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Running Tips for Beginners Jonathan Kaplan, M.D. Blog Post August 2019

08-16-2019

Are you interested in running, but don’t know where to start? Then this blog is for you. We sat down with Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, foot and ankle specialist at Hoag Orthopedic Institute, to get his professional advice on running for beginners, running streaks, and creating a running plan.

Q: For those of us who don’t know, what is a running streak?

A: A running streak means running for a consecutive amount of days, without fail, for a set length of time. A running streak can last for a few weeks, months, or even years.

Q: Is a running streak a good motivator for beginning runners? Why or why not?

A: The simple answer is that it depends on the nature of the run streak as well as the experience of the runner. The benefits of a run streak are that it provides a clear and objective goal that holds the runner accountable and avoids skipping days simply because the runner may not ‘feel like going for a run’ (even if it is just a short distance). However, the risk of a run streak is that it potentially puts the runner in a situation in which they may ignore their body (aches and pains) by forcing oneself to run despite potentially put the body at risk. In general, I do not recommend a run streak for a beginning runner as their body will need time to acclimate to the new activity and help avoid overuse injuries. However, in time I do think it is reasonable for the runner to incorporate these types of streaks (but again with a very health conscious approach to it).

Q: If a new runner is considering starting to build a new habit, what are some things they should watch out for?

A: The best advice I give new runners is that they need to listen to their bodies. It is normal to have some mild pains as they acclimate to the new activity, however they should not ignore these pains. They need to adjust the nature of what they are doing by their symptoms. It is beneficial to not only adjust the mileage but also the frequency of running, the terrain, and even their shoe wear. Additionally, if needed, consider cross training to improve cardiovascular status while minimize repetitive force on the body. With that being said, some of the red flags for something being ‘wrong’ include persistent or worsening pain, onset of pain earlier in the activity, symptoms at rest or with minimal activities (such as simply walking around day to day) and difficulty weight bearing.

Q: What’s the best way to prepare before beginning?

A: First, it is important for the runner to make sure that they do not have any medical conditions that would preclude them from strenuous cardiovascular activity. Next, ensure appropriate equipment including well-fitting running shoes and appropriate attire for the climate. When starting to run, the terrain should be considered, as I often recommend runners start on a track which is more likely to give good shock absorption and take pressure of the joints that are not used to the impact activity. Additionally, this provides a flat surface which is less strenuous than inclines or declines. Lastly, consideration should be made for developing a cross training program that will allow the runner to continue to build on their aerobic capacity without putting excessive impact and force on their joints. Once they’ve mastered these, then they can progress their distance, frequency, duration, and terrain.

Q: What’s the best way to track progress and create a plan?

A: As in any sport, don’t do it alone. If a runner is just getting started, they should consider working with experienced runners and coaches who can help guide them and provide constructive feedback including mechanics of running as well as developing a program. There are many apps and websites that can aide in developing a program depending on the goals the runner has. Additionally, the program should be constantly adjusted and updated based on progression (or regression) not only in function, but also in regards to how the body is responding. A dynamic, constantly evolving program is necessary to tailor the program to each individual runner.