If you’re unfit, or going straight from couch to tarmac, it’s essential that you take the necessary steps to build up your fitness and strengthen your legs and muscles to prevent injury and the dreaded “runner’s knee” – a pain or inflammation that occurs around or under the kneecap.

Here’s what you need to do:

Follow a beginner’s running programme:

The general rule of thumb is to slowly build up to 5kms if you’re a beginner to running. A lot of wannabe runners quickly ruin their good intentions by running to far too quickly, resulting in hurting themselves and becoming demotivated. To avoid the fast track back to the couch, follow a beginners training programme like this one, Couch to 5k, to keep you from avoiding injury and becoming disheartened. Most beginner training programmes will have you begin your running journey with alternate intervals of brisk walking and jogging.

For example, on your first workout, you would start off with a five-minute brisk walk, and then alternate between 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Once you’ve started this programme and have got into the swing of things, these are four important moves to do that can help strengthen the leg muscles and avoid injury:

Wall Sit

Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hip-distance apart.

Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet farther from the wall to create proper alignment. Your thighs should remain parallel.

Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and then stand up. Repeat for a total of three reps.

To make this move more challenging, alternate between lifting your left heel for a few seconds and then your right. This helps to target your calves.

Hamstring Stretch

Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Interlace your hands behind your back. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the hips, tucking your chin and bringing your hands over your head. Relax the back of your neck, and if the stretch is too intense, then release your hands, placing them on the backs of your thighs, and soften your knees. Hold for 30 seconds, and slowly roll up to standing.

Calf stretch

Stand a little less than arm's distance from the wall.
Step your left leg forward and your right leg back, keeping your feet parallel.

Bend your left knee and press through your right heel.
Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and switch legs.

Lateral Stretch

Start with your feet directly under your hips. Step your right foot wide to the side coming into a lunge with your left fingers touching your right foot. Your right knee shouldn't go beyond your right toes. Keep your chest lifted and your weight in your heels.

Push into your right foot to return to standing, and then lunge sideways to the left to complete one rep.

Author's Bio: 

Ryno is the content coordinator for GetSavvi health insurance. They provide primary health care to South Africans. He regularly writes about health and lifestyle topics and manages GetSavvi Health’s social media pages. A Journalism graduate from the University of Pretoria, he worked as a hard news journalist before making his way to marketing. He loves his two beautiful Labradors, and when he is not walking them on the beach, he’s probably trying to follow his own health and lifestyle advice by trading in the take-aways for a healthy, home-cooked meal.