By Genny Owen
3 min read
Tackling her first marathon this year, she’s done all the legwork so you don’t have to.
Take a guess…who is more likely to get injured, a beginner or experienced runner? Logic might try to tell you that it’s the latter. Surely all that extra mileage leads to more wear and tear no? Perhaps, but on average, running newbies are more susceptible to injuries. Running is a high impact sport and as a beginner, your body just won’t be used to this new pressure it’s being put under. Common injuries include Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (more commonly known as Shin Splints) which is often felt through a sharp pain in the lower leg; and ‘Runners Knee’, an ache under the kneecap.
But fear not, it’s not all doom and gloom! Whilst some of us are more injury prone than others, they can often be avoided. Below you’ll find my top tips that personally helped me when I started running….
I’ll admit I’m not always the best at this and have often headed straight from the couch to a run. But thinking about it, it’s got to be a bit of a shock to the system given the high impact! So try to ease yourself into it with a warm up. Not only can this help to get you in the zone, it’s key to raising your heart rate, body temperature and consequently loosening up your muscles, helping to avoid injuries. There are a million different warm up exercises out there, but I personally start by moving my joints (hip openers, shoulder shrugs etc) then doing some form of gentle exercise (10 mins slowly on a bike or a fast paced walked etc). By then you should be ready and raring to go.
Mix It Up
If you’ve just started out, your body won’t be used to the repetitive ‘left-right-left right’ drum as you pound the pavement and may try to tell you this. But don’t worry…mixing things up can help. Vary the pace you run at, the distance and the terrain. For example why not opt for a more forgiving trail run once in a while, or a gentle walk/run. At the end of the day, you’re still being active and your body will appreciate the change.
Take It Slow
It’s easy to get hooked with running but don’t over-do it! This is one I can really relate to…..Being impatient, over-ambitious and enthusiastic, I pushed it too far when I started running; resulting in an injury (Shin Splints), 2 months off running and numerous physio sessions. The general rule of thumb is to increase your mileage no more than 10% each week. So say you’re running 10 miles a week, aim for 11 the next and then 12 the week after. Whilst this might seem like excruciatingly slow progress, it’ll give your body time to recover, adapt and maintain performance. Slow and steady really does win the race!
Stronger, Better, Faster
Not every day is a running day. Whilst just running will improve your fitness and is a great form of cardio, it won’t necessarily strengthen your muscles. Strengthen training is often underrated but is key to ensuring your body is physically ready to run. Exercises that especially focus on your lower body (glutes, hips, quads, calves, lower back) can reduce muscle imbalances, allow your joints to rest, and improve your form and flexibility, thereby helping to avoid injury. A few of my favourites are lunges, calf raises, hip bridges, stability ball hamstring stretches and squats. Resistance bands are also great for an additional challenge, activating your glutes and really engaging your lower body.
Cool Down, Stretching and Water
Ever just abruptly stopped running and instantly felt light headed or got heavy legs? May well be because you didn’t cool down. We all lead busy lives but cooling down is an important stage of recovery. Not to get too scientific, but in short, it lowers your heart rate, helps avoid the build-up of lactic acid (thus sore muscles) and keeps your muscles supplied with oxygenated blood. All in all this should lead to a more speedy post run recovery, leaving you ready for round two. Gently jogging or walking for 5-10 mins is better than nothing for a cool down. Holding some simple stretches for 20-30 seconds may also help avoid short, tight muscles; and Yoga is also a great one for this. Finally, don’t forget to drink plenty of water post run. This is to replace fluids you’ll have sweated out and to avoid dehydration/headaches.
Listen To Your Body
There’s a big difference between something being uncomfortable whilst running and just downright painful. The odd ache and pain is fine and even understandable…it may well be a sign of your body just adjusting to the new workload. This said, if it’s more than a short, little niggle, don’t ignore it as you’ll only exacerbate the issue and it could lead to a major injury. Play it by ear and if necessary, take a few days rest or seek expert advice depending on the severity. So my final tip would be to simply listen to your body…no pain, no gain isn’t always true!
Say hello to the foam roller, your new best friend! These are great for pre and post workout, aiding circulation, whilst also loosening and releasing post workout muscle tightness. It’s essentially the most cost effective massage you’ll ever invest in!
A great addition for strength training. I was recommended these by a physio and they really helped me activate my glutes, strengthening my lower body post Shin Splints. The bands have different resistance levels, meaning they are super versatile and the exercises you can do with them are limitless.
Fact – you don’t have to be a pro to wear compression socks. If you’re prone to tight calves like me (especially so after my injury), then these socks will honestly be life changing! They can be worn during or post running, improving blood flow, circulation and recovery. Yes you might think they look silly, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
A small but mighty massage ball to help relieve any tightness in muscles. Super simple to use…just your own body weight to control the amount of pressure.
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