Originally posted on May 4, 2015 at http://physiocanhelp.ca/running-for-beginners-a-patient-info-sheet
So you’ve made the decision to start running. Congratulations! It’s a great way to improve your health and your quality of life. Like all physical activity, however, running carries the risk of injury. It’s important to know how to prevent injury and what steps to take should injuries happen. We’ve created a bunch of tips to help you enjoy running while staying injury-free!
- Relax your mind.
- Prepare your body for activity.
- Reduce the risk of muscle injury.
- Restore full mobility after an injury.
- Improve performance in your running.
- Reduce muscle tension.
- Promote circulation.
- Warm up by your cardiovascular system by walking for at least five minutes.
- Warm up your joints and muscles by performing dynamic stretching: slow, controlled movements that simulate the functional movements of running. Stretching should never be painful and do not bounce.
- Breathe regularly throughout the warm up.
- Please see the following video for a dynamic stretching example:
Reducing strain while running
- Start running at a slow pace if you haven’t been active for a period of time. Increase speed as your conditioning improves.
- Use the run/walk technique – start with a two-minute run / one-minute walk, gradually increasing your run time.
- Increase your distance by 10 per cent each week.
- Your running pace should always allow you to carry on a conversation, while you breathe comfortably – this is called the “talk test”.
- Take time to recover between runs. Rest days are as vital as training days. Rest days give your muscles time to recover and build strength.
- Vary the direction or route you run. Repeating the same course puts strain on the same parts of your body each time you train.
- Eat sensibly and drink plenty of fluids. Get to know the best time for you to eat or drink before running to prevent cramps or nausea.
- Maintain your level of hydration.
- Running is a great activity to get your whole body in motion, and body posture is an important part of your running technique. Before your run, take a couple of deep breaths to expand your lungs. After you exhale, maintain this position, with shoulders down, relaxed and slightly back. Keep your head up and avoid excessive arm movement while running.
When your run is over, take time for a cool down – a brief, relaxed walk. Spend at least 10 minutes cooling down to help work the metabolic wastes and excess fluid out of your muscles, and to allow your heart rate to slow down gradually. By the time you stop, your pulse should be within 20 beats-per-minute of your resting heart rate.
If you do experience an injury, you can use the R.I.C.E. steps to reduce pain, minimize internal swelling, and promote healing.
- Rest – to protect yourself from further injury.
- Ice – to help reduce pain and swelling within the first 48 – 72 hours after an injury. Note: Ice packs should never be on longer than 10 minutes or more than twice an hour; Please see our “To ice or not to ice…” blog post for recent research on icing.
- Compression – wrap an elastic bandage around the injured area to control swelling. Wrap the bandage going towards the heart to assist your veins. It should not feel uncomfortably tight.
- Elevation – Use pillows to raise the injured limb above the level of the heart while lying down.
Before you can safely return to running, it is essential to regain strength, flexibility, balance and co-ordination. Consult a physiotherapist for a detailed assessment and management of your injury.
Please note that there is some conflicting and controversial evidence in the area of static stretching i.e. stretches that you hold for a specific period of time. Please see Dr. Bahram Jam, PT’s article to read more: “Questioning the Use of Static Stretching Before and After Athletic Activities“.