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Health & Exercise Forum

How to Start a Running Program

Apr 28, 2014

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumWith the increased popularity of local races such as the Steamtown Marathon and Scranton 1/2 Marathon, local interest in running is exploding. On many levels, including the improvement of the health and wellness of the residents of NEPA, this is a tremendous trend. However, as a health care provider, I am seeing a significant number of first time runners visit my office with a wide variety of injuries that are very preventable with a modicum of good judgment.

Runners are addicted to running for good reason. There is nothing like it! No exercise offers so much in such little time. Caloric expenditure is higher than in most other exercises, including biking. Running also allows for fresh air, beautiful scenery, minimal investment in clothing or equipment, little skill and time to learn. Moreover, the benefits are many; runners suffer from less depression, colds and flu symptoms, and experience less pain due to an endorphin release (a natural chemical in the brain associated with euphoria and pain control.)

This column will be dedicated to those who are interested in beginning a running program for all the reasons mentioned above and more. The program is designed to promote a safe and gradual introduction or return to running as form of exercise. The initial goal is to help you attain 30 minutes (approximately 2 miles) of running at a slow, relaxed and safe pace. This 30 minute goal is the standard used in most research that shows improvement in weight control, cholesterol, heart disease, blood pressure and adult onset diabetes. The 8 week program is a simple and safe program that begins with more walking than running and gradually reverses the proportion. The first two miles are the hardest and once mastered; one can begin to build on mileage and intensity if desired. For those interested in advancing to a half or full marathon, I recommend the book “The Marathon” by Jeff Galloway who advocates a run/walk program as you increase distances. Visit his website at:

Before You Begin Running:

  •  Consult your physician: This is important if you have health issues, have not engaged in exercise for some time or you are 15-20 pounds overweight and over 40 years of age.
  • Plan a schedule: Get committed. Use a computer, calendar, or fitness Apps such as Endomondo Sports Tracker or Argus.
  • Get mentally prepared: You will have good and bad days. You have to do it, even on the bad days. Once you get to a certain level of fitness, it gets easier and more fun.
  • Buy the proper shoes for you: Just because the sneaker fits does not mean you have to wear it! Manufacturers entice prospective buyers with a multitude of colors, fabrics, styles and designs. Instead of focusing on aesthetics, focus on function!
    • Note: New Balance, Brooks, Asics, Mizuno & Saucony all make quality running shoes to accommodate a supinated, pronated or normal foot.
    • The appearance of an arch in a weight bearing position does not automatically exclude the individual from excessive supination or pronation. Consult a podiatrist or an orthopedic physical therapist to determine the propensity toward supination, pronation or neutrality of the foot and ankle.
    • Other equipment: DryTech is great fabric for running which wicks the sweat away from the skin and prevents chaffing. It can be found in shorts, pants, shirts and socks Also, weather and temperature options are important, such as compression shorts in cooler temperatures to prevent muscle pulls.

Beginning to Run

  • Week 1:
    • Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 10 times.
    • Tuesday, Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest
  • Week 2:
    • Monday, Wednesday: Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 10 times.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 3-4 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 6-7 times.
    • Tuesday, Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest
  • Week 3:
    • Monday, Wednesday: Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 5 times.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 4 times.
    • Tuesday, Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest.
  • Week 4:
    • Monday, Wednesday: Run 8 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times, then run 3 minutes.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat twice, then run 8 minutes.
    • Tuesday, Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest.
  • Week 5:
    •  Monday, Wednesday: Run 12-13 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat twice, then run 2-4 minutes.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 14-15 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat twice, then run 2 minutes.
    • Tuesday, Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest.
  • Week 6:
    • Monday, Wednesday: Run 16-17 minutes, walk 1 minute, then run 12-13 minutes.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 18-19 minutes, walk 1 minute, then run 10-11 minutes.
    • Tuesday, Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest
  • Week 7:
    • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Run 20-22 minutes, walk 1 minute, then run 7-9 minutes.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 24-26 minutes, walk 1 minute, then run 3-5 minutes.
    • Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest.
  • Week 8:
    • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Run 27-28 minutes, walk 1 minute, then 1-2 minutes.
    • Friday, Saturday: Run 29-30 minutes, walk 1 minute, then run 0-1 minute.
    • Thursday: Walk 30 minutes.
    • Sunday: Rest.

Training Tips

  • Fuel Up: drink water, eat a piece of fruit or a granola bar 45-60 minutes before
  • Warm-up/Cool-down: 3-5 minutes before and after
  • Stretch: after the exercise
  • Use good form: elbows bent at 90 degrees, swing with momentum forwards, not sideways, limit trunk rotation
  • Dress properly: layer to adjust to the temperature, wear a hat and use sunscreen
  • Cross-Train: low impact exercise on walking days or one running day to protect your joints and prevent injury and burn-out (elliptical)
  • Change shoes: every 250 to 300 miles
  • Heat/Cold: use heat before and ice after exercise if you have sore muscles or joints when you first begin.
  • Build on foundation: once you have a 30 minute base you can increase the duration and intensity on occasion.

SOURCE:  Runner's World

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.  This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.comPaul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.