How do I get started?

Start walking for a length of time that feels comfortable--anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Once you can walk for 30 minutes easily, sprinkle 1- to 2-minute running sessions into your walking. As time goes on, make the running sessions longer, until you're running for 30 minutes straight.

Is it normal to feel pain during running?

Some discomfort is normal as you add distance and intensity to your training. But real pain isn't normal. If some part of your body feels so bad that you have to run with a limp or otherwise alter your stride, you have a problem. Stop running immediately, and take a few days off. If you're not sure about the pain, try walking for a minute or two to see if the discomfort disappears.

Do I have to wear running shoes, or are sneakers fine?

Running doesn't require much investment in gear and accessories, but you have to have a good pair of running shoes. Unlike sneakers, running shoes are designed to help your foot strike the ground properly, reducing the amount of shock that travels up your leg. They're also made to fit your foot snugly, which reduces the slipping and sliding that can lead to blisters. Visit a specialty running store to find the right shoe for you.

What's the difference between running on a treadmill and running outdoors?

A treadmill "pulls" the ground underneath your feet, and you don't face any wind resistance, both of which make running somewhat easier. Many treadmills are padded, making them a good option if you're carrying a few extra pounds or are injury-prone and want to decrease impact. To better simulate the effort of outdoor running, you can always set your treadmill at a 1-percent incline. 

I always feel out of breath when I run. Is something wrong?

Yes, you're probably trying to run too fast. Relax. Slow down. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is to run too fast. Concentrate on breathing from deep down in your belly, and if you have to, take walking breaks.

I often suffer from a side stitch when I run. Will these ever go away?

Side stitches are common among beginners because your abdomen is not used to the jostling that running causes. Most runners find that stitches go away as fitness increases. Also, don't eat any solid foods during the hour before you run. When you get a stitch, breathe deeply, concentrating on pushing all of the air out of your abdomen. This will stretch out your diaphragm muscle (just below your lungs), which is usually where a cramp occurs.

When Should I Replace My Running Shoes?

Running in old or worn-out shoes is one of the most common causes of running injuries. Your running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability over time. Continuing to run in worn-out running shoes increases the stress and impact on your legs and joints, which can lead to overuse injuries.  The easiest thing you can do to prevent those types of injuries is replace your running shoes when they're worn-out.

So how do you know when shoes need to be retired? Don't use the treads of your running shoes to determine whether you should replace your shoes. The midsole, which provides the cushioning and stability, usually breaks down before the bottom shows major signs of wear. If you've been feeling muscle fatigue, shin splints, or some pain in your joints -- especially your knees -- you may be wearing running shoes that no longer have adequate cushioning.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. Smaller runners can get new running shoes at the upper end of the recommendation, while heavier runners should consider replacement shoes closer to the 300 mile mark. If you run on rough roads, you'll need to replace your running shoes sooner than if you primarily run on a treadmill.
Mark your calendar when you buy a new pair of running shoes so you remember when to replace them. If you use a training log, be sure to record when you bought new shoes.

Should I Stretch Before or After I Warm Up?

Always warm up before you stretch. It's a bad idea to stretch cold muscles. If your muscles aren't loosened up before you stretch, you're more at risk for pulling them.
Do about 5 to 10 minutes of light aerobic exercise to loosen up your muscles and warm you up for your run. Try walking briskly, jogging slowly, or cycling on a stationary bike. Make sure you don't rush your warm-up.

What is the best running technique for me?

When you run you will naturally settle into the most efficient stride for your body. Generally, beginning runners will begin their running carrier as heel strikers. That means that they land on their heels and roll to their forefoot before toeing off. This is especially true of heavier and older runners. For a beginning runner, this may be the most efficient technique, given their weight, strength, and flexibility. If someone who naturally runs by landing on their heels tries to manipulate their stride so that they always run by landing on their forefoot, they will not be getting the most out of their existing body structure. They may also quickly injure themselves since they probably don't have the conditioning necessary to land on their forefoot.

As runners get stronger, faster, develop flexibility, and gain experience, these same runners, however, may start landing on their mid-food or forefoot. (Even people, who land on their forefoot immediately lower their heels, so don't read this to say forefoot strikers stay on their toes: only the strongest and fastest sprinters do that.) This shift from being a heel striker to a mid-food or forefoot striker is a natural shift that occurs overtime because the body gets stronger and adapts to find the most efficient stride.
As you move towards increasing the efficiency of your stride, make any changes slowly. Rapidly changing your stride will most likely lead to an injury.

How do you toe the line between a healthy dose of creakiness and pain that's a sign of trouble?

It can make you limp down the stairs or struggle to get out of your chair. But that doesn't mean muscle soreness is all bad. Muscles go through physical stress when we exercise, and the discomforts that stress causes may be perfectly normal. In fact, muscle soreness is often a good thing. Its proof your body is adapting and growing fitter, reprogramming your muscle structure and making weaker cells stronger.

Sometimes the physical stress of exercise manifests itself as soreness while you're still running. That's because the action of running pushes your body's weight downward—and even the cushiest shoes can't alone handle the shock. Some of the force goes back into your muscles.

You can minimize mid run soreness by making sure you are in good shoes that aren't too worn and choosing softer running surfaces when possible. And consider doing the next day's easy run on the treadmill, which has more give to help your recovery. When soreness escalates beyond slight discomfort, back off the pace (take walk breaks) and distance (take a shortcut or stop running and walk the remaining miles). Follow up with at least one rest or cross-training day—don't try to make up for the missed mileage.

You may feel fine during and right after a workout, only to discover you're quite sore a day or two later. Intense or new activities put a lot of stress on muscle cells. Some of those cells are strong from your regular workouts, but when you work your body in a new way, you hit some cells that are weaker. The weaker ones develop micro tears. This damage causes achiness. The good news is that once your muscles repair themselves and grow stronger, they are more resistant to damage for up to eight weeks.

How do I ease my sore aching muscles?

ICE BATH - Sitting in a cold tub for 10 to 20 minutes after a hard run helps flush out waste products and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown. You can also apply an ice pack to individual sore spots.

HEAT THERAPY - When muscle temperature is increased, blood flow increases, bringing nutrient-rich blood to the damaged muscle. Wait 24 hours after a run to apply heat.

ACTIVE RECOVERY - Twenty to 30 minutes of low-impact exercise increases blood flow to muscles to reduce trauma and re-establish the body's pH level. Cross-training the day after an intense workout can help you recover from a race, speed session, or long run.

MASSAGE - Researchers in Australia found that sports massage may help reduce muscle soreness by as much as 30 percent. Massage may increase blood flow to the damaged muscles and enhance recovery.

GENTLE STRETCHING - Stretching loosens muscles while lengthening them, and this allows them to relax and get back full range of motion. Hold gentle stretches for about 30 seconds at a time, post run.

What is runner’s toe, and how do I avoid it?

You’ll know you have it when you see there has been bleeding under the toenail accompanied by pain. This condition develops because of repeated pressure downward on the toenails or irritation between the toenails and the shoe. It’s not a serious injury but it hurts. Take 1 or 2 days off, but return to running as soon as you can stand the discomfort, assuming you’ve made the necessary adjustments to prevent your toes constantly rubbing against the top of your shoes.

Avoided by doing the following:

Make sure your shoes fit properly.  Your feet swell a full shoe size during long runs or walks.  When standing in the prospective shoe, ensure that there is one half inch from the end of your longest toe (not necessarily your big toe) to the end of your shoe.

  • Ensure that the toe box of your shoe is wide enough so your toes do not get compressed or banged. 
  • Lace your shoes properly to keep your heal in the heal box rather than allowing the foot to slide forward with each step taken.
  • Trim your toenails regularly and straight across but not so short too expose the remaining nail bed to shoe irritation.