Running for Life
Almost everyone run at some time or other, be it running to catch your bus, taking your dog out for his run or running as an enjoyable sport. Running’s benefits include improved cardiovascular hearth, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, a revved-up metabolism, and a sense of self-esteem. Whatever your objective – to challenge your body in a different way, to tone up, or to lose weight, running is an excellent exercise for any beginner to try. It’s cheap, easy, and a perfect exercise to do with a friend too!
But before you put on your running shoes, here’s some good information you should know to minimize potential of injury and help you be more efficient in attaining your running goals…
Your feet and legs bear most of the brunt when you run. Each foot has 20 muscles, 33 movable joints and another 13 muscles in the leg. When any of these are weak, there will be an increased risk of injury.
Running coaches can help you to identify your lower limb weaknesses and develop a program and techniques to overcome the weaknesses and make you a more energy efficient runner.
4 Most Important Things To Know Before Running
It is best to observe the following to ensure you run safely and also reap the full health benefits without injuries like blisters and shin splints. Remember that injuries can easily set you back by a week to 6 months depending on severity, so prevention is always better than cure :
Inappropriate footwear can cause foot pain, back pain, Achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, and other conditions. Before you choose your shoes, you’ll need to take into account the terrain you run on, your running style, and your personal attributes like your weight. Many specialty running stores now have equipment that can analyze your gait (how you walk/run) and your foot type, which will help to confirm whether you need support to prevent your foot from rolling inward (known as called “pronating”). Though there are many different foot-types, the main three are:
- Neutral footed runners – where your foot comes into contact with the ground toward the middle of the foot.
- Overpronation – where your foot and ankle rolls inward too far, and the inside part of your foot and the arch absorb most of your weight as you land.
- Underpronation, also known as Supination – where the outward rolling of your foot and ankle, and outer edge (pinky-toe side) bears the majority of your weight.
Some of the ill effects of under and overpronation include overuse injuries such as tendonitis, meniscus tears and muscle strains and in more serious situations, stress fractures.
The easiest way to spot whether you over or underpronate is to look at the wear pattern on the rubber on an old pair of shoes, while someone that underpronates will show wear on the outside/lateral portion of the shoe, whereas a neutral striker will show wear in the midline of the shoe, and someone that overpronates will have wear on the inside/medial area of the rubber.
There is no substitute for trying on the shoes in person at a physical store. Although buying shoes online can be more affordable, you should resist online purchase of shoe models that you have not physically tried out.
You should also try shoes later in the day as your feet tends to swell after physical activities. This will help to ensure you do not end up with shoes that are too small.
You may be surprised, but socks do make a difference between a good run (or even walk) and a poor one. When buying socks, select natural fibres, as much as possible seam-free, elastic arch wrap that provides compression, and heel and toe padding.
80% active runners are injured each year, of which 50% of the injuries could have been avoided if a few simple steps had been followed, such as stretches before and after runs, and building strength in the muscles involved in running gradually and not attempting to over-do mileage when your muscles are not ready. Listening to post-run feedback from your body and taking action on time, be it visiting a physiotherapist, or performing RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation) is also an important after-care for running.
Here’s a great dynamic warm-up exercise video by a US sports chiropractor which you may find useful :
Running posture is important for efficiency and minimizing of injury.
- Head – look forward, not down, and don’t but your chin out
- Shoulders – keep them low and loose, not high and tight
- Arms – your arms provide power and rhythm during your run. Swing them forward and back close to your body, and not across the chest.
- Elbows – keep at 90 degrees angle
- Hands – unclenched fists, fingers lightly touching palm
- Hips – point straight ahead, and not tilt forward
- Torso – keep torso upright at full height without slouching. Take a deep breath to correct a slouching posture when you find your torso starts to slouch
- Knees – Don’t lift them high, keep them slightly bend, for short efficient strides
- Ankles – keep ankles flexed as you push off
- Feet – land on you mid-foot area, then roll forward onto toes and push off. Land your feet undernealth your body, and not in front of it.
City Dwellers Watch Out – Here’s Why You Should Not Run Along City Roads
British researchers found negligible health benefits of running and walking along the streets due to air pollution. Researchers at London Imperial College convened 119 volunteers over the age of 60 years and classified them into 3 groups – 1 group with heart disease, 1 group with chronic pleurisy and final group who for those that are physically healthy. Each volunteer is assigned randomly to take a 2 hour walk in Oxford Street of London, and Hyde Park. The researchers found that regardless of health condition, the volunteers who walked in the park have improved lung function and significant arterial softening, which lasted up to 26 hours after walking.
Those who walked along Oxford street had slightly improved lung function, but their atherosclerosis got worst. The research concluded that exercising in areas with air pollution is unhealthy. The advice by the Imperial College professor in charge of this research advised that “if you cannot find a green space to exercise, please exercise indoors to stay healthy!”
Remember it’s all right to start slow, and run at a pace where you can say “Good morning” 5 times without gasping for breath. It is also okay to slow down your pace to catch your breath before continuing your run. A 2km run/walk is a respectable starting point for a newbie. To become a runner for life, be consistent and take care of yourself when running. You can build on your mileage, keep getting stronger, better and faster, and stay in it for the long run. You will be surprised how fast you are able to transform into a great runner!