Basic Running Tips

by Jessalynn Adam, M.D., FAAPMR, CAQSM

Basic Running Tips

Running is a great form of exercise and is used by many to keep in shape. Unfortunately, nearly half of those who run experience pain or injury. These injuries are usually to the lower extremities like the knee, foot, ankle or shins. About 80% of these injuries are due to overuse which can be easily prevented. Be cautious when running off road on trails because it can be easy to sprain your ankle.  

What kind of running shoes should I wear? 

Shoes and feet both come in all different shapes and sizes, so you want to make sure that the shoe is comfortable for you. There are experts at shoe stores that know specific differences between shoe models and what their benefits are so they can be great resources. They can explain all the perks of different shoe models but at the end of the day, if the shoe is not comfortable then it is not for you.  

Should I stretch before I run? 

Stretching or warming up your body is necessary to reduce risk of injury. You are not fully warmed up until you break a sweat which means a full warm up will usually take at least 10 minutes. A warm-up could include taking the first part of your run easy or doing a quick dynamic stretch before your run. Dynamic stretches, or stretches that involve movement, are an effective way to actively warm up and feel an entire range of motion.  

How do you build overall body strength but stay loose enough for running, especially distance running? 

The stronger that you are, the better runner that you will be. On days when you are not leading up to a race, incorporating weights into your workouts is important. Weightlifting strengthens your muscles and allows your body to use muscles in a different way than running. When leading up to a race, you will want to cut back on weightlifting and focus solely on running. There are lots of ways to build strength outside of the gym. Make sure that you have a strength training program that really targets the hips, core, quads and hamstrings. Single leg exercises are especially good for runners because your dominant side cannot cheat and take over for your weaker side.  

Is there any truth that running on pavement is better than the sidewalk for impact and shock absorption? 

Running surface is really important to keep in mind. If you run on a track, typically you're running, turning and leaning the same way each time. Make sure however many times you go one direction that you reverse it. You don't want muscle imbalances or cause stress on one side more than the other. The same is true with the road. Roads are slanted so that rain will run into the gutters, so running only in one direction on the road can also cause imbalances or stress. If you run on the road, make sure that you turn around and come back on the same side safely.   

As far as the running surface, there is some research that says that running on concrete could be a little bit worse and cause you to be more prone to injury. There is some conflicting data, but most say the best running surface is hard packed dirt or gravel. However, dirt or gravel is more likely to cause an ankle injury. Overall, a paved surface, gravel, or dirt are probably optimal.  

How long after recovering from an ankle sprain do I have to wait to start running again?  

Everyone’s body recovers differently so there is no universal timeline. Instead, do you still have swelling? Is it still painful to do everyday life? Can you walk around normally? If all the pain and swelling has resolved and you have full range of motion, you can start running again. You must progress slowly: do not try to run too fast or too long too soon. Focus on increasing one variable at a time so increase either the speed or the length of your runs. One of the biggest causes of injury is people doing too much too quickly. 

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