As the weather warms up, more and more Melbourians are inspired to ditch the gym and take up running. Whilst a great and convenient form of exercise, running also places a lot of load on the body.
We commonly see patients who have sustained a hip, knee or ankle injury just weeks after taking up running.
It’s no surprise, given running can create ground reaction forces 3-4x your body weight with each step!
With most distance runners taking between 150-180 steps per minute, that’s a lot of extra demand on your soft tissue and joints!
This blog post will go through some Do’s and Don’ts of taking up running.
Invest in the right gear. You don’t have to spend $1000s, but your Vintage 1996 trainers are probably not going to cut it. Generally, you should replace your runners every 600-800kms. Everyone is different so it’s worth getting properly fitted at a specialty Sports/Running shoe store, and if in doubt, speak to your Physio or Podiatrist first.
Cross train! There is a lot of evidence in support of strength and cross training for Runners in not only reducing injury risk, but also improving performance. This could be weight lifting, pilates, swimming, cycling, or a combination of the above. Single leg stability and strength exercises are particularly useful- this could include lunges, split squats, single leg deadlifts and calf raises.
Start gradually. Start with intervals of walking and running. It is important to listen to your body to determine how much running is right for you. There is no specific recipe or one size fits all when it comes to this (every individual is different). A general guideline is to start by using a 1:4 ratio with running at a moderate intensity (walk for 4 minutes and run for 1 minute) gradually build this up so that your ratio becomes 2:1 (you should be running double the distance you can walk, e.g. walk for 4 minutes run for 8 minutes).
Once you have reached this point you are ready to attempt your “running baseline”. Your running baseline is how long you can comfortably run for.
Take this figure and only ever increase your training load by no more than 10% per week. Above this figure results in a significantly increased risk or injury.
Your training load is not just total time or distance, but also intensity, hills, speedwork. Pick one variable at a time to increase.
Set a goal. This helps keep you motivated and accountable. Whether it be running 20minutes non-stop or completing a 5, 10km or Marathon. If you’re going straight for a big goal of a Marathon, try to set smaller goals along the way to stay motivated.
Run every day. This is a quick way to increase your injury risk. Your body will become accustomed to the demands of running, but it needs rest between sessions to do this. Start with 2-3 runs per week. In the first 4-6 weeks of getting started, 24-48hours between sessions is often necessary to allow for recovery. Listen to your body and take an extra day if you are feeling particularly fatigued.
Ignore pre-existing injuries or niggles. So often, we have patients come in and tell us they begun running on an already painful knee or ankle. If you have a niggle, see your physio before you start running. They can then provide you with a “pre-hab” plan once you are pain free, to prevent the injury recurring.
Neglect interval/Fartlek training if you are trying to get faster. After your first couple of months of building up a base, incorporating speedwork will result in big improvements in performance. Fartlek training means “speed play”. There are many different ways to incorporate speedwork. It could be running at hard pace for the last 1 minute of every 5 minute block, or 6x500m at 70% maximum pace.
A recent study in Denmark found that by following the 30-20-10 training method, participants improved their 5km time by an average of 48 seconds, despite actually decreasing their training mileage!
This method involves 3x 5 minute blocks with 2 minutes rest between blocks and a warm up/cool down. During each 5 minute block, run 30seconds easy, 20 seconds moderate and 10 seconds at maximal intensity (1 minute total) and repeat x5, followed by a 2 minute rest. This is then repeated for a total of three blocks.