Feature Stories

Running threatens to surpass tennis as ‘in’ sport

Running threatens to surpass tennis as ‘in’ sport

This article first appeared in Leisure Magazine, The Ithaca Journal, Saturday, July 1, 1978 – Page 3

By MIKE WITHIAM

Jogging isn’t just jogging anymore.

First of all, it has a new name.  Running is the proper noun; jogging is for the old and fat.

This sport has become the new national, irrational religion, with as many as 20 million Americans running, and more joining the race every day.

Running threatens to surpass tennis as the “in” sport, and a sub-culture has grown up around it that includes jogging outfits, books (two best sellers) and magazines, among other items. And the marathon runner, once thought of as a harmless aberration, is now looked upon with almost God-like admiration.

Runners swear by all that is sweaty that running is the best thing that ever happened to them. They sleep better, eat less, feel fitter and insist that work is less work.

There are a thousand excuses not to run. Too hot. Too cold. Too many dogs. Too much time. And the Ithaca specialty, too many hills. You’ll never run out of excuses unless you really want to start running, and if you do want to start running, NOW is the time.

.               .               .

Ithacans are taking to streets just like the rest of the country, and for the same reasons.

“It makes me feel better,” says one.

“It keeps my weight down, and helps me do more,” says another.

“It’s fun, and it’s good for me,” says a third.

Stop any jogger on the Ithaca streets, or the Cornell campus, or wherever you find one.  The story’ll be the same.

If you are thinking about starting to jog, or run, and you don’t want to go it alone, try the Fingers Lakes Runners Club. The 170 members include all ages and all types of runners, from the jogger to the marathoner, and could include you.

If this doesn’t sound like you, then go it alone. But whatever you do, get out there, it just might be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself.

You don’t have to be an athlete to run either. Anybody who can walk can run, or jog, all that’s really needed is a good pair of shoes.

A word of caution though, be careful. Go slowly, because serious injury could be the result.  Runners are forever picking up injuries, mostly from overuse of muscles and joints, but if not properly treated, they could develop into serious problems.

Another word of caution. See a doctor first. Dr. Russell Zelko, who specializes in athletic injuries, says that anyone who is overweight, or who is 38 or older, should see a doctor without fail before starting on a jogging program.

Almost every running-related problem is preventable, provided the runner takes the proper precautions. But it’s the runner’s responsibility to take them. There is plenty of information available, or you can ask your doctor.

.               .               .

Once you’ve decided to start jogging, the first step is to find yourself a really good pair of shoes. According to Zelko, the shoe should have a soft but firm sole, with good arch and heel support. Watch that heel too. A lot of shoes allow the heel to twist sideways as you run, and that’s a good way to strain ankles and knees.

Tennis shoes and sneakers are definitely our, but most any store that sells shoes or athletic equipment will have jogging shoes that are acceptable. Know what kinds of surfaces you plan to run on, it will help you choose your shoe, and don’t cut cost corners here, your feet will pay for it.

Next are the socks. Some runners don’t use any. Some use two pair – a thin pair inside a thick – and others one pair. It doesn’t matter, as long as there is a minimum of friction on the foot to prevent blisters.

Blisters are caused by friction, which produces heat, causing the outer layers of skin to rise. Keeping the feet dry is the key, and socks can help do that. Pouring powder into your shoes and socks before you run can help also.

The rest of the equipment doesn’t matter, all that’s needed is a T-shirt and gym shorts. Jogging outfits are available for the chic, but won’t do much for your running, you still have to move the legs.

Sweat pants are nice in the winter, although it can get down into the 20s before they’re really needed. And in cold weather, a hat is a must to help keep in the body heat.

.               .               .

Now that you’ve got your equipment, you’re ready to start running.

But when to run? Are you a morning person or night person? If you drag out of bed and don’t wake up until 10 a.m., running in the morning isn’t for you. On the other hand, it might be just what you need to get started. If you drag near sunset, running after work won’t help much, but it could relieve all those tensions built up during the day and make you feel human again.

Experiment. Try running at different times during the day. And when you find a time you like, enjoy.

Work slowly though, you have the rest of your life to run, so there’s no hurry to run that extra mile. It’ll come in time. And don’t run every day when you just start. Every other day will do just fine until your body begins to adjust.

A mile is a good distance to start at. And don’t be afraid to walk part of it if you really get tired. You have to build up to any distance, and if your body isn’t used to exercise, it can give you all kinds of problems.

Build slowly. Work on the mile for a couple of weeks, let your body enjoy its exercise. Then add a quarter mile to that distance when you feel ready. When that feels good, add another. Before you know it, you’ll be doing two or three miles, plenty if your goal is fitness and fun.

Be sure to run at your own pace too. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you. Some people use a watch to pace themselves, but don’t think about one. Run as fast as you can comfortably, and don’t be afraid to stop.

And above all, warmup, that’s the best way to prevent injuries. Flexibility is a runners best friend, and he should work on it daily. Five minutes a day spent stretching the muscles will help prevent a great deal of agony.

.               .               .

There are a number of ways to go about stretching out the legs, but here are four:

1. The Lunge. This one stretches the calf muscles. Plant one foot behind you, keeping the heel flat and the leg straight. Then step ahead with your other foot as far as possible. Bend the leg and feel the stretch in the calf of the leg behind you. Hold for five seconds, and don’t bounce. Repeat five times for each leg.

2. The Hurdler’s Stretch. Place your heel on an object at least 18 inches high. Keep your knee straight and point your toe straight up. Then, gently reach down your positioned leg with both hands and try to touch your toes. Don’t bounce. Hold for five seconds. Do five times with each leg.

3. The Adductor Stretch. Stand with your feet wide apart, and let your right hand slide slowly down your right leg until you feel the stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat five times.

4. The Quads Stretch. Stand up straight. Bend one leg back so that the heel is pressing into your buttocks. Then, keeping your trunk straight and your heel against your buttock, get your thighs as parallel with one another as possible. Do this five times with each leg. You may wish to hold onto something for balance.

.               .               .

Now that you’re all stretched out and ready to run, where are you going to run?

In many ways, Ithaca is a runners paradise. You can find a course to fit almost any desire. There are hills for the really serious runner (only after he’s worked up to them, of course). There are tracks, Ithaca High and Cornell’s one-eighth mile track near Lynah Rink pop into mind right away.

And there are the parks. Stewart Park and Cass Park are both popular places, and the area’s state parks are as good a place as any. And of course, there are the roads. That’s one of the beauties of running. You can do it anywhere. And that includes the street in front of your house.

One word of advice about your course: Find three or four that you like. Running the same route every day can get terribly boring. Change your route once in a while and you get to see the world in a different perspective from your jogging shoes.

Finally, after you run, cool down.  This is as important as the warm-up, although few people realize that. Walk around slowly for a few minutes, this keeps the blood from pooling in your legs, or do a few calisthenics like sit-ups or push-ups. A few minutes spent cooling off will help you avoid the aches, pains and muscle cramps that can come hours later, making you miserable.

And whatever you do, don’t stop. Regular runners say that it takes a while before it becomes fun, especially if you are in a flabby condition to start with. But there comes that day when it suddenly all flows together, and life in a pair of jogging shoes becomes wonderful.

Good luck.

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