Clocks have moved forward! As we impatiently wait for the first signs of spring to appear, some of us may be eager to throw on a pair of running shoes and spring into action. According to the 2014 State of the Sport – Running Industry Report from Running USA, there are record numbers of people participating in running with 70% overall growth over the past decade. With so many more people running, the number of injuries has also increased. Unfortunately, the enormous amount of information out there can be overwhelming when you’re trying to find a fix for a sore knee or aching foot. Here are a few basic tips for beginner runners to help prevent injury.
Get Good Running Shoes
I always start by telling patients to get a good pair of good running sneakers. Invest in a decent pair of shoes and make sure they fit properly. One foot may be longer than the other, so make sure you have enough space in each shoe. You should have at least a half inch of empty room in front of the longest toe of each foot. In addition, the toe box should be nice and roomy so that your toes have space to spread out. A good pair of running sneakers should last you around 500 miles or until you start to see significant wear on the soles. Wearing socks when running can also help prevent blisters. Those that pronate or supinate might benefit from a pair of orthotics. Try some of the over-the-counter ones first. If those don’t help, you can ask your podiatrist if custom orthotics might be worthwhile.
Your muscles need to warm up before you begin your workout. There are mixed opinions regarding the amounts of stretching, and the benefits are still controversial. However, improving your overall flexibility can help improve your running form and make your stride more efficient. You can start with light stretching before you run and save the deeper stretching for afterward. Incorporate walking for several minutes before and after the run. Begin at a slow pace and gradually ease into your goal pace. Also remember to ease into your running routine. A gradual increase in your running will strengthen and toughen your muscles, tendons and ligaments. But if you haven’t been running, a sudden increase can overstress them and cause injury. If you were a couch potato all winter, begin slowly.
Ease Into Routine
Most running injuries, like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis, result from doing too much too soon. Slowly increase the intensity and length of each subsequent run and give your body ample healing time. Cross training is especially recommended during these early stages. Doing so will help you maintain your cardio gains while allowing your muscles to recover. Building strength in the rest of your body will also help your overall strength and conditioning and will help with muscle imbalances. Beginners should start at an easy pace. Keep in mind, repetitive motion can lead to injury. Change up the routine by varying the surfaces you run on, the shoes you run in, how hilly the course is and how fast you go.
Recovery and Cool-Down
The cool-down allows your heart rate and blood pressure to come down gradually. End the run with a jog or brisk walk. Make sure to allow for adequate muscle recovery in between runs and to drink enough water. You should be taking at least one or two days off a week from running. Doing more than that can lead to injury and overtraining. Finally, I always stress that you listen to your body. You should enjoy the run. If you’re in pain, slow down and let your body build up to what you can handle. If you suspect injury, see your medical doctor or podiatrist to prevent further problems from developing or any current ones from getting worst.