For many of us, January is a time of renewed fitness resolutions. Maybe you have exercise goals you want to achieve, or maybe you just want to make it easier to work yourself back in—whatever it is, you want to do it safely and sustainably.
Running can be a fantastically accessible way to exercise, because you don’t need an expensive gym membership or a lot of fancy equipment to do it. All you have to do is dig out a suitable pair of trainers and a little persistence.
Running is fantastic, though – especially now that we’re on the other side of the winter solstice, and the days are only getting longer from here – it’s definitely something you want to be careful of, as injuries can happen.
“Running is a very repetitive activity, and therefore, if injuries are ignored, wear and tear will worsen over time,” explains Mark Davis, personal trainer at the David Lloyd Club (davidlloyd.co.uk).
There are many reasons to start running. As well as the physical benefits, it gives you “a reconnection with the road,” says Davis. However, it’s high-impact — especially if you’re walking on pavement — and in some cases, it can potentially damage your joints, for example.
What should you keep in mind while running?
“A common mistake with runners is not considering the long-term effects of poor form and a lack of mobility and strength,” explains Davis.
“If you don’t make running safely a priority it will happen to you in the long run, and can lead to issues like severe tendonitis and plantar fasciitis, which will affect your daily life.”
How can you reduce the impact on your joints?
For Davis, there are two big things to consider when running safely.
“First, focus on landing on the ball of the foot rather than the heel,” he says—because “heel-landing-first inhibits the body’s shock absorbers”.
“Second, many new runners have too wide a stride – if the foot turns too far from the body during landing, the impact is carried across the legs. Bring the foot under the hips to reduce impact on the joints. aim for.”
It may not be a thing to say, but it is also really important that you wear appropriate footwear. Poorly fitting, worn trainers, or those that aren’t the right design for your needs can contribute to painful runs and injuries. If you are unsure, go to a specialist shop and ask for advice.
What do different age groups need to think about?
All runners run the risk of tendonitis, torn ligaments and worn-out cartilage. But, as Davis explains, “as we age, our bodies produce less hormones and blood-flow decreases, which in turn prolongs the recovery process”—so older joggers need to be given a little More care is required.
“I would suggest that all ages prioritize good form, effective warm-ups and cool-downs, and follow a progressive training plan rather than going as a novice,” Davis says.
What should you do if you have pain while running?
Pushing through the pain won’t help you – so listen to your body.
“If you’re in pain while running, it’s your body that’s telling you something isn’t right,” Davis says. “Injuries should always be addressed.”
In these situations, he recommends taking a break from running, so you can “start addressing the cause of the problem, whether it’s strengthening certain muscles or working on mobility”.
If it’s really problematic or isn’t improving, you may need to check with a physiotherapist or doctor. In addition, Davis often suggests clients with running injuries try swimming, as they can “still benefit from endurance training and breathing techniques while keeping the exercise low-impact.”
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