Top tips if you are learning to run in 2020
So its the start of a new decade and 2020 will no doubt see many of you setting new goals, making changes in your life and contemplating new challenges. As running continues to gain popularity often one of the goals people set is to learn to run. You may have heard of park run and want to get involved, watched athletics on the TV and felt inspired or simply seen friends taking that first step on the running journey. Those who follow me know my love of running and I love meeting runners of all abilities and seeing them grow and improve. Running is so primal, it’s what we are designed to do. What we used to do to catch food or escape danger.
Sadly though as life has become more comfortable we no longer need to catch food or run away from danger. We get jobs that require long periods of sitting down, we drive cars to get around and we over eat on a daily basis. Our muscles become soft and squidgy and especially a this time of year we carry a little bit of extra padding. In my clinic I treat a high proportion of runners with various injuries. Pretty much all of these injuries come from over training and with a bit of tweaking most settle. Our bodies are very good at adapting but it takes time and runners are notoriously inpatient.
I though as my first blog for 2020 I would just share some tips for those of you looking to embark on your running journey. I hate hearing of people who have given up due to knee pain or back pain. Running and exercise in general is good for the body and the mind and there is a wealth of research to back this up. Its not bad for your joints, it wont give you arthritis but running badly and not doing things slowly will put you at risk of picking up an injury. So if you fancy joining the crazy world of running then grab a cuppa and have a read.
Tip 1- join a couch to 5k group. January sees the launch of many supported running groups that offer a couch to 5k programme. You’ll join with other new runners and the support will be amazing. You’ll look round and see that everyone is huffing and puffing just as much as you are. In our area Decathlon are offering a free course with 2 sessions weekly. Most of these type of groups are led by experienced runners so its great to chat with them and ask any daft questions (runners have their own weird vocabulary that you may be unfamiliar with)
Tip 2- Warm up before every session. Warming up your muscles and joints helps reduce injury risk so get into a good habit right from the start. Walking for a bit isn’t a warm up. Doing some star jumps, squats, leg swings, high knees, heel flicks is. You don’t have to go crazy but just think about all the big joints in your body and try to move them through a big as range as you can before you start. Do 10 of each of these moves
- jumping jacks
- forward leg swings
- side legs swings
- high kicks
- knee lifts
- heel to bum
- ankle circles
- shoulder swings
- sprinting on the spot (for 10 seconds)
Tip 3- Eat well. You don’t need any extra nutrition when you start running. Most new runners wont burn any extra calories because they aren’t doing a huge amount of running. Try to see running as part of a healthier lifestyle that includes a better diet. Try to cut out the excess sugar and treats and if January is the month to make the changes then why not ditch the booze for a month.
Tip 4- Don’t just run. If you goal is to get fit then running alone wont do this. Running is high impact activity with a high risk of injury. Many new runners start off the back of being fairly inactive. Your muscles will be weak and running wont strengthen them it’ll just stress them. Joining a gym or working out at home with some weights will strengthen your muscles and soft tissue which helps absorb the shock of the impact of running. (more details in my next blog) Try to see that if you are strong then running is easier rather than running to get strong. Look for local boot camps, kettlebell classes or get a good programme to follow at your local gym. As a physiotherapist with a qualification in strength and conditioning I can help if you want more advice on getting stronger.
Tip 5- Don’t just stretch. For some reason runners think they need to stretch, stretch, stretch. Static stretching is where you hold a stretch for a few seconds whereas dynamic stretching involves moving a joint through its full range. All the evidence points to static stretching having absolutely no benefit at all. We need stiffness in our soft tissue to absorb the impact of running and unless you have a real restriction in the range of movement in a joint you don’t need to stretch. Lifting weights makes your soft tissue stronger and it will help your dynamic range of movement which is the active movement you can achieve. Dynamic stretching will improve your range of movement and if you add some weight to this movement you’ll not only improve your flexibility but also your muscle strength.
Tip 6- Be prepared to hurt. Running is high impact and it will make your hips, knees, back, ankles feel sore. Your lungs may be on fire and your quads may scream at you for a few weeks. This is all perfectly ok. Your body is using muscles it may not have used for a long time and high impact can cause micro trauma to your joints. Sleep is when the body repairs and it becomes better adapted for what you are asking it do do so get lots of good quality sleep throughout the early weeks. If you can, try to add a nice low impact activity like yoga or swimming to aid your recovery.
Tip 7- Seek professional advice. If you wanted to start snowboarding you’d probably have some lessons first to learn the basics. I cant imagine anyone would just turn up at the top of a mountain, strap themselves to a board and point themselves down a mountain. Try to think of running in the same vein. Its a skill that needs to be (re) learnt and there are lots of running coaches around that can help advise you on the basics of running well. At KHPhysiotherapy I can advise on good running form and how to make some simple changes to your style to reduce your risk of getting injured.
So there you go some simple tips to hopefully help ease you into the crazy world of running. Once you’ve got the bug you’ll never look back. If you do experience pain then don’t be afraid to stop and walk. Pain often isn’t a sign of damage its just your body giving you an early warning that something isn’t quite right. Ease back until things settle. If the pain continues for more than a week then come and get it checked properly. Usually with some tweaks to your training you can continue to run. We all get injured at some point though so be prepared, notice the warning signals and most of all have something else you can fall back on if you need to reduce your running for a bit. Good luck with it folks. If you want to book in for help and advice on starting to run or want help with a strength and conditioning plan then you can book online via www.khphysiotherapy.com