Whether a novice or expert, being aware of surroundings and physical limitations is keyBy: Sara Paulson of Health First 

A day after coming in fourth overall in the Space Coast Half Marathon, Shane Streufert, 45, of Viera had his Boston terrier, Ruby Tuesday, out for a run. at’s when, he surmises, the blaring morning sun obstructed a nearby driver’s vision. “She took a left-hand turn out of the gate,” Streufert said, explaining a directional signal went on right before the turn. “She didn’t see us.” Streufert, who was biking alongside his four-legged running fanatic, instinctively released the leash. Ruby took off. “I remember, kind of like in slow motion, there’s nothing I can do,” Streufert said of his thoughts before impact. “She hit me, and I went into the hood and crashed the windshield with my head and ew o into the street.” Streufert was taken by ambulance to Health First’s Viera Hospital’s Emergency Department. He was treated and released the same day, suffering injuries to his wrist, heel and hip. Ruby was found safe at home, hiding in the garage. “I was very fortunate,” Streufert said. “I ended up not having any broken bones.”

Whether you’re a novice or a longtime athlete, running provides a host of benefits. But you have to temper that with caution. Personal safety is crucial – from being aware of your surroundings to making sure you’re physically sound.

“I think people think it’s something you can one day, (just) pick it up,” said Beth Mihlebach, a personal trainer
with Health First’s Pro-Health & Fitness. “You have to slowly integrate yourself into doing it. Be aware you can get injured, and there can be hiccups. I think that’s why people don’t stick to it. It’s not easy.” If vigorous exercise is your goal, running fits that category. The American Heart Association recommends at least 75 minutes of such higher-intensity workouts per week to improve overall cardiovascular health. e sport can also boost bone strength, sleep quality, mental clarity and weight loss, Mihlebach noted.

Certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, Mihlebach has been in love with the sport since she was 14. When she graduated from Western Illinois University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, she held the school record and was in the top 10 in the state. She also coached cross country and track for Satellite High and Melbourne High in years past. Most recently, she ran an 8-miler the day before giving birth to her second child, alongside friend and running pal Kim Hunger, 36, of Palm Bay.

Both Mihlebach and Hunger, who is a clinical pharmacy specialist at Health First Family Pharmacy, know their
stuff about the sport. Hunger has been at it since third grade, running at Palm Bay High and then Florida Atlantic University. Both experts offered safety guidelines when committing to a program:

Environmental Circumstances Seek support:

An experienced runner having your back is critical. A buddy (or joining a running group) can not only be motivating but serve as your safety sidekick – someone who can speak up if you overexert yourself, as well as another set of eyes. Plus, there’s always the benefit of friendly rivalry. “I was always really competitive,” Hunger admitted. “I have a lot of motivation from other people, a lot of people who encourage me.

Physical and Mental Aspects

Start slowly: There’s no need to try to be a hardcore athlete immediately. Gradual integration is best. “Go out and start three to four days a week, 10 minutes of just running,” Mihlebach said. If you are able to handle 10 minutes running and it feels good, call it a day.

Hydration is key: It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, not just right before you lace up your shoes. And guzzling lots of water during a race “isn’t going to do that much for you,” Mihlebach said. If you’re running a significant distance, it’s important to have water breaks at different intervals, though.

The right footwear: That means running shoes that are fitted for you and feel good. “Don’t wear them for anything else but running,” Mihlebach warned. “If you utilize them for walking or running errands, “your feet can form on them differently.” Mihlebach said it’s also important to replace shoes once they’ve trekked between 250 and 500 miles. “If you have issues with your feet you probably need new shoes.”

Be rested: Get adequate sleep the night before a race and wake up at least two to three hours before start time.

Avoid times of intense heat: A no-brainer but important. “Run really early in the morning before the sun’s up or when the sun’s down,” Mihlebach said of ideal times.

Give it time: Both Mihlebach and Hunger say it takes a good six months to really start to see the benefits. “You really have to learn to love it,” Mihlebach said. “The best thing that even my clients have done was to make themselves do the Running Zone series, pre-signed up for all the races.” Once a financial commitment has been made to once-a-month races, she explained, there’s more motivation behind staying true to conditioning. Mihlebach noted her clients who have done that “had to train” – or they’d pay for it on race day. Even if they didn’t like the sport, by following through, “by the time they felt the whole series, I think they had changed their minds,” she said.

Bring a canine companion (like Ruby Tuesday): “Another huge motivator is running with your dog,” said Hunger, who runs with Nala, her Vizsla (a Hungarian bird dog). “They need exercise as well.” Plus, pooches get used to the routine, too, providing encouragement to stick with your regimen. “They look at you every morning and they’re ready to go,” Hunger said.

Mihlebach admitted her pit- boxer mix is a “puller,” so she’s invested in front-hook leashes to let her take the lead. “You just kind of have to know your dog,” she said.

Don’t give in to frustration: Both Mihlebach and Hunger say it takes a good six months to really start to see what an asset a running routine can be to your life. “I try to tell people it wasn’t easy when I started, either,” Hunger said. “I hurt, too, every day I run. It’s something you learn to deal with. It’s a lot of mental strength – you have to push through the hard parts.”