Wear the right running shoes. If you have low arches and tend to pronate (have excessive inward foot movement), a straight lasted shoe is usually a good choice. Curved lasted shoes with cushioning are best if you have high arches and tend to supinate (have excessive outward foot motion). See our Expert Advice article on running shoes for details.
Warming up before running helps prevents injury and encourages better cardio conditioning. Ten minutes of walking or light calisthenics will warm up your muscles (and your heart). Avoid stretching cold muscles as it's easy to overstretch them. Save the stretching for your post-run routine (see Stretching below).
Running too fast, too soon often results in injury and puts beginning runners on the sidelines. You can tell if you're going too fast by having a conversation with your running partner (or talking aloud to yourself). If you can't talk comfortably or easily complete a sentence, slow down!
Improve Your Performance
To build endurance, first and foremost listen to your body. Do not add mileage if you're still fatigued from previous runs or your starting heart rate is above its normal resting rate. You can increase your mileage up to 10% weekly, but this really depends on your weekly mileage to begin with. Also, be sure to schedule a comparatively light week every fourth week to help avoid overuse injuries.
Running hills will improve your overall strength. It will also increase your speed, since the motion of climbing hills mimics the high leg lifts of sprinting.
To develop strength and speed, alternate intervals of sprinting with recovery periods at your normal training pace. Just be sure to warm up beforehand and cool down afterwards to allow your muscles to return to normal functioning.
On race day, it's best to eat a light meal, high in carbohydrates so you'll have plenty of quick energy. You can get your carbs from energy bars, bananas, bagels or even pasta or rice. Sports drinks are also a good source of carbohydrates and will make sure you're well hydrated.
Remember to drink sufficiently before, during and after running, even in cold weather. Your body still loses water through perspiration even though you may not feel like you're sweating or even thirsty. Don't overdo it, though, as overhydration can be as dangerous as too little water.
In hot weather, it's best to wear lightweight, UPF-rated garments, which will breathe and protect you from sunlight. A cap with good ventilation or mesh and a brim to keep sun off your face is good, as is a generous dollop of sunscreen for exposed skin.
For nighttime running, a safety light worn on a belt or armband offers good visibility to drivers. Models are available in clear or red light, and some feature a flashing beacon option.
Shin splints are often caused by the forceful impact of heel strike. The best way to avoid injury during your stride is to try to land midfoot. This lessens the overall impact on your joints and reduces the time your foot touches the ground, which helps increase your speed and efficiency. If you land heel first or overstride, your foot acts as a brake and actually slows you down.
If you get injured while running, make sure you get adequate rest before you go back to your training schedule. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) is the first line of defense for pulled muscles, strains and sprains. Rest to prevent further injury, ice to slow swelling or bleeding, compression from an elastic bandage to immobilize a joint and/or further reduce swelling, and elevation to prevent fluid buildup in the tissues.
Cross-training is an excellent way to work different muscle groups, prevent workout boredom and overuse injuries. Cycling, stair climbing, cross-country skiing and aerobic dance are all great ways to cross-train for running. Weight training also adds the core strength you need to maintain proper running form when fatigued.
Stretching after running is a good idea. This moves lactic acid out of your muscles as well as stretch some of the complementary muscle groups that aren't used as much during running.