Keeping physically active is certainly important, but if you’re starting the practice for the first time, or you’re getting back into it after a break, there are a few things you should be aware of so you can keep moving, and prevent injuries.
Tim Bass, Sports Physiotherapist and Partner at MyPhysio says that they have seen a few running injuries lately and that they have been mainly the result of people going too hard, too fast. “With running, it is always important to start slowly,” Tim says. “We recommend a program that begins with alternative walking and running in each session, interspersed with rest days. Even if you have been a runner previously, the action of running can be very hard on your body and we see lots of shin splint injuries and knee injuries as a result.”
So, what are some tips to make your return to running successful?
You’ll need running shoes that support your foot correctly (every foot is different, so speak with your physio for advice) and have adequate shock absorption.
It takes a bit to get your blood flowing and your muscles warm, and jumping out of bed straight into a run can do some damage. Likewise, stretching your muscles out at the end of a session helps them to better repair themselves, and is less likely to cause stiffness later on.
Running up and down hills is certainly harder on your body than running on the flats. For your first few sessions, it is best to stick with low inclines. Similarly, the surface you are running on also makes a difference. Ideally, you’ll want something with a bit of ‘spring’ in it, such as grass or dirt, rather than bitumen or concrete.
Also, Tim recommends you try different routes. This is not just to keep things interesting, but also to add prevent repetitive injury. For example, if you are always running the same roads around your house, you may find that the camber on the road means you are always running with your left side down, placing strain on that side of your body.
Our bodies need time to rest and recover from hard work, which is why sleep is so important to our overall wellbeing. Rest days between hard physical exercise are also important. When starting out (either for the first time, or after a long break) it is best to aim for 2-3 days of running a week. Once you achieve this comfortably, you can increase the frequency, or duration of your run. It’s also good practice to decrease or slow your training every 6-8 weeks to avoid injuries relating to chronic loading. Take this as an opportunity to pat yourself on the back for all the good work you’ve been doing.
Whether you are feeling pain or not, a physio can help you achieve your fitness goals but offering a program that safely increases your activity level and identifies any weaknesses. If you do have an injury then there is certainly value in looking at why it happened, and helping to prevent it happening again. As Tim says “the biggest predictor of you having an injury is whether you have had that injury before.”