Ever thought of taking up running? Well, now is a good time! With gyms closed and sport suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, running can be a great alternative to keep your fitness levels up during this period (and to pass some time). Starting out as a runner can be a scary thing though, especially if you’re not a usually a keen runner. This blog will show you how to start running and give top tips for any newbie runners, so that you can reduce your injury risk, enjoy running and get the most out of your running! Who knows, you might just like it enough that you will join a running group or train for a running event!
What are the benefits of running? Is running bad for you?
Traditionally running was thought to be “bad for your joints” due to the impact loading it involves, but this is simply not true…In fact, it’s the exact opposite and actually improves joint and bone health! It’s an inexpensive form of exercise that can be done by people of all ages and fitness levels. You don’t have to run a marathon to be a runner. You can get great benefits from as little as 10 minutes of running! Below are some benefits to running (this is not an exhaustive list either):
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved mental health
- Boosts immune system
- 3-year increase in life expectancy
- Preventative against 35 chronic conditions
- Reduced risk of osteoarthritis
- Improved quality of life
With all of the great benefits listed above, it’s a no brainer, right? Running seems like a super easy thing to get into with amazing benefits. Throw a pair of shoes on and run… But its not as simple as that when you start to think:
- How far should I run?
- Where should I run?
- How often should I run?
- Can I run with an injury?
Luckily, there are lots of ways you can start running while reducing the risk of injury so that you can reap the benefits and enjoy your running.
BEFORE YOU START…
Am I ready to run?
Before you start running, make sure that you have dealt with any injury you may be carrying. Running can definitely place increased loads on your tissues and may cause further irritation if you have not addressed them. If you’re in this boat, see your physio…you may be able to start running, but managing and modifying your loads and working with your injury will be important here.
Set your goals…
What do you want to achieve…
Do you want to be able to run for 45 minutes?
Do you want to be able to run 5km?
Do you want to run around your local park without stopping?
By setting your goal, you can gradually build yourself up to this point. It gives you direction so that you are not running around like a headless chook and are gradually increasing your loads! Achieving short and long term goals will also boost your confidence!
Get the right shoes
Running in old worn out shoes can unnecessarily increase the loading on structures and lead to an injury due to poor absorption and support. Everybody has different feet so its best to talk to your podiatrist, physio or running shoe specialist to make sure you have the right shoes.
ONCE YOU START…
Warm up and cool down
Focus on dynamic exercise for your warm up, including activation exercises like bridges, squats or planks. Another great warm up is lower intensity running to start to increase your heart rate. To warm down, walking is a good way to gradually decrease your heart rate and you may want to do a few stretches to help recovery.
Gradually increase your loads
The majority of running injuries occur from doing too much too soon. So, to avoid injury, build your running loads slowly. Running loads can increase by mileage, terrain, speed/intensity and/or volume each week. Your overall (cumulative) load is also very important which includes any type of physical or mental stress on the body. Don’t forget to take into account any other exercise you do as this can increase overall load on your body
How to safely increase running:
- Start with a walk/jog interval – the “Couch to 5km” program is a great place to start. It starts off really light and slowly builds into a continuous run
- 10% rule – is a useful guide to “safely” increase your running by 10% per week
- Slowly introduce variety – don’t go from running on a flat soft surface one week to a hilly, hard, uneven surface the next. Slowly start to add in different terrains if you want to add variety and challenge yourself
- Start with 2-3 runs per week and gradually build to your goal
- Be consistent otherwise you may be increasing loads too fast. You may have to keep the same load on consecutive weeks if you are feeling fatigued or have been inconsistent with your training
Many running injuries can be prevented by preparing the muscles and the body to be able to deal with the loads placed on it during running. Strength exercises targeting the large lower limb muscle groups (glutes, quads, hamstrings, calf complex) will help to:
- Reduce injury risk
- Improve running performance
- Help to keep fitness up between runs – great cross training
- Improve the general robustness and resilience of your tissues
Here are 4 easy exercises you can do at home to strengthen the major muscle groups required for running. Start with 3-4 sets of 12 reps every second day. To progress you can: add weight, increase sets and reps, increase range of motion of exercise, slow eccentric (down phase).
Rest and recover…listen to your body!
Aches and pains after running are quite common but if they don’t settle quickly, and you are getting more persistent pain or swelling, then act fast and get it checked out. Don’t wait until it becomes severe before getting advice, otherwise it may progress to a more chronic injury. In most instances, running injuries can settle quickly when treated in the early phase. If you’re feeling the strain from running, try to rest or cross train to allow your body to recover. And…address your niggles!
Post run recovery is important to allow your body to recover adequately before the next run. Ensure you’re getting adequate sleep, nutrition and hydration to give your body the best possible chance of recovering in between runs or training sessions.
Mix it up
Running can sometimes get a bit boring, especially if you do the same run week in, week out. To avoid “burn out” vary your runs by:
- Having a mix of both shorter and longer runs each week
- Changing the route
- Having a mix of both faster and slower runs each week
- Adding in a sprint session
- Challenging yourself with different terrains
What can I do if I can’t run?
If you are unable to run due to fatigue or injury, there are other ways you can maintain your fitness while you bounce back…
- Walking loads your joints in a similar way to running
- Great recovery tool
- Has similar benefits to running
- Can do it with a partner or family member
- Strength training
- Upper limb exercise
So, there you have it, the complete physiotherapist’s guide for new runners. Just remember, running injuries can be very common, so set yourself up well to minimise your risk and enjoy it!
At Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates, we love helping runners begin and continue their journey to become the best they can be. If you would like to start your journey but are held back and would like help with injuries or niggles, optimising your running or running in general, contact us (03) 9391 2600 or book in online by clicking here for an assessment and management plan. Happy running!