Kerstine Herbert, physiotherapist of KH Physiotherapy has written some top tips for those of you interested in taking up running.
So, you’ve decided to try running? Welcome to the crazy world that will change your life. I’m a super keen runner and have covered everything from a mile to 95 so nothing phases me. I’m also a physio who treats lots of runners. Runners are a strange breed as you will soon find out! As a runner myself, I often have to turn my own skills and insight to my own flaws and mistakes. Sometimes our bodies do strange things; we can be fine one day doing something then suddenly develop some weird ache or pain. It’s this uniqueness of the human body that makes my life sometimes very difficult and sometimes very easy. Running is a high impact, high risk activity and you are likely to get injured at some point. New runners are at very high risk of picking up injuries so I think its crucial to educate them to some really key points on running. These are my top tips if you are a new runner to try and ease you into the somewhat bumpy, sweaty journey of becoming a runner.
Tip 1- Don’t just run! Research has shown that athletes that take part in other sports are much less likely to get injured. Why? … Because they strengthen their whole body which ultimately benefits them when they come to run. If you are new to running, try to think of it as a part of your new lifestyle. You should be fit to run as running won’t get you fit. It may improve your fitness level, but many new runners continue to huff and puff their way round without really improving their fitness. Try joining a gym or a circuits class or a boot camp. Good ones will always cater for beginners. You’ll not only improve your overall strength, but it should help improve your fitness and burn more calories than running.
Tip 2- Build up super slowly. As a new runner every time you run you are pushing yourself to the limits. Even most top athletes wouldn’t do lots of training in their top training level. If you are struggling with the C25K try adding in a couple of super brisk walks. This will help improve your fitness without you feeling like you’re about to die every time you run. Running twice a week is ok but try to do something low impact that gets you out of breath a couple of times too. If you make it through the C25K then try to focus on improving form and speed before thinking about increasing distance. Most injuries happen when your body can’t handle what you are asking of it. A 10k in your first 6-12 months is a great goal.
Tip 3- Don’t ignore pain. Pain is often not damage but your body’s way of saying it isn’t happy. Running is high impact so when you start you will get aches and pains. Give yourself time to recover between runs as this is when your body is adapting and repairing. If you get a pain that stops you running, go and get the proper advice. Often the GP is a first port of call, but they will often say rest which in lots of cases is not necessary. Sports physios such as myself are a great way of having an injury assessed and you should get advice on what you can do to manage it rather than relying on someone else to fix you.
Tip 4- Try not to plod! Every time you do a little bit of running try to imagine you are standing as as tall as you can be, open your chest out and try to run with quick steps. Imagine you are a proud gazelle running over hot coals. Keep it quick and light. You might only manage this for a minute or so then have to walk but you’re better to run well for a bit then recover and try again than keep plodding along feeling breathless and heavy.
Run like a gazelle and not an elephant…
Tip 5- Don’t give up!! Running is hard work. When you start you are pushing your heart, lungs, muscles, joints and bones to their max. Your poor body won’t know what’s hit it. Stick with it though, it does get easier. Your body needs to adapt to moving in a way it probably hasn’t done for years and using muscles that have been redundant for years too. If things ache or hurt, then ease back on the running and do other activities. Even if you have to repeat a few weeks of C25K that’s absolutely fine, don’t beat yourself up. Like tip 2 says just build up slowly. There’s no rush and if you build a good base level then running can be part of your lifestyle for many years.
If you are reading this as a new runner please, please just be patient. Get lots of rest, eat sensibly (you don’t need any more calories) and more importantly enjoy it. 🙂