Running has never been more popular than it is right now, being regarded as one of the most convenient forms of exercise we can all partake in, without an excuse. But…running isn’t just running- it involves careful planning so we can minimise our risk for injury. So, why not take a look at our 10 beginners tips for Running. You may even find something in here if you’ve been running for a while.
1. WARM UP & COOL DOWN
This is a classic and has been around for decades…and yet, is still very much neglected, perhaps due to time or a “can’t be bothered” attitude.
Warming up raises you heart rate, gets the blood flowing to your muscles that are about to work hard and allows your muscles to reach a warm temperature so they can perform more efficiently. Cold muscles aren’t as pliant, meaning they don’t stretch as much. Not only does this increase your risk for injury but also decreases your performance, as muscles will not be able to store as much energy and use it to propel you forward. Cool downs are just as important, to optimally remove waste products and improve your recovery, allowing you to run quicker the next day, and minimise soft tissue restrictions.
2. ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES
These are vitally important- both for injury prevention and running performance. Glutes are our primary Hip extensors- basically, they help you propel you forward. As soon as your foot hits the ground, your Glutes act to absorb ground reaction force and help push your hips through, until your foot leaves the ground- which is when your other Glute should be working. Activate your Glutes before your run to ensure they are switched on- your body will find other ways to run if your Glutes are switched off- and this may come at a price!
3. START ON GRASS
Quite simply, if you’re new to running, don’t overload your joints with high impact training- i.e. running on roads/pavements. Running on grass reduces GRF, and increases that of muscle absorption as the ground is softer. However, the softer the ground, the less traction you get and muscles will have to work harder to make you travel the same distance per stride- so keep that in mind!
4. TAKE YOUR TIME- DON’T PILE ON THE MILAGE IN WEEK 1
If you have a new love for running, don’t feel like you have to start with 5 miles, and have to do this 3 times/week. Your muscles and joints won’t be used to this at all, and will increase your risk for injury. Start short at a steady pace, and gradually work yourself up.
5. BE FOOTWEAR SMART
How old are your trainers? Have a look at the sole and see how much they have worn down. A pair of trainers can tell us a lot about the mechanics of running. Perhaps you need some with more cushion- especially if you’re road running, to help with that GRF. If you are keen for some new trainers, and have been running for a while, wear them occasionally to start with. Your foot will be used to the worn soles, and new trainers will put your feet in slightly different positions, meaning our muscles will be working differently. Definitely, don’t buy new footwear for marathons or races as these may cause more issues than you think- go with what you know!
6. NUTRITION & HYDRATION
This one, we’ll keep simple. Carbohydrates fuel us for exercise. Ensure you have a good source of carbohydrates before you exercise, approximately 1-4 hours before depending on the size of your meal. Aim to replenish your fuel stores (Glycogen) during your workout- anything more than 60mins usually requires glycogen replenishment for energy. Consume a Carbohydrate meal post-workout to replenish stores. Sports drinks with a source of carbohydrate and electrolytes are advised during your workout. Replacing your fluids with plain water doesn’t replace the salts and electrolytes you lose through sweat, and can cause cramping.
7. TECHNIQUE- STRIDE LENGTH
We mentioned it earlier…Ground Reaction Force(GRF). Every time your foot hits the floor, an equal and opposite reaction, from the floor, travels up through your skeletal system. Muscles and Tendons are great at absorbing these forces, but if they’re switched off (not activated), these forces can put excessive strain on our joints- hence why activating your Glutes (largest muscle in our body) is very important for injury prevention. Longer stride lengths (foot is further away from your body), create more GRF. Therefore, aim to maintain shorter stride lengths, keeping your feet close to your body. Maintain the same speed by increasing your cadence (steps you take per minute).
8. STRENGTHEN ON YOUR DAYS OFF
A common mistake that often results in injury- a lot of us do not strengthen alongside our training. Due to the repetitive action of running, we use the same muscles over and over. Strengthen these areas to help your body adapt to the demands of your training. Even if you’re only running recreationally, strengthening can minimise your risk of injury.
9. FOAM ROLL REGULARLY & STRETCH POST-WORKOUT
Foam roll before…and…foam roll after! Foam rolling before helps with myofascial tightness, restricting muscle and joint mobility- and our efficiency of running. Foam rolling afterwards will aid your recovery, promoting the removal of waste products. Pair this with stretching immediately post-workout, and don’t wait half an hour- take advantage while your muscles are warm and pliant. Not only does foam rolling provide physiological benefits, but it’s actually quite therapeutic as well- some of you may disagree. These pre- and post- workout foam rolling sessions only have to be for 10 minutes or so- perform longer foam rolling sessions on your rest days for optimal recovery.
10. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Easier said than done…no one likes quitting. But, if you’re experiencing pain, more often than not, your body is trying to tell you something- so do the sensible thing and stop. If you decide to run through the pain, you may find yourself away from running for longer periods of time- so look at the larger picture! Experiencing tightness is normal, due to overusing muscles. Just ensure you stretch and foam roll after your session.
Follow these 10 steps above to remain injury free and for optimal performance!