There is usually an uptick in running around the holidays and the start of the new year. This may be due to new year resolution goals or maybe it’s tougher to actually get out and to your gym during the winter months so a run feels more feasible.
If you are new to running or are looking to begin running soon, I have some tips for you to improve your experience and try to avoid running-related injuries.
1. Get a pair of running shoes.
This may seem obvious, but it is worth mentioning. If you are new to running, then you may not have proper running shoes. There are specialty running shoe stores that can help you find the right fit for you. There are many things to consider, but we won’t get into that here today. A good running shoe will allow your foot to move the way it is intended.
2. Hydrate before and after running.
You don’t want to have to chug down a glass of water right before a run because you’re dehydrated. Plan out your day and make sure you get enough water throughout the day. Drink a glass/bottle of water after running to replenish the water you lost through sweat during the run. There are a few recommendations out there, but try to get 0.5 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. Drink more on days that you run.
3. Warm up before you run.
The warm-up is the most consistently forgotten aspect of running. Warming up will prepare your mind and body for the physical task at hand. Your warm-up should consist of walking, jogging, skipping, and gentle mobility exercises. Skipping your warm-up is a bad decision that can easily catch up with you.
4. Lean slightly forward.
Keeping your trunk too tall and stiff will limit the body’s ability to run naturally. It can lead to hyperextension as well as back pain. Leaning too far forward is inefficient and can lead to back or hip pain. Instead, try for a very slight forward lean to keep your momentum going and a natural curve in the spine.
5. Try to land in the middle of your foot, not your heel.
Heel striking while running will increase the amount of force going through your joints (ground reaction force). Midfoot and forefoot striking patterns lead to an optimal ground reaction force and let the body move naturally. Aim for the ball of your foot and modify as needed. Faster running will typically put you more on your forefoot, while slower running for a longer distance will likely put you on your midfoot.
6. Aim for 180 steps per minute.
Not many people think about cadence (how many steps you take per minute) when running. When you’re just getting started, you don’t need to dial this in perfectly but know that research supports a cadence of 180 steps per minute for reducing the risk of injury. Spotify and other music programs have running playlists with beat ranges in the title. Find one around 180 beats per minute and try to run to the beat.
If something hurts, take it easy. If you feel too sore to run, make it an active recovery day. It will take time for your body to adjust to the impact and strain from running. Don’t rush the process.
8. Mix in some strength training.
Strength training has been shown to help with preventing running-related injuries. If you don’t belong to a gym or have a personal trainer, then consider bodyweight strength movements like push-ups, squats, and lunges. Your strength program should be well-rounded and include single leg exercises, core exercises, and balance training.
9. Consider joining a running group.
Running groups are a great way to connect with other runners in your community. Groups can help with advice, motivation, training, and usually post-race beers. Running groups tend to be very friendly and willing to help.
Signing up for a race will give you something to train for. You don’t need to win that race, you just need to show up prepared to run. Make it something easy, like a 5K or a fun run, so you can enjoy the experience and not have to worry about if you will be able to finish.