Get Off On the Right Foot with Your Running Program
For all you serious (and not-so-serious) runners out there, you know that running often leads to injury. Because running involves repetitive pounding movements, it takes a toll on your feet, legs, hips, and back. Most runners have experienced an injury at some point or another. These injuries range from small annoyances that go away in a day or two to serious problems that disrupt training for months and even years.
Luckily it doesn’t have to be this way! There are steps you can take to run safely. In a meta-analysis of new versus recreational runners, novice runners were more than twice as likely as their more experienced peers to incur a running injury1.
So for those of you who are new to running or are thinking about starting up a running program, it would be a good idea for you to meet with a running coach to get you off on the right foot (pun intended). Running coaches can help you fix your running form and give you tips to make your training safer and more effective.
One of the main ways runners get hurt is by doing too much. Whether this happens to a new runner who starts out too fast or a seasoned runner who ups the miles too quickly, the outcome is usually injury. Overuse injuries manifest in many different forms. You can feel it in your feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips, or lower back.
With such a wide variety of injuries possible, the best thing to do is prevent them from occurring. A good rule of thumb is to only increase your running mileage by 10 percent each week2. So don’t do what I did and jump from 6 miles to 10 in one week and end up sitting out with a foot injury for a month (you’d think I’d know better!). Plan ahead for the big race and work your way up gradually.
Another great way to avoid overuse injuries is to incorporate cross-training as part of your routine. As tempting as it is (especially when you’re preparing for a big race), don’t run every day. Add in swimming, biking, underwater running, weight lifting, Pilates, etc. to mix up your workouts and give yourself a break. It’s also important to take a day off from working out and rest.
Beyond overtraining, many individuals injure themselves while running due to incorrect running form. How a person should run has been analyzed over and over, and there are many conflicting views. One of the biggest topics up for debate right now is foot strike, or what part of your foot hits the ground first. While there is a lot of talk about proper foot strike, this is still controversial enough that no one has a definitive answer on what is best for every runner. The best thing I can tell you is to stick with what you’re doing unless it stops working for you.
Something that you should pay attention to, however, is your stride. Over-striding is a problem for many runners and can contribute significantly to various running injuries by increasing the load on your knees. Instead of taking long strides out in front of you, shorten your stride to keep your feet underneath you and increase the number of steps you take each minute3,4.
And last but not least, it’s important to maintain good posture while running:
- Keep your torso upright with your head in neutral.
- Maintain a slight forward lean, but avoid bending at your waist.
- Watch that your hands don’t cross your midline, which would cause you to twist from side to side4.
- And in the midst of thinking about all of this, try to stay relaxed and enjoy your run! ;)
By maintaining good running posture, avoiding over-striding, participating in cross-training, and increasing your mileage gradually, you will have a much better chance at staying injury free. If you’d like help with your running form or with starting a running program, set up an appointment with one of HomeFit’s qualified trainers.
1. Videbæk, S., Bueno, A. M., Nielsen, R. O., & Rasmussen, S. (2015). Incidence of running-related injuries per 1000 h of running in different types of runners: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine, 45(7), 1017-1026.