As the weather begins to improve and race season quickly approaches, you’ll see many more runners hitting the pavement in preparation for their upcoming spring races. What you might not see is all the experience those runners actually have (whether it be a lot or a little). Seeing people out on the road probably makes you think one of two things: “I wanna do that” or “I’ll never to that”. What most people may not realize is that there may be more to it than just slapping on your favorite running shoes and going for a run. Well actually, there isn’t much more to it than that, but if you want to avoid injuring yourself, there really is a bit more to it.
Here are 6 important tips to avoid injury this running season:
While it can be as simple as putting on your shoes and getting out the door, choosing your equipment can be a fun endeavor. For the sport of running, you most likely already have everything you need to get started lying around in your home. To go for a run, you’ll need running shoes. Depending on the type of running you’ll be doing (trail vs road or walking) you can certainly find specialized shoes for the purpose. That being said, if you’re a beginner and just getting started, any running shoes you already have should be fine. Until you decide that you’re going to get serious about running, you don’t need any high tech special clothing or other gadgets. There are so many gadgets available out there and they can get pricey. When it comes to choosing your clothing, dress comfortably and for the weather.
Believe it or not, in order to perform at our peak sleep is super important. A quality sleep allows our body to go through the recovery process and become prepared for the next challenge. When you plan to start running, plan to start sleeping. The hours are not necessarily what’s important here, but rather getting a high quality of sleep will take you much further down your road enabling you to run with less risk of injury.
The food you consume has a direct impact on how you perform. It’s really that simple. If you eat highly processed and sugary foods, foods that cause inflammation in the body, you are setting yourself up for injury. As you start to run, your body will need to recover from the exercise and training. Eating foods that promote recovery and healing, foods that are anti-inflammatory are your best bets. Foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes should be in your arsenal to help speed up recovery and get you back on your feet again. Hydration is no different. Most people walk around dehydrated every day. Add running into the mix and it gives you even more reason to be drinking more water than you usually do. Notice it says water, no need for specialty electrolyte drinks at the beginner stage and some would argue, that those are not needed at all.
One of the biggest mistakes that lead beginner runners on a direct path to injury is starting off running too fast or for too long or just going out too hard. For many, it can be tempting to give a little push and test your limits, but “theory” will likely do more harm than good. Start slow, start easy, start short, just get it done and feel good about what you accomplish. While as a beginner, you should just start by getting on your shoes and getting out the door, but as you continue to fall in love with running, you’ll want to start thinking about a progression in your run plan. Building yourself up over weeks and months will be a sure way to avoid breaking down along the way.
This can be a controversial topic for many people. Stretching allows your muscles to improve their flexibility, which in turn will enable you to increase your range of motion and improve your performance. Avoid stretching cold muscles and consider doing some basic stretches after your warmed up and after you complete your run session. This increase in flexibility and range of motion will be very helpful in reducing your risk of injury.
Anyone can run and anyone can run well. Of course, there is a technique for running and for each person small tweaks can make big improvements. Probably the most important technical aspect of running, which everyone takes for granted, is breathing. People get all caught up with how they should breathe. Nose and mouth, mouth and nose, nose only, mouth only…At this point, the only thing that matters is that you breathe comfortably while you’re running. As you progress, you can think a bit more about your breathing technique and finding the right balance for your body. Then you can also start to think about your foot strike, posture, arm swing and body position.
While these 6 important tips can help you avoid injury this running season, probably the most important tip is that you listen to your body. If something hurts, you need to find out why. Perhaps you need a break, perhaps your shoes don’t fit right, maybe you didn’t sleep well and are over-stressed. This list goes on and on. The truth is that for each of these tips listed above, entire books can and have been written about them. Regardless, hopefully, this will help get you thinking about avoiding injury and get you out the door and running towards your goals.
~ Plant Trainers