With COVID 19 keeping us indoors, exercise out of the house has become a big part of our life in lockdown and has become more appreciated than ever. The guidelines have suggested walking, running or cycling as a safe form of exercise ensuring you maintain a safe distance from others.
This has resulted in a lot of new faces on the running scene. It is fantastic to see people maintaining their fitness and enjoying the outdoors.
Running has many benefits including boosting cardio-vascular fitness, building bone strength, building muscle endurance, incredible effects to boost your mental health and burns calories.
At South Cambridge Physiotherapy, we would like to help those new to running or inexperienced runners by providing some advice to reduce the risk of sustaining any injuries. Approximately 60-70% of running injuries are a result of training error, so lets try to avoid this with some tips to keep you running happily.
Start steady. More is not better!!
Its always nice to see enthusiasm, but running is about discipline and listening to your body. You should start with a short distance (this will vary per person).
The best way to gauge whether you are running at a comfortable level for your body is to ensure you can hold a conversation while running. It should not feel difficult and should be enjoyable.
If you don’t achieve many steps in a day then I would suggest starting with walks and progress to a run, walk, run pattern (such as the couch to 5K app). If you already walk regularly and want to progress to running then walk,run,walk will be more suited to you, with the aim to gradually increase your running time and reducing the walking time.
If you are finding it hard on your body then you have either run too fast or too far. Remember, you are not in a race and you want the activity to be sustainable. If you complete activity at a lower intensity level it will allow you to repeat the activity more frequently by reducing fatigue. If you push your body too hard, you will fatigue quicker, then your rest period will need to be longer.
We are not aiming to burn out, we are aiming to be able to keep repeating it and progressing gradually. You could liken it to workload- if you are overworked daily for a week, you are likely to become less efficient as you become tired. If you have a steady manageable workload this rate of work can be continued for a longer duration with less adverse effects and more efficiency. It is the same with exercise. The harder you work, the less likely you are able to sustain this for a long period of time or you may obtain an injury as you body cannot cope with the excessive demand.
If you think about it, the slower you run the more outdoor time you get to enjoy (keep it under an hour though, within the COVID 19 guidelines).
If you want to progress your distance, you will aim to increase this by no more than 10% per week. So if you start by running 1 mile then the following week, if your body is feeling good, you can add in another 0.1 mile. Our brains like to see big progressions so if you want to feel like your progressing quicker swap to kilometres. The distance rise will be the same but feel more because of numbers. Remember you do not have to progress. If you feel like your running at the right level for your body you can keep doing this for weeks before you decide to increase. The couch to 5K app is a good guide that can help gradually build your distance. But remember it is a guideline so if you need to stay on week 1 for a few weeks then that is fine. Progress when you feel ready.
If you do not normally run or have had a long break from running you should phase back gradually. Start with running approximately 1-2 times per week while completing other forms of exercise in between. When starting any new exercise you should introduce it gradually with sufficient rest periods between exercise to allow your body to adapt and recover so it can build the capacity to cope with the new demand. Your training will need to be flexible. If you have run on a Monday and planned to run on Wednesday but your legs are still feeling tired, listen to your body, do something different like cycling, yoga or pilates. This will help with muscle recovery by stimulating blood flow to the muscles ready for your next run.
It is recommended by the department of health that adults should complete strength training twice a week alongside 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity. Conditioning/strengthening exercises are an extremely important part of running training and are undervalued. Strength training aims to improve your body’s ability to cope with the repetitive load it endures when running. It does this by increasing strength in muscles and connective tissue, which is an integral part of injury prevention.
Warm ups/cool downs
This is something that gets neglected heavily in runners despite its importance. Your warm up should be dynamic (yes this means holding your heel to your bottom doesn’t count). The aim of the warm up is to gradually increase your heart rate, stimulate muscle activity and get your muscles ready to perform. You should aim to warm up your whole body rather than just your legs. I would suggest spending 10 minutes at home or in your garden doing some light exercise. This can include walking lunges, squats, yoga sun salutations, step ups etc. Just ensure you pick exercises you are familiar with.
Following your run you can complete an optional cool down. Cool downs and static stretches have been part of exercise routine for a long time. However recent evidence suggests that they have little effect on muscle recovery and reducing injury risk. So it’s really personal preference. See this blog for more information http://semrc.blogs.latrobe.edu.au/running-myth-2-not-stretching-enough-causes-injury/
The obvious- make sure your wearing running trainers. The type of running trainer depends on the terrain you are running on. If you are running on trails/through fields/cross country then you will want to opt for a trail shoe to allow grip when its wet. If you are running on pavement a standard running shoe will provide enough cushioning to absorb some of the impact. It is recommended that your running trainers should be replaced after approximately 300-500 miles.
I hope this information is helpful and can keep you running pain free,