Running Tips: 5 Things Women Should Be Aware Of When Running

Running is a fantastic sport for women, but women need to follow a few safety precautions.

Running is a great choice for women looking for an exercise program. Women make greater gains in their times and conditioning compared with men, and it's a great way to lose weight after a pregnancy. Running requires little money and is flexible (you don't have to schedule a class). But there are some things women need to be aware of when running, for it's a rigorous sport and can take its toll over time if done carelessly.

1. Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis sends more people to the podiatrist than any other condition. In fact, some doctors say they see runners more for this problem than for knee problems. The plantar fascia is a band of fibers that runs from the base of the heels to the base of the toes. Sometimes, when the heel takes a beating, bone spurs grow and the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and very painful. People with plantar fasciittis complain of foot pain first thing in the morning because the plantar fascia shortens overnight. Women are especially at risk for this condition because of high-heeled shoes, which aggravate the heel. Weight changes due to pregnancy can also cause plantar fasciitis as well as genetic conditions such as flat feet or high arches, which put added stress on the plantar fascia. Luckily, most cases of plantar fasciitis can be successfully treated without surgery, but it may take six weeks to three months to heel, during which time the runner has to stay off of it, and that can be very difficult.

2. Women's shoes. Great strides have been made in running shoes in recent years, but unfortunately most of these advances have been made using men's bodies as models of human biomechanics. Nevertheless, many women still buy men's running shoes, maybe because there's a much bigger selection. Running in shoes designed for men can be hard on your body. Women's bodies differ significantly from men's bodies in three major ways. First, because women's pelvises are broader then men's, their feet strike the ground differently, using the outside of their feet more. Women wear out the outer edges of their shoes much more quickly than men do. Secondly, women's feet roll inward more on impact than men's. Women's shoes are designed to compensate for this tendency while men's shoes may emphasize the rolling and lead to injury. Third, women on average weigh less than men, and the cushions on men's shoes are designed for people who weigh at least 150 lbs. If you weigh less than this, your weight is not great enough for the cushion to absorb much impact while you run. So, even if you have less of a selection, choose women's running shoes.

3. Pregnancy. Women who run regularly wonder if they should continue once they're pregnant. With precautions, many women can safely run through at least half of their pregnancy. Of course, these are general guidelines; any fitness program should be discussed with your practitioner. During the first trimester, fatigue and nausea may be hindrances. Try running first thing in the morning, and run outside""the fresh air may help the nausea. Don't cut back on fluids to avoid frequent bathroom stops; you need to stay hydrated. Instead, plan your run around a bathroom stop. In the second trimester you may feel your best, but sometimes aches and pains get in the way. This is a good time to decrease your running a bit; you can make up for the lack of exercise with other forms of training: swimming, cross-country skiing, low-impact aerobics, walking. Listen to your body and take everything a little slower.

4. Menopause. Experts say that beginning a running program around the age of menopause can ease symptoms and improve mood, even if you're brand new to running. At this age, it's best to begin with a walk/jog program, eventually increasing the jogging portions of your workout. The physical discomforts of menopause seem to be lessened for those who engaged in regular physical activity such as running. And the exhilaration of making progress in running distances definitely boosts mood and inhibits mood swings.

5. Safety tips. A woman running alone can be a target for criminals. Here are some safety tips to remember.

a. Run with a partner.

b. Tell someone where you're going and when you plan to be back.

c. Carry your I.D. and change for a phone call.

d. Wear a whistle around your neck.

e. Don't wear earphones; you may become too distracted an unaware of your environment.

f. Don't run the same route every day.

g. Know where emergency phones are located.

h. Run in highly populated/busy areas. If you must run at night, stay in lighted areas.

i. If confronted, run to an open business or highly populated street.

j. Don't stop to give directions or the time of day to people in cars.

k. Be aware of your surroundings at time. If you suspect anything unusual, get out of there.

Running is a wonderful sport for women. Enjoy the fitness and peace of mind.

© High Speed Ventures 2011