Safest Way to Start Running

by Shawn
(Nixa, MO)

safest way to start running
My question is: what's the safest way to begin a running program? I am slightly overweight, very out of shape, ex- smoker who has smoked up until this week, two packs a day for over 20 years!!!

I just turned 38, was a cross country runner, and state champion in mile, in high school! My waist has gone from a 30, to a snug 36, high blood pressure, and severely out of shape!

I am committed, but I want to start off right, and make sure I am doing what I am supposed to and stay safe as I do it!

Thank you so much for your time.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Shawn,
Thanks for your question about the safest way to start running.

Starting a running program can be a great way to improve your fitness and overall health. However, you are right, it's important to approach it safely, especially when you are starting from scratch.

Here are some guidelines to help you begin a running program in a safe and gradual manner:

1. Consult with a healthcare professional
2. Start with walking mixed with running
3. Keys to success - consistency and gradual progression
4. At all times - listen to your body
5. The benefits of cross-training and strength training

Consult with a healthcare professional

Given your history of smoking and being overweight, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or a sports medicine specialist. They can evaluate your overall health, perform any necessary tests, and provide personalized recommendations based on your specific situation.

Start with walking mixed with running

safest way to start running
When you are just starting out and haven't been physically active, you can begin with a pure walking program or at least, start with a mix of walking and running. For example, you can start with a ratio of 1 minute of running followed by 2-3 minutes of walking, and gradually increase the running intervals while decreasing the walking intervals over time.

I have got a number of run/walk programs available on this website. They have helped many people in a similar situation like yours get started with running. They are a great way to start running. You can find them here:

Beginners Running Program 1 - 15 minutes of non-stop running in 8 weeks.

Beginners Running Program 2 - 20 minutes of non-stop running in 10 weeks.

Beginners Running Program 3 - 30 minutes of non-stop running in 12 weeks.

Keys to success - consistency and gradual progression

safest way to start running
Consistency is key when it comes to improving your fitness. Aim for regular workouts, gradually increasing the duration and intensity over time. A good minimum to shoot for is three training sessions per week. Building fitness takes time and progress may be gradual.

As you are doing your three workouts per week, gradually increase your exercise duration. Increase the time spent working out. Increase the time spent running. Slowly but surely.

At all times - listen to your body

Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. Too many of us get injured because we are ignoring the signals our body provides to us. And it's easy to do. You get committed to improving your health and fitness. And you don't want to lose any preciously made gains.

But, if you get niggles and pains, look after yourself. Take it easy for a day or two.
Pushing through excessive discomfort or ignoring warning signs can lead to injury.

The benefits of strength training

safest way to start running
In addition to the running, I can highly recommend doing some strength training. It will make you stronger and will help prevent injury issues down the line. As we get a little bit older, it will help get you strong, keep you strong and keep you going!

Remember, the most important thing is to listen to your body and respect your limitations. Don't hesitate to seek guidance from healthcare professionals, start off easily and consistently build towards a stronger and fitter version of yourself.

All the best!
Kind regards,

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