Updated: Jun 3, 2019
Welcome to the new runner's club! Here is some budding advice for those who have newly adopted running on a regular basis, signed up to a running event, or are just getting back into it after a long break!
I have recently been signed up to do my first ever running event of a 10km run and thought I'd share my advice on the subject. My only motivation normally to do a run is that one time of the year when the sun actually decides to show itself (I live in Wales, UK and here, we are very accustomed to rain). So, to give myself a new challenge, and a bit of motivation to do cardio, I signed up for a running event.
Although, my actual running experience is limited, with my education and work experience in my injury clinic, I have seen many running injuries and issues. Many of which can be prevented with a few simple steps. So my advice is as follows:
Do strength training for the legs! Running is a very repetitive movement for the legs and without strength training, your tendons will not have any tensile strength. This causes them to be come inflamed and irritable through repetitive movement and will likely cause you pain at the top or base of your knee cap on your patella tendon, and at the back of your ankle on your Achilles tendon. Therefore, strength training is a useful tool for avoiding some simple overuse injuries.
Foam rolling, not stretching, for your muscles - A controversial subject, but massaging your muscles I have always found to be a more effective tool for muscle care (especially for runners). Stretching I find can be quite aggravating for runners (especially for those who already have injuries), and it may even increase symptoms as it pulls on the origins and insertions of your muscles. So, foam rolling I would vouch is a better way to look after your muscles and reduce that tightness. Tightness of the calves at the back of your legs can contribute to shin splints, so make sure they get some extra care!
Slow progressions! - This can't be asserted enough. When you start running for the first time, or jump back into it after a long break, start small and build up your distances slowly. If you rush into long runs, your body will simply not be prepared, and overuse injuries will kick in quickly. Doing 1-2 runs a week of about 20-30 minutes, is a great beginner starting point. Following this, its just a case of gradual increases whether it is amount of sessions, time or distance. By the books, the standard rate of progression is to increase your distance or time by 10% each week until you reach your target goal. This will give you a set parameter to start with and set you on your way!
The bottom of the foot - Underneath the foot is a sheet of fascia (a type of connective tissue) and this can get tight and irritated with repetitive use and lead to pain at the bottom of the foot called plantar fasciitis. Therefore, I suggest massaging it out with a sphere of some kind (e.g. a tennis ball, or cricket ball), as this will keep it pliable and less likely to be a problem.
No lazy running! - I say this as your body is lazy and will want to save energy where possible, but this is where people start dragging their feet behind them as they run. Running with poor gait might result inadequate shock absorption and cause knee or ankle injuries and pain. Therefore, take control of your run by bringing your toes towards your shin (dorsi-flex) and your knee up in front of your hip as your stride forward. This will provide a longer stride length and encourage a heel strike to toe plant. The movement doesn't need to be completely exaggerated, but if you find you are on your toes without a heel strike when moving, then you are lazy running!
Foot placement - The last thing to be aware of is how your foot is planting when you are running (or even walking), as many people fall victim to having their feet over pronate. This is where you toes point outward as you stand, walk or run. Often, it is not much of a problem for everyday activity, but when training it's worth making a note of. This is because when your foot is over pronated, it can put extra stress through the ankle and your knee as it forces it inward (valgus movement). In addition, it can encourage other musculo-skeletal problems such as plantar fasciitis and shin splints. As a simple solution, just make a conscious effort through exercise (strength training and running) to keep your toes pointing forward, which may feel weird to start with, but will help prevent stress related injuries to the knee or ankle.
So there you have it, a few tips to get you started with your running injury free! Good luck! and follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more tips, ideas and see my journey to my first running event.