Updated: Jul 20, 2020
In the COVID-19 era, we are seeing more and more people hitting the pavement and getting out for a run. For a running coach, this is a fascinating time, but also a very nervous time. As most coaches worth their salt knows the risks of injury increase with any dramatic increase in load. It is usually 3-4 weeks after the increase where these injuries typically occur. So, I have decided to list a few of my tips on how to start out running the right way. Stayed tuned in the upcoming weeks as I will delve deeper into each of the tips.
I know we have all heard this one before, but the reality of it is a goal keeps you on task and target. It does not have to be as grand as I want to run a 2-hour marathon, it can be a simple as wanting to run a 10km in under 40mins by November. If you can apply the SMART goals to it, it is ok. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Once you have your goal set, make it visible, tell your family and friends and keep yourself accountable!
The problem with most people of this generation is that they want instant gratification. As a result, they go too hard too soon and often end up burnt out and injured. My tip in this instance is to pick 3 days in the week, with a day in between. Set a time you feel comfortable running for and apply the 180 Formula to your heart rate and away you go.
The 180 Formula is like working out your maximum heart rate but is a limiter for your average running heart rate. The Formula is 180-Your Age. This is the maximum heart rate you can run. With smartwatches these days, this is a simple principle to follow that enables you to recover, while still getting the benefits of your running. After a few weeks of this, you can either extend the time of your running or add in another day.
Both are precious tools in your running toolbox. They can both reduce the risk of injury while also extending your runs. For Warm-Ups, pick a couple of exercises that will load up and release your muscles. My go-to is a Lunge Matrix (3 Directions) plus heel and toe walks (forward and backwards) plus side skips and Cariocas. It does not take much time, but it should open up your hips and ankles, which will help your running.
On the Warm-Down side, the idea here is to reset your muscles before the next running session. Your warm down should include a period where you are gradually reducing your heart rate, followed by some light foam rolling and mobility work. I like the idea of hitting some of your bigger muscle groups with your foam rolling and work through the full muscle length. If you want some more tips on foam rolling, check out the work done by Dr John Rusin in this field. Follow this with some light mobility work, The World’s Greatest Stretch, The Bretzel Stretch, Knee to Wall and Archer probably get the most bang for your buck in this case!
Set a Structure:
Like most new habits or new ventures, they often stick once you find the right routine or structure to it. Block out time in your day and dedicate it to your running. If you are only beginning your running journey, aim to hit 3 days a week and block out an hour of your time to get through your schedule.
Strength and Mobility:
The adage of “If you don’t use it you lose it” comes into play here, but there are also some benefits attached to it. I remember first reading Harry Wilson’s Running My Way (1988) and looking at the schedule for his youth athletes and seeing everything had a place. Technique and Speed, Aerobic Capacity, Mobility, Strength and Anaerobic Capacity were touched on weekly. While most people won’t need to do everything, both strength and mobility standout as they provide a platform for you to do more running.
Most people who are now starting to do more running have replaced their gym workouts with running, so the adage of “If you don’t use it you lose it” comes into play here. Keep doing your bodyweight strength stuff, so when it comes time to go back to the gym, you aren’t starting from square one.
Mobility is something to get started if you don’t do it already. The body surprisingly, doesn’t cope well with change. And it doesn’t like surprises, so to help reduce some of that stress now being placed on tendons and joints get cracking on some mobility work.
Select the Correct Footwear for You:
Footwear, heel striking, forefoot striking, barefoot and minimalist running shoes have been the subject of strong debates in recent times. And this debate has strong merits as what you wear or don’t wear on your feet has a significant impact on your injury status. In a study by Doud et al. (2012), it concluded that those who had a rearfoot strike when running were twice as likely to have a moderate to substantial running-related injury. Can footwear or orthotics help this? You bet! So head down to your local running specific store or better yet a Podiatrist and see what they recommend.
Running on soft surfaces is another way to keep you running more frequently. Grass, dirt trails and paths, and bark chip paths are all valuable places to spend time running on, as stated by Angie Spencer’s article in 2017. Not only do softer surfaces provide less impact on the runner, but they are also great for building strength and assist in improving proprioception of joints. Spending too much time on surfaces like roads or sidewalks you are looking at increased rates of injuries like shin splints, stress reactions and stress fractures—an excellent recipe for spending more time on the sidelines.
These are a few simple tips to consider when starting your running journey. Over the next few weeks, I will be releasing my more in-depth thoughts on each of the tips, so you have a more thorough guide to get started!
Yours in running,
Daoud, A. I., Geissler, G. J., Wang, F., Saretsky, J., Daoud, Y. A., & Lieberman, D. E. (2012). Foot strike and injury rates in endurance runners: a retrospective study. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44(7), 1325-1334.
Rusin, J (2018). Retrieved from https://drjohnrusin.com/?s=foam+rolling
Maffetone, P (2019). Retrieved from https://philmaffetone.com/
Spencer, A (2017, October). How Running Surfaces Affect Your Body. Retrieved from https://www.marathontrainingacademy.com/running-surfaces