Many of us started (or should have started) running this week to prepare for the GO! Half marathon in St. Louis in April.  I am not a runner, nor have I ever really been a runner, however, I have trained many athletes prevent injuries while training.  I decided this is the year I will cross it off my bucket list, so I am right there with you.

I thought we all could use some tips on preparing.  Remember, always consult a physician before starting a new exercise program.

Find a program:  The best thing to do is consult a personal trainer to find the best program for you.  If that is not an option, the internet has lots of training programs to choose from.  I wanted to choose one where I could still take dance classes once or twice a week and still rock climb once a week.  You also want to make sure you do not pick a program that is out of your fitness level (ie if you are a beginner, do not pick one for advanced runners.)  Really read the program you choose because some say you need to be able to run 4 miles easily before you even start training.  I have decided to follow something similar to Hal Higdon’s Novice program.

Goal setting: Some people have a specific time to beat, others just want to finish.  Keeping your goal focused on running, not losing weight, will make you more likely to complete your program.

Motivation: Pay for it already!  Then tell yourself and those around you that you are doing it.  Get friends to run with you or go to the gym with you while you run.

Shoes and other gear: Not all running shoes are created equally.  Find someone who knows their stuff to sell or recommend you shoes.  If you are having knee problems, shoes might be the culprit.  Also, running outside in this cold weather can be uncomfortable and unsafe.  Dress warm enough and do not run when it is dark or icy.

Nutrition:  Well-balanced whole foods with a combination of good carbs and protein should be eaten at every meal while training.  Just because you burn more calories does not mean you get to live off of junk food.

Hydration: Water is your best choice before, during, and after running.  If you want to use an electrolyte replenishing drink, be careful drinking too much sugar before or during your run.  Do not just load up on fluids right before and during your workout, keep water with you all day.

Injury prevention: When training hard, injuries can easily sneak up on you.  As soon as you feel something is off, see a musculoskeletal professional who specializes in athletes.  The most common running injuries I see include IT Band Syndrome at the hip or knee and shin splints, both of which are preventable in most people.