Running Basics for Beginners with Osteopathic Physician, Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO

Have you thought about starting a running routine, but you’re filled with questions and don’t know how or where to start? With spring officially upon us, now is the perfect time! If you’ve wondered how to go to begin,  how to prevent injuries, whether or not you need to purchase specialty shoes, and proper nutrition (before and after a run), you’re in luck! Osteopathic physician, Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO who also sidelines as a marathoner and triathlete, joined me for an interview recently to discuss the basics of running, proper conditioning, and so much more.

Osteopathic physician, Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO discusses the basics every beginner needs before starting a running routine. Image courtesy of

Osteopathic physician, Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO discusses the basics every beginner needs before starting a running routine. Image courtesy of


Candace Rose: Running is gaining popularity these days. Do you have any advice for those who are out of shape or aren’t used to running and looking to start?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “I think the biggest thing is that you want to start slow. I think sometimes people want to put everything into it at first and then they increase their chances of getting injured. Doing a run walk program at first, or doing small distances and building yourself up is probably the best way to go.”

Candace Rose: Do you have any advice for those starting a running routine? How should you start?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “There are a lot of books out there that will tell you how to do that. There’s a lot of information out there about that, so if people really want to do a specific program they can easily find that. The thing is a lot of people want to read the book or they want exact information, but the bottom line is that there isn’t a cookie cutter way that works best for everybody, so you have to go by how you feel.

If you are somebody who has run casually in the past, then you might be able to start running slowly three miles straight right away. But if you’re somebody who has never ever run, then you might want to just start on the treadmill, and run for a minute, and then walk for a two, and then run for a minute, and walk for two. Or if you’re outside, maybe you would walk on a flat surface and run on the downhills, and kind of start that way. But I think you’ve got to do it based on how good you feel and that kind of thing.”

Candace Rose: Is it ever okay to run every day?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Certainly. There are a lot elite runners that run everyday. Most people will benefit from taking at least one day off. The thing is you can’t go out and run long or hard every day. You can run every day as long as you do a different type of run every day. So if one day you run really hard, the next day you might do what’s called a ‘recovery run’ where you kind of go a little slower and you don’t push yourself as much. But you can’t go all out to the wall every single day. First of all, you’re going to hurt yourself, and second of all that really doesn’t do your body any benefit in the long run.”


Candace Rose: What can beginners do to avoid injury?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Obviously the biggest injuries with running are your knees or your ankles, or your feet. I’m a big fan of some type of cross training program where you do something that’s going to strengthen those muscles. The thing is if all you do is run, run, run, then you’re pretty much just training your quads, your hamstrings and calves over and over and over again. So if you can intermittently train those muscles with strength training or some type of cross training, you will definitely benefit more and reduce your chance of injury because the stability of those joints is completely dependent upon how strong the muscles are.

If you run every day, you might think that you have strong quads, but unless you lift or do other things to challenge the quads, you’re only going to be strong in that direction of running- in the motion of running you’re strong. That happened to me for a long time, all I did was run and then when I tried to do other classes or other things, I was like, well, I can run in a straight line forever, but when it comes to lifting with my legs I’m not nearly as agile or as strong as I thought I was.”

Candace Rose: What are some great strength training exercises?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Well, certainly leg extensions, for your quads; hamstring curls for your hamstrings; any kind of glute work for your bottom. Squats are great, lunges are great (as long as you’re doing them properly); leg presses are good; calf raises are good. Something that also helps with lateral movements are abductor and ab exercises.”


Candace Rose: Is the plank a good exercise for runners?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Well, anytime you can increase your core strength, it’s definitely beneficial to running because as you get tired, if you have a weak core it makes everything sort of collapse on itself.

If you have a strong core, which is what doing a lot of planks will give you, it can definitely aid you as you start to get tired. You can engage your core more, that can keep you upright and going for a longer period of time. Core strength is essential almost for everything these days.”


Candace Rose: Do you have any advice for runners who have been plagued with shinsplints, knee pain or ankle pain in the past?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Well, number one, maybe running is not for you. Running isn’t for everybody. So if you have an injury that every time you start to run again really hurts you, I guess it really depends on how much you want to run.

Shinsplints: It has a lot to do with your anterior tibialis (it’s that muscle that’s on the front of your shin). If you can train those, start slow and increase everything a little bit at a time, it’s definitely less likely for those shinsplints to come back. If you go to the doctor with shinsplints, they’re going to say you have to stay off of them for six weeks.

But again, I think the problem is people go gangbusters because for whatever reason- it’s the first of the year and want to exercise every day, and then they wonder why two weeks later they can’t move and they’re sore. It’s a vicious cycle, and people want a quick fix. They’re not willing to do little steps at a time.”

Candace Rose: Should you ever run when you’re sore?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Well, there’s nothing wrong with running when you’re sore, but there’s ‘sore pain’ and there’s ‘you need to back off pain’. If you feel like you’re doing more damage or something is hurting or it’s swollen, then you shouldn’t run through pain. Soreness is one thing though.

If you wake up and you had planned on running 10 miles today, and it was going to be your first 10 mile run ever, but you’re really sore…you probably need to change your game plan. Maybe you’re going to run on a flat surface for three miles, that’s it and you’ll reschedule your long run for a different day. You really have to base it upon how your body feels.”


Candace Rose: How important are shoes and clothing? Can someone start a running routine with a pair of running shoes they bought online or at a department store?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “There’s a lot of hype around running shoes these days. There are a lot of different kinds, and they’re all about these minimalist shoes now. Certainly if you’re going to get into running and you know you’re going to be doing it for a while, it’s probably beneficial to go to a specific running store where they can analyze your gait and fit you with a specific shoe.

If you want to start by just buying a reasonably priced pair of shoes that get a good general recommendation online or something, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting with that. You don’t want to go out and spend $150 on a pair of shoes that you’re going to wear for a week and never wear again. I don’t always buy my shoes at specialty stores. Occasionally I will, but not all the time.

As far as clothing goes, you’ve got to run in something you’re going to feel comfortable in. If you choose to go out and run in a pair of pants, and they start rubbing you the wrong way, the chances of you continuing are not very great. I think when it comes to running clothes, if you look the part, you’re more likely to play the part. If you have some decent running clothes,  it’s easier to get motivated, I think.”

Candace Rose: How important is nutrition for beginners? What should you eat before heading out for a run?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Honestly, if you’re just going to go out for a short run, you really don’t need a whole lot, even when it comes to fluid replacement and stuff like that. Unless it’s a super hot day and you’re going to be running for more than an hour, you probably don’t need a whole lot extra. If you do need something, I would recommend something fairly small before you go.

The thing with running, a lot of people have a problem if they eat and they run, there’s a digestive issue there. You really have to plan carefully as to when you’re going to eat if you’re one of those people that has trouble with that.

A lot of people are starting a running program to promote weight loss and they start eating a lot and they’re kind of canceling the effect out. There’s a fine line there.”


Candace Rose: What should beginners eat or drink to refuel after a run?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “Again, it depends on how far they’re running. If you’re running two or three miles, you really don’t need that much, just some water. I wouldn’t even recommend a full strength sports drink. I might recommend a Propel or a Vitamin Water Zero that doesn’t have a whole lot of calories, but has some electrolytes to it. But if you’re only running for 20 minutes, you don’t need to drink a full Gatorade. For one, most people don’t need that many calories; and number two, there’s a lot of salt and stuff that you may not need. A small thing of low-fat chocolate milk is a great recovery drink because it’s got some protein in it and a little bit of carbs. But you don’t need a whole lot.

If you’re going to be running a distance, like an hour or six plus miles, perhaps you need a sports drink or something like that. But again, it’s based upon how much you sweat, how thirsty you are and how far you’ve gone and pushed yourself.”


Candace Rose: When is the perfect time to stretch?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “I think generally speaking nowadays, the thinking is it’s not best to stretch beforehand. You’re definitely better off based upon the research as of late, stretching afterwards. If you’ve always stretched beforehand and that works for you, then I would say it’s okay to continue that. But I think the majority of people nowadays believe that stretching afterwards is your better bet.”

Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?

Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO: “I think that running can be very therapeutic, it can be a great escape for your mind. It’s something that a lot of people enjoy in groups or you can do it alone. The great thing about running is you really don’t need much equipment. It’s important to be safe, be realistic about what you’re doing and what your goals are and to enjoy it.

There are lots of great magazines out there, I like Runner’s World, Women’s Running, and there are a lot of good magazine websites out there. There are also a lot of good running clubs, you just need to go online and search.”


Running can be very therapeutic!

Running can be very therapeutic! – Osteopathic physician, Dr. Antoinette Cheney, DO


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