A lot of people become interested in taking up running as part of their new years resolution. After a month of over indulging during Christmas, running can be a great way to start the new year and get back in shape. Starting to run is a very positive change, just 30 minutes of exercise 3-5 days a week is do-able and and has numerous health benefits. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Exercise is also wonderful for your mental health. It’s been proven to improve depression, boost your self esteem, give you more energy and help you get a better nights sleep. If you’re worried about conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia – cardiovascular exercise can help prevent this too.
Running is such an accessible form of exercise, you don’t need an expensive gym membership and you don’t need to drive anywhere. You could even put your gear on and run home from work instead of getting stuck in traffic. Before you take up running, it’s best to do some light research around it. We see quite a few running injuries at our clinic. These are usually what we call ‘over use injuries’. This means that a tendon or muscle has been stressed, until a bigger problem is created. It would really be a shame to have to interrupt your running schedule because of injury, so here are a few tips that will help you prevent it and also help maximise your performance.
1. Get the correct shoes
Many people start running with whatever trainers they find in their cupboard. It’s best to visit a specialist sports shop and ask a shop assistant if they can help you chose a pair that will be suitable for street running. It sounds like a small thing, but the wrong foot wear can really create problems. The sole of the shoe should support your foot, be well cushioned and of course, it should fit correctly. When you run your foot takes an impact of 2-3 times your body weight, the average runners foot hits the ground 80-95 times in a minute. That’s a lot of stress on your knees and hips as well as your foot. Make sure you replace your running shoes when they start to become worn on the soul. This will prevent your foot slanting to one side and throwing out your posture.
2. Warm up and cool down
Warm up by walking gently for five minutes. Start adding skipping, walking forwards bringing your heel up to your bum on each step or jogging backwards. This dynamic warm up will be better for you than doing static stretches. Your warm up will get your muscles in gear and prevent any damage.
Cooling down is equally important, if you don’t cool down blood may start to pool in your muscles and causes aches and pains. You can cool down by returning to a slow walk on your route back home. After your run, doing light yoga or stretching will help your muscles get back to a normal resting state.
3. Graduate your run
If you’re new to running, start off slowly and in small doses. Your routine should not include drastic changes, don’t go for a super fast sprint, long distance or hilly terrain right away. Changes to your pace or distance should be increased at a 10% per week rate. Even experienced runners have to slowly graduate their training to avoid injury. Don’t increase your frequency, speed and distance all at once. You can plan your route on running apps which have GPS tracking. Many are available for free on the app store.
4. Don’t burn out
Excited new runners are at risk from doing too much too soon, running for an hour every day when you first start can cause muscle fatigue and potentially injury. You need to rest and have days off, as running has a high impact on the joints. If you are particularly enthusiastic and don’t want to take even one day off from advancing your fitness then try swimming a few days a week instead of running. It is low impact and works a different set of muscles.
When you’ve been running for a while you may find that your progress peaks and running becomes grueling. Running can be difficult and downright unpleasant at times. Don’t give up! Try running in a new area such as the peak district or compiling a running sound track to listen to while you’re out. This may help you stay motivated. Once you start to see advances in your fitness again, it will be worth it.
5. Don’t ignore aches and pains
If you start to feel like you have a niggling pain in your body during a run, take a few days off from running. If it is still there when you return, then it’s time to get it investigated by a physiotherapist. Don’t try and push through it until it becomes a serious problem. Remember, overuse injuries can start off small and become worsened by repetitive strain.
6. Learn about potential injuries
Reading some information about common running injuries will help you identify them in the early stages. We have compiled a list of common running injuries and what you can do about them.
7. Be aware of how being over weight can affect you
If you’ve decided to take steps to lose weight – congratulations. As physiotherapists, we know that losing weight is good for the joints among many other things. Bare in mind that the higher your body weight, the more impact running will have on your knees and ankles. Being over weight can put you at risk from running injuries. We would recommend that you run once or twice a week and add in other activities like swimming or cycling to reduce the stress of impact on your body.
8. Be in good shape before you begin
If you have existing pains or injuries, it’s best to get them checked out before you start running. Running may make these problems worse. While an injury should not stop you from pursuing fitness, it may be that you need to do a different form of exercise while your issue is getting sorted out.
Following these tips will hopefully help you continue running throughout the year.