Jogging Safely

Jogging is a great way to exercise and keep fit. After all, there's nothing easier than lacing up a pair of running shoes and heading outdoors. But jogging is not without risks. A little knowledge and preparation can go a long way to prevent injuries and accidents.

Before you start, consult your physician. Your physician may suggest a stress test to evaluate your condition and can offer helpful advice specific to your physical condition.
Warm up before exercise. Warming up your muscles before you jog can decrease your risk of injury. Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes stretching and loosening the muscles that will be used while jogging. The increased blood flow of such a warm-up will decrease tension in your muscles, improve their range of motion and can even improve performance. Also, warming-up can significantly reduce the chances of muscle pulls, strains, sprains and other such injuries.
Pace yourself. Start jogging at a slower pace for the first few minutes or start your jog with a brisk walk. Sudden and unfamiliar exertions are most likely to cause injuries. If you want to run faster or longer, limit increases to no more than 10 percent a week.
Pay attention to how your body feels before and after a jog. Aches and pains are not uncommon after jogging. However sharp pain that lasts longer than 20-30 minutes after a run could be abnormal. It's important to know your own body so you can be alert to a pull or pain that could be an indication of a more serious injury.
Beware of sudden injuries. Most mild chronic injuries can be treated with a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises. Reducing mileage or icing the affected area are treatment options. Ankle injuries can cause the ankle to turn black-and-blue or to swell. However, the injury might not be a sprain if you can't bear to stand or bear weight on the injured foot. When in doubt, consult your physician and obtain a x-ray to determine if the ankle is broken.
Watch out for acute and chronic injuries. Hamstring tears are common acute injuries - they usually cause sudden pain in the back of the thigh when the hamstrings are contracted suddenly and violently.
Treat injuries properly. Treatment of both above-mentioned injuries includes rest, ice, compression and elevation, commonly known as the RICE method. Once the muscles have recovered, begin a stretching regimen to prevent further injury.
Find out if jogging is right for you. If you have a bad back, constant sore knees, or other recurring injuries, the pounding of jogging may not be for you. Find an activity that puts less stress and impact on the body.
Select the right shoes. A proper fit means that your heel should be snug and not excessively slide up and down. Additionally, there should be about ½ inch between the end of your longest toe and the end of the toe box. Consider support, comfort, durability, and foot-motion control. Periodically, check the soles of your shoes for signs of wear.
Alternate different brands and styles of shoes. Doing so helps alleviate foot problems that develop because of a particular shoe's construction. Using more than one pair can also prolong shoe life.
Cool down. At the end of your jog, cool down by slowing your pace or walking. Muscles that have carried you through a workout have contacted, and a session of stretching is crucial. Muscles that are not conditioned this way are more likely to sustain pulls, strains, and spasms.
Make it a habit. Jogging only once a week, no matter how vigorous the activity, puts you at risk of injury and fails to provide you with maximum aerobic and conditioning benefits. Try to establish a schedule of three-30 minute workouts a week.