However, between working out at the gym and doing two 5k's, I have learned a few things the hard way:
- Stretch before and after you try to do long distance walking/running. After my first race, I had horribly painful shin splints, and since my second race I have been dealing with plantar faciitis. Neither are fun, and both could have easily been prevented with appropriate stretching. If you are thinking of trying long distance, do a little research and make sure you perform appropriate stretches before and after you work out.
- Make sure you have good shoes. In the past, I would usually wait till my back went out before I bought new shoes. You really can't be cheap if you want to be serious about working out. Also, if you do suspect you have a foot problem, don't screw around buying over the counter orthotics. I tried that twice before I finally saw a podiatrist to find out what kind of orthotics I actually needed. I even took my hiking boots to my podiatrist to make sure that they are appropriate before I went to Colorado.
- Talk to your doctor and make sure you are good to go before you start. If you typically suffer from knee or joint pain, ask your doctor about supplements. I have been taking Glucosamine/MSM/Chondroitin and it really seems to help. (For readers with lap bands, note that many supplements now come in either liquid or chewable form, you don't have to deal with the 8 inch horse pill supplements!)
- Invest in the appropriate clothes for the type of activity you are doing:
- If you are riding a bike, get some padded bike shorts and a helmet. You might look like a goof, but you will be safe and comfortable.
- If you are rowing (on real water) wear a life jacket.
- For both rowing and doing upper body work in the gym, get a pair of workout gloves if you blister easily.
- If you are walking or running, get a pair of spandex (or, from Junonia, "QuickWik") shorts. You aren't gonna win any fashion shows, but after a long run or walk, you won't need a proctologist to surgically remove your shorts from your butt crack either!
I think many people who start out a workout program are like me in that we have tried exercise in the past and quit after a few trips to the gym, so we don't take it seriously when we start again. I realized after a few months that I was taking it seriously this time, and I really wish I had started paying attention to things like stretching, shoes and clothes a little earlier.
My message here is this: Even if you didn't take exercise seriously in the past, you might stick with it this time. So, take care of yourself from the start, don't wait till you have an injury! Make sure that you take care of yourself while you are taking care of yourself.