With the new year in full swing, you may be still contemplating what you are going to do to get in better shape this year. With so many fitness fads around, it’s easy to get sucked into something that may not work well with your body or doesn’t put you in the most conducive mental headspace.

Running is one of the most beneficial and tested modes of exercise that one can take part in, however, doing it incorrectly or training improperly can result in painful injuries. Fortunately, these injuries can often be avoided by following some key steps as you embark on your runner’s journey. Don’t miss these essential tips:

Start small

Work your way up gradually to longer runs and greater distance. You aren’t going to be able to complete a colossal trail at warp speed when you first start running. It’s essential that you have perspective and know that these things take time. Trying to push yourself unnecessarily or faster and longer than your body is truly ready for only invites injuries.

Your body has to be trained, and training takes time. Nothing is going to happen all at once. When you first begin to run, start slowly and for shorter periods of time. After your body gets accustomed to the speed and consistency of the workout, you can start varying the pace, trail difficulty and so on.

Give yourself rest days

It’s easy to want to go all in and hit the ground running… literally. But too much of anything can wear your body out which makes it more susceptible to injury. Your body needs rest. The best way to ensure that it gets the adequate amount of rest that it seeks is to create a running schedule and always honor scheduled rest days.

The body is a complex mass of organisms and muscles that need proper rest and relaxation for it to recover fully. The dangers of pushing yourself too hard and not giving yourself enough adequate rest will compromise your body and make injury that much more likely to occur. On your rest days, ensure that you are getting enough downtime and tend to any parts of your body that may be giving you trouble, i.e. ice a sore knee or pulled muscle. Sometimes one of the biggest causes of serious injuries is not resting when the signs of one are peaking through. Listen to your body and honor it with rest.

Increase flexibility

Stretching is an essential part of any fitness and exercise plan. The body needs to be lengthened and realigned consistently to deeper depths in order for it to work at its optimum level when engaging in a run consistently. Doing some deep stretches before and after your run will help to prevent and ward off many types of muscle injuries.

Sometimes when you cool down improperly or not at all, your body can get stiff which makes you more prone to injuries. The same can be said for starting a run without properly warming up your muscles, ligaments, and joints. Jump up and down a few time, let your blood begin to pump. Do a couple of stretches that will target the muscles in various parts of your legs, roll your ankles and point and flex your feet. Prepping for and closing your run with these pertinent moves can definitely protect your body from injury.

Hydration and diet

Running can be a very strenuous undertaking which means that you have to be fueling your body with the best nutrition. Hydration is always an essential aspect of daily life but when you’re sweating more than otherwise, it’s vital. Drink at least two liters of water a day, three if you can.

Opt for nourishing foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. Stay away from processed foods with high carb content. Even those protein bars that have become increasingly popular in recent years tend to have so much sugar hidden inside them. Try to eliminate as much sugar as possible.