At Pro-Form we see a lot of runners ! Especially during COVID lockdowns, there isn’t much access to gyms or exercise equipment, so people are opting to go running to keep their fitness in check!
Now running is a fantastic way to improve your health! It’s great for:
- Weight loss
- Improving your cardiovascular fitness
- Getting bragging rights on STRAVA against all your friends and family
I’ve personally seen running turn some people’s lives around for the better, and it’s so disheartening to see some people lose the opportunity to run due to some injury that could have been easily avoided in the first place!
We often as health practitioners and patients, invest a large amount of our time in solving an existing problem i.e. a strain, niggle or injury. That makes sense. It’s tangible, very real and affecting your ability to do things right now. Let me take you through some of the simple practices, and shift your perception to preventing these injuries from occurring in the first place rather than dealing with a new problem. Let’s go!
1 _ Prepare your body for what you are going to do
Renowned physiotherapist Dr. Kelly Starett, author of “The Supple Leopard” has frequently mentioned the need for athletes and weekend warriors to prepare their body for what they are about to do!
For example, if you lift heavy things above your head, but have spent the last 8 hours on a back to back ZOOM meeting, bent over a laptop all day, that level of chronic shoulder positioning doesn’t bode well for that impending overhead work out you have later that day. And trust me – your quadruple shot espresso isn’t going to be enough to prepare for that.
But more in particular for the runner, especially the AM runner. Running first thing in the morning is GREAT ! It’s an awesome way to get the day started before you go out and crush the rest of your day. Here are a few things to think about, when you wake up in the morning:
- It’s cold
- You feel stiff as a board
- You are dehydrated from your previous nights sleep
- Not only that, you were up all night answering emails till 2 AM
- You’ve offloaded you’re body because you’ve been in bed all this time
And now you expect yourself to be ready to take on a 5km run. That’s at least 30-40 minutes of consistent loading on your legs without any preparation. I can feel my knees getting sore already just thinking about it!
- Get a decent night’s sleep. If you know you are going for a run the next day, get a decent night’s sleep. Dr. Matthew Walker in his book “why we sleep” details the benefits of getting some quality ZZZ’s and suggests anywhere from 8-10 hours is a good benchmark.
- Drink some water. While this advice is very simple, while you are asleep, moisture is extracted from your body as you exhale and as you sweat. So much so that you can actually be noticeably lighter first thing in the morning, if you were to weigh yourself. You wouldn’t run your car without water in the radiator, don’t treat your body any less. 1-2 glasses is plenty!
- Get your body feeling right – you know all of those exercises your physio gives you? Now might actually be the best time to do them. Exercise, be it body weight, band loaded or stretching can improve tissue extensibility and responsiveness allowing the quality of your movement to be much better as a result. Better quality movement over a longer period of time, will keep you running for longer. Don’t just rely on your first 2 kilometers as a “warm up”. By that stage it is usually too late.
2 _ Vary your program
Simply put, variety is the spice of life. And it is no different for running! The biggest mistake I find runners make is going too hard/long too often!
In order to get better at any athletic pursuit, the body needs time to recover and adapt! Too much load, too quickly and too often will eventually lead to an injury!
The Australian Track and Field Coaches Association: Coaching Manual suggest a number of ways to vary your current running program to:
- Minimise the chance of injury
- Develop the body in a comprehensive manner – training different energy systems and musculoskeletal demands (more on that later)
- Foster motivation, adherence and ENJOYMENT. Because let’s face it – nobody wants to do the same thing forever !
This can include:
- Walks on days where you feel a bit off
- Interval and Fartlek style sessions – these are typically shorter sessions with an emphasis on repeated speedy efforts
- Hill sessions – this a great way for runner to build strength and power
- Trail runs – get off the road and into nature for something a little different
- Recovery runs – after a heavy training week – light easy runs with friends or colleagues can be just what the doctor orders. No time keeping, no need to look at your thresholds – just go out and run!
A run coach, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist active in the running space can help you get your bearings and help you shake things up a bit!
3 _ Cross Training
People often Run to get fit, but you have to be fit to run!
Fitness in terms of running, refers to the strength and capacity of the tissues. That is, are the muscles in your legs strong enough to carry your body for 5km? Can the muscles of your hips stabilise your pelvis and spine to maintain an effective running technique for a long period of time?
A great solution to this a tailored exercise program that is matched to your:
- Ambitions / Goals – A first time runner shouldn’t be modelling an olympic level program and vice versa!
- Accessibility – Do you have the equipment available to complete the program?
- And, do not detract from your ability to run – heavy legs from heaps of squats makes running very difficult.
While no program is better than the other, a recent paper by Greaves and Colleagues (2021) found that a small selection of leg and hip strengthening exercises may be effective in improving knee pain and function with a commonly known running injury – patellofemoral pain syndrome (or runners knee).
Further to that study, Faller and Colleagues built a very strong case for the use of eccentric exercise for the glutes and hamstring being quite effective in preventing knee pain in runners as these types of exercises match the imposed demands of running. A great physio, strength coach or exercise physiologist can be a great contact to help you develop an effective exercise program!
So there you have it, if you found this helpful pass it on to any runners you know that need to hear this!
Run strong and run Happy 🙂
Henrike Greaves, Paul Comfort, Anmin Liu, Lee Herrington, Richard Jones, How effective is an evidence-based exercise intervention in individuals with patellofemoral pain?, Physical Therapy in Sport, Volume 51, 2021, Pages 92-101,
Brian Faller, Dean Bonneau, Liana Wooten, Dhinu J. Jayaseelan, Eccentric exercise in the prevention of patellofemoral pain in high-volume runners: A rationale for integration, Sports Medicine and Health Science, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2021, Pages 119-124,
Walker, M. (2018). Why we sleep. Penguin Books.
Australian track and field coaches association: Coaching Manual