If you plan to begin a jogging program, be sure to start slowly, says John Albright, professor of orthopedic surgery and a staff physician in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics sports medicine clinic.
Jogging is strenuous exercise, especially if you have not been exercising regularly, Albright says.
If you are over 30 or if you haven't been physically active for several years, check with your physician before starting a jogging program, he cautions. Your physician may even provide you with a beginning exercise program, Albright says.
If you have jogged regularly, but stopped for several weeks or more, don't immediately try to run the maximum distance you ran previously. You might injure yourself by overworking unconditioned muscles and "your jogging program may be over in less than a week," Albright notes.
Try to begin each jogging session with a warm-up to loosen your muscles, the UI orthopedist recommends.
Effective warm-ups to stretch your muscles may include exercises or running slowly for a few blocks, Albright says. After a 5- to 10-minute warm-up session, you should be ready to start jogging.
Begin your jogging program by running a short distance for a week or two and gradually increase the distance as your endurance and muscle strength improve, he says.
Try to run on a soft surface such as grass or asphalt. These soft surfaces can be shock absorbers and soften the jolt to your joints, Albright says.
Your muscles may feel sore in your first few weeks of jogging. But the soreness will decrease as your physical conditioning improves and your muscles become stronger, he says.
If the soreness continues, or becomes severe, stop jogging and consult your physician, Albright recommends.
If you have suffered an injury from a previous running or exercise program, perhaps a "shin splint" or a "pulled hamstring," consider doing some conditioning exercises at least two weeks before you begin jogging, Albright suggests.
Conditioning exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups or riding an exercise bicycle, will help strengthen muscles, Albright says.
Jogging with a partner can help make the exercise more enjoyable, Albright says. Consider choosing a partner who jogs at the same speed as you jog. This will help to make your running pace comfortable and smooth.