises and stretching.

Injuries in the Achilles tendon and calves are best helped with rest and ice, not stretching. Slowly returning to exercise with strengthening exercises such as jumping jacks, jump rope or toe raises should help.

Knee injuries are common from overtraining. Rest and strengthening exercises can help in the future. Try cross-training by biking or swimming to give the knees a break.

Hip problems are nothing to ignore! Rest and try strengthening exercises. But never forget to go to the doctor if the pain persists in any of these areas.

Physical therapist and dailyRx contributing expert Diane Shiao, said, "There are a few things to keep in mind before starting a running program. To avoid injury, a good pair of sneakers that are well-fitted to the shape of your feet is very important."

"Also, avoid running on the sidewalks or a concrete surface. Running on a track or dirt paths are ideal surface areas to run on because they provide a firm surface and enough give for shock absorption." 

"Work on a walking program first until you are able to walk 2 miles in 30 minutes or less. Then you can start running one minute at a time and switch from running to walking."

"There are various running schedules that are available. Choose one that suits your capabilities, but if need an expert consult, you can seek out a sports physical therapist."

This information came from medical health professionals working in Harris County Hospital District and Baylor College of Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 8, 2012
Last Updated:
April 29, 2013