This is the best time of year for runners — and those thinking of taking up the sport. Temperatures are just about perfect, and there are a host of local events coming up for runners at all levels.
For those just getting started, we asked Dr. Arnold Ramirez, of Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, to offer some tips. Ramirez, 39, is director of Bayfront's Sports Medicine Fellowship Program. He's also an avid triathlete and runner who has completed distances from 5Ks to marathons.
What's your best advice for someone who is thinking about getting into running?
Start slow, and have proper equipment for the proper sport. In this case, proper shoes. Not all athletic shoes are running shoes. If you've never run before, start by walking, interspersed with light jogs – 1 to 2 miles at maximum, and build from there. For someone who's never run before, if you have access to a treadmill, that's actually a better way to go. The surface is softer, and you can control the speed and the time.
From there, how does one begin to prepare for a race such as a 5K (3.1 miles) or 10K (6.2 miles)?
Signing up for a race is probably the best way for someone to start exercising. The reason? One, you pay a registration fee; and two, there's a goal in sight. Having a buddy to do it with you is one of the best ways to stay on track, because it keeps you accountable to your training, and it's a lot more fun.
What injuries are most prevalent among people who are new to running, and what are some of the most effective ways to prevent injury?
The most common injuries are overuse-type injuries, where people have done too much, too quickly. . . . A common injury is runner's knee, or iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. Besides starting slow, the other important way to avoid injury is to maintain flexibility. That's done by stretching. The best time to stretch is when the muscles are warm, so stretching is most effective after the run.
Is there anything else those interested in running should know?
We live in Florida, so dehydration and heat illness come into play. It's very important to stay hydrated before, during and after the activity. Water is sufficient if the activity is less than 60 to 90 minutes; longer than that, then it's important to replace the carbohydrates as well, which includes sports drinks.