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Dear Dr. Caraotta,
I am thinking of taking up running to get in shape. I used to run years ago in high school, but have been inactive for several years. I heard that running is better than swimming to guard against thinning of the bones. I am curious what chiropractic and orthopedic specialists think on this issue.
Running is an excellent aerobic activity, however it is not for everyone. Someone who is 30 pounds overweight might want to start out with bicycling or swimming since this is easier on the lower extremity joints.
If you're an experienced jogger who hasn't run a lot recently, or if you're just starting out, you may be tempted to lace on a pair of running shoes and hit the track until you're worn out. This however is not advisable. When starting out, it is much better to do less than you think you can do, and go slower than you think you should go. This offers some protection. Listening to internal triggers, and easing yourself into any aerobic activity will allow your body to accommodate to the increase in activity.
Alberto Salazar, former marathon world record holder, outlines a specific "start slow" schedule. He recommends that for the first two weeks just walk a minute and jog a minute, alternating for a total of 10 minutes. Build up to 15 minutes and then gradually increase your running time: two minutes running, two minutes walking etc. By the end of a year you should be able to run for 25 minutes per day, four or five days a week. That gives you 90% of the cardiovascular benefits you'll get from running. Jogging three or four times a week is more than adequate when you first start out.
It is common that at the end of the first week after waking up new muscle groups, a person will be less motivated to slip on their Nike's. It is important to make a commitment for the first month so that you will experience changes and improvements that will motivate you to continue.
Lower extremity stretching before and after running can help to reduce injury, muscular soreness, and boost flexibility.
If you're going to take up jogging you need comfortable, well‑cushioned shoes. Remember that your foot size varies throughout the day. It is best to try on new shoes after you've exercised or at the end of the day. If you use extra‑thick socks while running, select shoes with enough room. A shoe should have at least 1/4 inch of space beyond your longest toe and should grip your heel firmly. Shoes should be comfortable when you first try them on. Don't buy shoes and plan to "break them in" by wearing them.
Following some of these guidelines along with good ol' common sense can potentiate your ambitions, and help keep you on track!
If you have a question that you would like Dr. Caraotta to address in his column, you could send your question to their office at 4921 E. State Street, Rockford, IL. 61108 or call your question in at Caraotta Chiropractic Orthopedics, (815) 398-4004 and ask to speak with one of the doctors.