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First, do no harm: A few tips before you run

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Finally, the snow is gone and the temperature is starting to rise. Spring is actually in the air!

If you are like most people, you're probably chomping at the bit to get outside and do some type of activity. Perhaps you are considering running as a way to get in shape. You might even be thinking about signing up for the Manitoba Marathon next month just to get you motivated.

If so, you might want to start thinking about what is involved in running such a race. After all, running can be a pretty demanding sport. Without proper preparation, you might find you are not able to run as far or as fast as you think. Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to get on the right track without getting injured or discouraged.

The secret to a successful running program is to set a realistic goal. Considering it is already the start of May, the idea of getting into shape to run the full Manitoba Marathon on June 15 is not only unrealistic, it might actually cause more harm than good.

But don't despair. With a little work, you might be able to take part in the Fun Run portion of the marathon, a 2.6-mile (4.18-kilometre) run. You could also sign up for one of the shorter legs of the relay (the second leg is 7.63 km and the third leg is 7.06 km).

And the opportunities do not end there. Many running events throughout the spring and summer welcome beginners and offer five-km options, including the annual Commit to Get Fit Run we organize at the Wellness Institute on June 1. You can see a list of running events on the Manitoba Running Association website at

So now that you've set your goal, how do you get from the couch to completing a five-km run? First, make sure you have a proper pair of shoes to train/run in. The wrong shoes could have you back on the couch nursing shin splints or aching heels instead of enjoying a summer of running. The best bet is to shop at a store that has knowledgeable staff and different shoe options. Here are a few tips:

-- Buy shoes specifically for running. They are more flexible than walking shoes and have cushioning to absorb the impact.

-- Know your foot -- feet come in a variety of shapes. Knowing your foot's shape is the key to selecting the right pair of shoes.

-- Measure your foot frequently. Measure your feet twice a year, as your foot size changes as you age.

-- Shop toward the end of the day. Feet swell during the day, similar to how they expand when you run or walk.

-- Bring your own socks, the ones you will wear when you run.

-- Walking and running shoes should feel comfortable right away.

-- Replace them on a regular basis -- after about 550-650 km -- once the sole is worn out or the shoe feels uncomfortable or less supportive.

Many training plans advise a strategy of running, walking and resting to help your body adjust to the increased activity. A typical plan will have you running for 15 seconds, then walking for 45 seconds and repeating this cycle for 30 minutes. You'll also alternate between run/walk days, days that you walk only, and an occasional rest day.

Going too hard too soon is a recipe for pain, injury and frustration. Working through a six-week plan, you'll gradually increase the running and reduce the walking until you can sustain running as a way to stay in shape, socialize with other runners and be healthy all summer.

There are many free training plans online. Here are a few to consider:

Good luck and good roads!

Darren Brereton is the director of health and fitness programs at the Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks Hospital.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2014 A19

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