If you are interested in getting started in what is probably the largest participation sport in Australia—Congratulations! Running is a tremendously effective way to get active. This isn’t the place to discuss all the health benefits of running—you probably already know the big ones like improved cardiovascular performance, weight loss, improved mood, chronic disease prevention, etc., etc.—we are here to help you get started and remain injury free.
Injuries are a real issue for runners, particularly people new to the activity. Over 70% of runners have reported injuries in their last year of running. The most common cause: overuse. Put simply, people are excited and eager to improve. This often means they start out at a higher level than they should and they try to improve more rapidly than is ideal. This leads us to the following guide for new runners and runners looking to improve and stay injury free:
1. It is a good idea to see a professional who is an expert in musculoskeletal problems. Having an expert, like a podiatrist trained in biomechanics, take a look at your running form, shoes, and other individual factors, can be critical in avoiding injuries in the first place.
2. Always warm up. There is some conflicting evidence as to what kind of warm up is best. Remember, though, that running is a repetitive movement and that over the course of a run you will impact startling large forces on certain body parts, so just a slow jog is probably not ideal. Here is our warm up guide:
a. Walk before you run. The idea is to transition from static to dynamic. Move from a slow to a brisk pace.
b. Self-massage any areas giving you trouble. Use light, short strokes because you don’t want to irritate the muscle, just warm up a problem area.
c. Stretch dynamically. A static stretch is one where you hold the stretched position. You want to avoid this and go for a stretch that gives you a range of motion targeted at the muscle groups used for running. Static stretches essentially relax the muscle, which is not what we are looking for. We want to warm the muscle up by increasing circulation, so it is ready to perform. Static stretching is great to do, just not right before a run. Warm up with flexion and extension of the legs and lateral movements. This is especially important if you are going to do a hard run. Here are some dynamic stretches you should work into your routine:
i. Hip circles: Feet at hip widths apart, hands on hips rotating hips clockwise for 10 repetitions and counterclockwise for another ten repetitions.
ii. Butt Kicks: Walk forward slowly while kicking your heels toward your glutes for ten repetitions per leg.
iii. Leg swings: Hold onto something stable, then swing one leg to your side and then back across your body for 10 repetitions per leg.
iv. Monster Walk: Walk forward while lifting your legs straight in front of you. Keep your body upright throughout the movement. 10 repetitions per side.
3. Make sure you are well hydrated before, during and after your run.
4. If you are starting out, begin by running at a pace where you can still hold a conversation.
5. Get a program and have the discipline not to try to “beat it”. Your training program should involve 24-48 hour rests between runs. Your program should slowly graduate you from lower speeds and distances to higher speeds and distances. “Slowly” is the key word. Ideally, it should involve an number of different activities like cycling, swimming or other activities where your body will experience different types of loading.
6. Don’t try to change your running style just because you think there is an ideal technique. If you examine world class runners, you will see that there is a wide variety of styles that are effective. You have a natural run and if you are able to run without injury, you should not change it without having a really compelling reason.
7. If you experience pain, slow down or stop. Pain is a sign that your body has not adapted to your new activity. Do not try to run though it. At Langmore Podiatry we will do a full and thorough biomechanical assessment, taking into account all your individual factors and come up with a treatment plan.
a. Overuse is the most common injury, so cutting down, sometimes dramatically, is your best option
b. When you do return to running, make sure you do so gradually. Start out low and slow, building up a little eachrun. Patience can help you remain injury free.
8. Avoid running during the hottest part of the day, when you are tired, or when you are sick.
9. Running may not be the best place to begin if you are very overweight. Remember, running involves very high loads and is repetitive. If you injure yourself, then your entire fitness program can be jeopardized.
10. Running can be a social activity and there are many benefits to making it one. If you join a club you will be encouraged, and being around like-minded people will probably keep you on track and excited about your next run.
The best way to build physical fitness is on a great platform. As a podiatrist who has years of experience fitting active people into the right runner, I have gathered a few key points to help you in selecting the best shoe, so that you can achieve your fitness goals and remain injury free.
Support and control mean different things when it comes to footwear:
A supportive shoe can’t be bent or twisted in half and the back of the shoe (around your heel) cannot be pushed down.
Control, on the other hand, is achieved by dual density foams, which stop pronation (or the rolling in of your feet). It is common to think that the most supportive or controlling shoe is the best, but this isn’t always the case. Everyone’s feet are different and whilst one person may actually require controlling shoes, you may not.
Research has shown that people who choose comfort over the perfect functioning shoe are less prone to injury. If faced with a choice of 2 shoes, choose the most comfortable one.
2 pairs of different shoes:
Did you know that runners need 24 hours to rebound before you should wear them again? Rotating between 2 different pairs of runners means that your shoes will be in the best condition on a day-to-day basis. Plus, because injuries are often caused by overuse, having a different pair of runners that stress slightly different parts of your foot will reduce your chance of injury.
Replace your shoes more often:
We frequently see people who have worn the same pair of runners for years. A runner has a lifespan of about 800 km. If you use your runner for a variety of activities, replace it if you can bend or twist the shoe through the middle or the shoe shows significant wear patterns on the outsole.
Not all shoe stores are created equal. Stores like The Athlete’s Foot or Active Feet staff people who receive training in footwear and use technology that can help you get into the right runner.
Don’t be afraid to ask us for help. We can give you great advice about the features of a shoe that would benefit you based on your activities, injury history and biomechanics.