Running is excellent – a great way to injure yourself if you don’t follow some simple steps. Everyone is aware running is associated with injuries to the knee, shin, and foot. That is not because running is bad – running is very enjoyable and super healthy. But not everyone is built to run, and too many people jump right into running and approach it haphazardly with unpleasant results.
Step 1: Drag out your favourite shoes and have a look at the heels. Are they list over to one side like the Titanic? You may need both new shoes and orthotics, so talk to a podiatrist that makes them and get those feet assessed. Bad foot alignment will lead to grief to your knees, hip and eventually your spine. In running, posture and balance are critical. Don’t ignore bad feet and wear old shoes.
Step 2: Start walking. You need to condition the body to weight-bearing exercise to build up the body’s connective tissue and condition muscles to movement similar to running. When you can walk for 30 minutes and are actively sweating, you can introduce a bit of running after two weeks of very vigorous walking every other day to allow the body to recover.
Step 3: Walk and run, not run and then gasp and grimace. Everyone is different, but I have to generalize here, so assuming you did Step 2, start with introducing running by walking for 90 seconds and run for 30 seconds at an effortless pace. Even if you feel great, stick to the 3:1 ratio for two weeks.
Step 4: After two weeks of 3:1 ratio, increase the intensity to 2:1 – 60 seconds walking and 30 seconds running, again holding this pattern for two weeks minimum of two weeks perhaps more.
Step 5: 1:1 ratio and hold that for again two weeks.
Now, if you are burning with desire to go beyond 30 minutes at a 1:1 ratio at 30 seconds walking and running alternately, go for it but only once a week. Maintain the walk/run pattern twice a week and after two more weeks, do the continuous running twice a week.
Do you see a pattern here? If you run into any problems (pain during running, inability to recover from the exercise, persistent discomfort after a run or the next day), take a week off. If it continues, see your physiotherapist before resuming your workouts at a lower intensity.
Running more than 45 minutes three times a week has minimal benefit to your heart. It does, however, increase the risk of injury.
Like many things in fitness, and life, set realistic goals and don’t exceed your limits.
Cross-training, such as adding in distance biking once a week instead of running, is great for reducing injuries.
The ultimate way to reduce fitness injuries is to do a moderate resistance training program for 30 minutes at least twice a week. Resistance training done correctly is very safe and, in fact, significantly reducing injury potential in all sports except skydiving.
Ron Cain is a personal trainer with Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.