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Mark Tilly

The question

I used to be a sprinter in high school. I am now 43 and haven't exercised regularly since then. I would like to start running, but don't want to hurt myself. How do you suggest I get back into it?

The answer

Gradually increase your running so that you allow you heart, lungs and connective tissue to adapt. Also, strengthen your core and lower body, paying particular attention to the muscles of the foot and lower leg. These are often neglected, but are extremely important for running.

Start by alternating one minute of running with four minutes of walking for 20 to 30 minutes. After two weeks, if you have experienced no pain (for example, joint pain), slowly increase the running intervals and decrease the walking intervals.

For muscle-strengthening, try these exercises:

Shin strengthener: Loop a theraband around a low stable object (for example, a sofa leg). Tie the band together so it makes a continuous loop. Sit facing the stable object and wrap the band around the front of your foot. Move your body backward until you feel tension on the band. To perform the exercise, flex at your ankle so your toes pull toward your chest. Repeat 15 times and then switch feet.

Ballet feet: Stand, holding onto a high, stable object. Raise up onto your toes and hold for two seconds. Then, use your arms to help lift you up on to your tiptoes like you were a ballerina. Hold for two seconds, then slowly lower down. Repeat 10 times.

Trainer's tip: While sitting at your desk or watching TV, try lifting the top of your feet toward your shins 50 consecutive times. This will help strengthen your shins and stretch out your calves, two things that most runners need.

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