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On the Run For Fun and Fitness

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For some, running is a passion that involves intense training

For some, running is a passion that involves intense training. For others, it's simply a way of staying fit. Yet running for whatever reason offers many benefits. It's a weight-bearing exercise that strengthens bones and muscles. It's a cardiovascular exercise that improves endurance. It's also an effective way to maintain or lose weight because it's a real calorie-burner. Common in beginner runners, shin splints are tiny muscle tears that result in pain in the front or inside of the lower leg. They can be caused by poorly cushioned shoes, by running on the toes or by running with stiff calf muscles and weak shins. Other common injuries include chondromalacia (runner's knee), Achilles tendinitis (pain just above the heel), plantar fasciitis (arch pain), and iliotibial band syndrome (pain between the knee and hip). If you'd like to make running part of your fitness regimen, then the following guidelines should help keep you injury-free.

  • Wear properly fitting shoes.
  • Develop a good running form.
  • Incorporate strength training into your exercise regime. Strong muscles are less likely to be injured and an added bonus is that they will also help you run faster.
  • Stretch every time you exercise to eliminate stiffness and soreness. Flexible muscles are less likely to get injured.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself; don't push yourself too hard.

At the first sign of a problem, stop running and take action to prevent a serious injury from developing. Use ice and compression for swelling; use heat for stiffness or soreness. Before you start again, re-evaluate your running in terms of the previous five points. Run for Fun You may have seen them around town packs of people cruising down the street…on feet! They're running clubs and you don't have to be experienced to join one. In fact, if you're thinking of embarking on a running program, a club can provide you with the motivation to get started and keep going. It's a great way to meet others who share your interest. Search the Internet for a club in your area or inquire at a local sports or running store. The Running Room runningroom.com is a commercial site, but it also offers comprehensive lists of running events, running tips and links to other useful sites. Give Side Stitches the Slip Nobody likes that twinge of pain that can often slip in during a bout of exercise. Avoid trouble in the first place by eating and drinking sensibly before you work out. According to Will Hopkins, a sports physiologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, a wide belt cinched around the waist helps to support the ligaments around the stomach, which, when stressed, are believed to be a factor in side stitches. But if a stitch hits, Hopkins suggests you breathe deeply, and then exhale through pursed lips. This technique uses the air in your lungs to press down and steady the gut. Or, bend forward while tightening your stomach muscles, which will also take pressure off the ligaments.

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