Running: Knowing the Basics Goes a Long Way
- Run in familiar neighborhoods or trails close to your home. If you are away from home, plan your run ahead of time to choose a route that is safe and has support services along the way.
- Do not run in dark, secluded areas, especially at night.
- Avoid busy, highly trafficked streets. You should also avoid rural roads that may have fast drivers or lots of curves and hills.
- Run on the shoulder of the road facing traffic. This will make you more visible to drivers.
- Take responsibility for staying clear of motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Obey traffic signals and other pedestrian safety rules.
- Never assume a driver can see you.
- If you do run at dawn, dusk, or at night, wear bright clothing, including at least a piece of clothing with specially designed reflectors.
- Avoid wearing headphones while running, as they decrease your awareness of surroundings.
- Consider carrying a mobile phone in the event of an emergency.
- Wear insect repellent if you are running on trails, especially in areas that increase your exposure to ticks and mosquitoes.
- Wear sunblock and UV-protective sunglasses when running during the day to protect against skin and eye damage.
- Keep your shoes in good shape. Always wear socks to avoid blisters.
- Do not over-train. Never step up your running by more than 10% per week for any given increase. Take time to adjust to that level before increasing your running again.
- Vary your plan by following a long, hard run 1 day with a short, easier run the next.
- Cross-train to help strengthen all of your muscles and reduce your chance of injury.
- Begin each run with a warm-up and follow each run with a cool down.
- Stretch to increase flexibility.
- Vary the surfaces on which you run. Include roads, trails, and hills, for example.
- Rest to allow your body to recovery after a difficult race, such as a marathon.
Treating the Inevitable
- Level 1—Minor pain noticed after running
- Level 2—Discomfort or tightness noticed while running, but does not limit activity
- Level 3—Pain felt while running that begins to limit activity
- Level 4—Severe pain while running that forces you to stop
- Level 1 may require 1-2 days rest.
- Level 2 requires 4-7 days rest.
- Level 3 requires 2-4 weeks rest.
- Level 4 may need 6 weeks or more of rest.
Stay well hydrated, but avoid over-hydration, which may result in hyponatremia—a dangerously low level of sodium in the blood.
- Drink 10-15 ounces of fluids 10-15 minutes prior to running, and a cupful every 20-30 minutes while running depending upon your individual needs and the temperature.
- If your urine is clear, then you are well hydrated. If it is dark, you will need to drink more fluids.
- Build slowly, gradually increasing your running in hot weather, so as to give your system time to adjust. And take into account your fitness level, since the less fit you are, the more likely you are to suffer heat-related injury.
- Run early in the morning before it gets too hot. Stay in the shade, when possible.
- Wear light-colored and breathable clothing.
- Pay attention to humidity. Recognize that the combination of heat and humidity affects your system. For example, 85ºF (29ºC) heat with very high humidity puts more strain on your system than 95ºF (35ºC) heat with very low humidity.
- Recognize that many health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, the flu, and obesity, as well as many medications, can lower your heat tolerance. If you are uncertain about a condition or medication, check with your doctor.
- Warm up well before you begin each run.
- Avoid icy areas and snowy areas. But if you must choose, remember that snow gives you much more traction than ice.
- Consider wearing traction devices over your shoes in snowy or icy conditions. They can be purchased at a local running store.
- Recognize that not just cold, but cold and wind causes cold-related injuries, including frostbite.
- To help maintain warmth throughout your run, begin your run heading into the wind and return with the wind at your back.
- Make sure your entire body is protected. Pay special attention to your head, ears, hands, and feet, which are most likely to suffer frostbite. Since a great deal of heat is lost through your head, be sure to wear a warm hat. In extreme wind and cold, wear a ski mask or other protection for your face.
- Wear proper clothing. Wool is warm and helps whisk moisture away from your skin, but it can be heavy. Polypropylene and Gortex clothing are warm, allow evaporation of sweat, and have the benefit of being lightweight. A layer of nylon can also help lessen the effect of wind. On your feet, try a thick sock over a thinner sock as long as this does not make your foot fit too tightly in your shoe.
- After running, change out of wet clothing to avoid hypothermia.
American Council on Exercise http://www.acefitness.org
American Society of Exercise Physiologists http://www.asep.org
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology http://www.csep.ca
Healthy Canadians http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca
American College of Sports Medicine Recommendations for Endurance Athletes. Am Fam Physician. 2000;73(3): 547.
Cold weather running tips. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: http://www.rrca.org/education-advocacy/cold-weather-running-tips/. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Hot weather running tips. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: http://www.rrca.org/education-advocacy/hot-weather-running-tips/. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Know when to replace athletic shoes. Michigan State University website. Available at: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/know%5Fwhen%5Fto%5Freplace%5Fathletic%5Fshoes. Accessed November 4, 2015.
Running. Georgia State University website. Available at: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwfit/running.html. Accessed November 4, 2015.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 09/2015 -
- Update Date: 11/19/2013 -