As running season starts to pick up with the beginning of spring, many people begin earnestly training for summer and fall race. This includes marathons and half marathons. Like other high-impact sports, a run can lead to injury. If you are not careful and precise about your training, you can be in a world of hurt.
If you’re throwing yourself into this particular season, follow these tips to help stave off injury so you can enjoy the fruits of training on race day.
Running Tip: Start Slow
If you’ve been keeping fit with fitness classes at the YMCA during the winter months, you might dive headfirst into long runs and an aggressive training program. However, the reality is that even for people who are reasonably fit in other areas, it’s still important to start slow when beginning some training.
When you run, you place unique strain on your body. This is particularly true for joints and muscles on your knees, hips, and ankles. Without a steady and slow buildup of speed and miles, you can injure yourself. Injuries such as shin splits or hairline fractures are a risk. Your heart and lungs may be in good condition but the rest of you isn’t. Give your bones, ligaments, and muscles time to catch up.
Generally, people who run abide by the 10% rule. This means increasing your mileage by 10% each week at most. For people who are less fit or have only started, stick to 3 or 5 percent instead. It’s good to stay with low-impact exercise or use the pool on alternate days to maintain your fitness level.
Running Tip: Evolve your runs
It’s tempting to treat every run the same. It can be fairly difficult to let go of a good groove. However, it is important to note that you can reduce injuries by varying your runs. This can help your muscles adapt to different terrains and speeds.
For example, if you always run on flat land, encountering hills during a race will strain you. It’s best to acclimate your legs to all the stresses they will experience on race days. For best results, vary your runs. Use the treadmill to push yourself to increase your pace. Treadmills also help train you to run at an incline, which can be helpful if you live in an area that has mostly flat roads. Use the indoor track to maintain a steady distance.
At least once per week, run outdoors alone or with a fitness group on varied routes to get the psychological feel of running long distances while changing speed, direction, and elevation.
Running Tip: Maintain Flexibility
Going on runs stresses the body. It’s a great sport for fitness and cardiovascular health, but you should always be mindful that any exercise that requires high levels of exertion will tighten your muscles. Don’t neglect your stretching and flexibility when training; you’ll need it to combat the tightening and strengthening of your muscles.
Instead of static stretches, however, it’s best to focus on range of motion exercises that will lengthen and stabilize your developing muscles. For example, bending down slowly to touch your toes 10 times is better for your training and flexibility than bending and holding a folded stretch.
It’s a good thing that always a flexibility class or yoga class available at your local YMCA. Yoga in particular is beneficial for runners because it encourages more balanced muscle development.