The weather has started to warm up and some runners are already back outdoors training or increasing their mileage. This time of the year it is common to start seeing more and more runners for various injuries. Most of these injuries happen when we begin a new activity or we increase our activity without preparing our body for it first. It is important to work into a new routine slowly, or get ready ahead of time by strengthening common weak areas.
One of the biggest mistakes many runners make is not running or training during the winter and trying to pick right up where they left off in the fall. This puts stress onto muscles and joints that aren’t conditioned for it and can cause injuries. That is why it is important to get your body ready for new activities.
Tips to Stay Injury Free
If you are just getting started running:
- Start off easy; try running/jogging at an easy pace for a reasonable distance (varies for everyone). When starting out, don’t be afraid to alternate between running and walking. At the end of the run you should still feel like you could go farther.
- Make sure to give yourself time to rest between runs, for most, this will be a day or two between runs to let your body recover.
- A good plan is to try to run 2-3 days per week at the same time on the same day, so it can become a habit.
- If you are feeling up to it, you can cross-train on your recovery days. This could include yoga, weight lifting, swimming, or other activities besides running. Bonus: proper cross-training will work muscle groups that aren’t worked with running and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
- Increase your distance and intensity gradually so your body is able to adapt.
If you are starting again after taking the winter off:
- Don’t start where you left off in the fall. It will take a little while to get back into the swing of things. You need to work your way back up nice and easy so your body can get used to that level again.
- Work your way back into your previous training routine or plan a new one if your schedule has changed or you are training for a different goal.
- Don’t forget to give yourself a little longer recovery time the first couple weeks.
- Start some cross-training; yoga is great for most runners since it will work your core, your stabilizing muscles, and help with breathing mechanics and balance. Other good cross-training options include strength training and swimming.
If you are switching from a treadmill (or other machine) to outdoor running:
Even though you have been running a certain distance/speed on the treadmill, remember that you have to adapt to the trails, curbs, bumps, and other obstacles now that you are running outside. This can put a little extra stress on the joints and use different muscles. Most treadmills have a little bounce which absorbs some the impact when your foot hits. The belt of the treadmill is also pushing your foot back instead of you actively pushing your foot backwards. It is best to lower you mileage and speed for the first couple weeks and work your way up to your indoor training level.