Running is a fantastic and inexpensive cardiovascular sport which can be taken up at a level to suit the runner, from beginner to expert. It provides an excellent cardio workout and is virtually free, and as any runner will tell you, can be both exhilarating and highly addictive. The health benefits of running are clear to see, nonetheless it is important to understand that by its very nature, it is also a high impact sport. The major issues stem from the continuous, rhythmic pounding of the feet, which then impacts joints and can cause considerable problems for the hips, knees, shins and feet. These issues range from various common running injuries such as Plantar Fasciitis, shin splints and runners knee to the exhaustion, dehydration or over hydration problems common to many sports. There are of course precautions any runner can and should undertake to minimize or altogether avoid possible issues, so don’t be put off.
The first thing to look at is activity levels. The golden rule is the 10% rule. When you begin to run or walk, start with a comfortable distance, and then increase this by no more than 10% each week until you reach a reasonable level. For some this might be as much as 20km weekly; for others
10 or 15km.
- Gait is important, and you should look at good running shops who will use a treadmill to measure your gait properly and recommend the best fitting running shoes for you. It can be tempting to look at the cheapest pair, but a well fitting pair makes the job easier and helps avoid any medical problems arising so are worth it in the long run.
- Trainers should also be replaced regularly – at around the 500 mile mark. If you use a running app, you can monitor this easily and set reminders to check whether your running shoes need updating.
- Mix up your running and the surfaces you run on and avoid road running all the time. Fields or parks make for a softer landing, especially during the winter months.
- Stretching after running is a must and probably the most important injury prevention measure you can take. However long or short the run is, it is imperative that you do a number of stretching exercises, for at least 4 to 5 minutes and longer for those long distance runs, afterwards. Ensure
- that the ham strings, the gluteals, calves and abs are all cooled off with proper stretching; by consulting your personal trainer to be certain all the correct exercises are done.
- Keep your protein intake high, because additional protein supplements such as whey shakes will both repair and build muscles. The repair of muscle is vital to the prevention of injuries, as every time we run or do any strenuous exercise, muscle is essentially broken and then repaired, so helping the process with additional protein speeds up recovery and helps to avoid muscle injury.
- Rest – when you first start running you should not run more than 3 or 4 times a week, but as your legs, body and mind get used to running you can build this up to running every day. It is, however, imperative that you have rest days in order to fully repair the muscles, including that most important muscle, heart. As you increase your running miles / duration there should be rest days and days where you avoid difficult routes such as hill running, speed or interval training.
- Ice baths or hot baths – although Ice baths aren’t as the name suggests, instead being baths filled with cold tap water, of course in extreme cases ice can be added! You must try to keep your upper body out of the water as much as possible and try not to move to much as this makes for having an ice bath a lot easier to sustain for 10 to 15 minutes. Ice baths are usually taken when you can feel the pain in your muscles or bones and can prevent the injury, so straight after a long hard run such as a marathon or your first 10K. Hot baths are the more pleasurable experience, and will help the muscles repair, but are usually not as effective as ice bath if some damage has been done.
- Potassium (salt) levels – Keep them high. As we run, whether inwinter or summer, we all have a tendency to sweat and therefore more salt is released via the sweat glands than is the norm. If your salt levels are low you are likely to suffer from cramp in any of the main running muscles. Either purchase sports drinks that are higher in salts and the necessary nutrients or go for the cheaper option and top your water supplies up with a drop of orange squash say and a pinch of salt. Too much salt is not good for you of course, so find out what your sweat rates are and get the balance
- right for you.
- Hydrate with plenty of water before a run and remember that water is undoubtedly the most important nutrition any runner can take. As with salt, too much is also not a good idea as over hydration can be fatal. 4 to 7 litres of water a day is sufficient for a moderate to heavy runner.
If you have unfortunately sustained a knee, leg or foot injury, fear not. Your running days are probably not over but you need to carefully nurse yourself back to full recovery. This may involve some or all of the tips above. For example stretching 3 to 6 times a day can help muscle injury.
There’s nothing like a long hot bath (or two!) to ease the pain of those aching limbs. Rest or at least slow down significantly, depending on the severity of the pain of your injury. You can use the 10% rule to build back up again once recovery is complete. There’s nothing like a long hot bath (or
two!) to ease the pain of those aching limbs. If in any doubt as to the degree of injury, do please consult your GP or a sports health practitioner.