Running 101: How to stick with it and prevent injury
You learned the dos and don’ts of running — now it’s time to take your training to the next level. Whether you’re just starting to run, or you’re returning to running after a hiatus, these tips can help you feel confident and strong.
Build slow to get fast
It’s tempting to think that the longer we run, the fitter we’ll be. That kind of thinking is usually what leads to injury. Instead, add time in small increments. Avoid thinking about runs in terms of mileage, and focus on time. Your height, gait, terrain, and more can all affect mileage, but time is the great equalizer. Add it slowly. If you ran 10 minutes your first run, try 12 for the next run.
Also, the walk-run method is a valid training method. You may feel that you don’t need to walk, but think of this method as interval training. If you’re walking for one minute, running for two, and that feels too easy, simply update the ratio for how you’re feeling. Maybe you run for four minutes, walk for one. Building in those mini recoveries into your run can be beneficial to your overall training.
Don’t forget to warm up and cool down
Sometimes when we hit the pavement, we can feel so good that we think we don’t need a warm up, but your body will thank you for taking the extra few minutes to get ready. Studies have shown that warming up can help prevent injury, so take the time to do it properly. Below are a few exercises for both warm-ups and cool-downs.
Warm-ups: for warming up, avoid static stretches. You want to gently introduce the body to movement. Orthology’s own David Rickheim, Physical Therapist in the Orthology Woodbury clinic, suggests these exercises:
Perform the following warmups for about 5-10 minutes prior to running (10-15 reps of each):
- Hip circles: Lift leg up to march position, rotate outward, lower. Repeat reverse pattern.
- Leg swings: Swing leg front/back and side to side.
- Walking lunges: Lunge forward in an alternating pattern.
- Single leg squat: Do single leg squat in running motion, bringing opposite leg back and arm forward.
- Butt kicks: Lightly jog while emphasizing kicking butt with heels.
Cool-down: for cooling down, your muscles are warmed up and ready to stretch. If you have a foam roller, this is the time to use it.
- Walk to end: Use the end of your run to walk for a few minutes. This gradually lowers your rate rate.
- Do your static stretch routine: This can include stretches for the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and more. If you don’t already have a stretching routine, start here.
- Roll it out: spend some time on the foam roller, addressing each sore muscle.
Good form makes for good running
When it comes to form, you’ll hear a lot of different advice, but there are a few universal tips to help keep you moving:
- Don’t fight your natural gait. Experimenting with gaits can be a useful training exercise, but for getting into running, stick with what feels natural.
- Don’t run through consistent pain. Experiencing soreness is normal, but pushing through pain leads to injury.
- If you’re experiencing extra soreness, take an extra rest day. If your soreness is increasing over time and you’re finding it more difficult to run, reach out to Orthology to get evaluated.
- Keep your head up. Staring at your feet is not recommended. Keeping a neutral spine, with a gentle forward lean is best.
- For arms, try to keep your hands relaxed and your arm-bend at 90 degrees.
The most important thing you can do is listen to your body. Pushing through pain is ill-advised.
Keep a schedule and a log
The best way to become a strong runner is to make a plan and stick to it. A rhythm will help you manage soreness and expectations. Create a plan for which days you’ll run, at what times, for how long, and designate rest days in advance.
To create a plan that works, set a goal. Maybe your goal is to run 3 miles without stopping, or maybe it’s to run a sub-4-hour marathon. Whatever it is, there are plenty of free training schedules available on the internet.
Once you have a plan, you’ll know when (and if you need) to incorporate training methods like speed intervals, fartleks, and more.
Get ahead of injury
Most running injuries can be avoided. Follow these tips for staying ahead of the curve:
- Incorporate strength training. Stronger stabilizing muscles make for stronger runners.
- Mix up workouts. Overuse can lead to injury. If you have access, try incorporating a longer hike into your training schedule. This activates different muscles.
- Talk to an expert. If you have any training concerns, the Orthology team is there to work with you. Book an appointment so you can make sure you’re moving your body the right way.