As a Physio and Coach, I’ve seen many injured runners over the years. There are some common themes that start to emerge, that is, I tend to see the same mistakes made over and over again. Here are five tips that will help you overcome these rookie errors and become a consistent runner over any distance.
1. SLOW DOWN!
It seems to be the only thing that runners care about – “what pace did you run?” “what time did you do?” Running faster is a lot more stressful on the body than going slow, increasing the amount of time you need to recover between runs. Running slow, or jogging (if you are a beginner, this might be only a tiny bit faster than walking pace) is less stressful on your joints, ligaments and tendons, less stressful to your nervous system (you’ll get a better and longer lasting ‘high’ after going for a slow jog), and because you’ll recover quicker, you can get more running done. A good rule of thumb is to go slow enough that your breathing doesn’t feel any harder than a brisk walk, and you can always add in some walking breaks to help keep your effort level low.
2. Three days a week, MAX!
When you start running, it is incredibly stressful on the body, especially your connective tissue (tendons, ligaments) which suddenly has to deal with a greater amount of force than it is used to. As a result, it takes longer to recover between bouts – an experienced runner may run several times a day, but for beginner runners, 48 hours between runs is a good rule of thumb if you are taking each session nice and easy (see point 1).
3. Do some drills!!
Running drills are an excellent way of learning how running should “feel” (technique). Basic drills include high knees, butt kicks, skipping drills, hill runs and short ‘floats‘ I’ve linked to some examples, but do a quick YouTube search and you will find hundreds more!
4. Recover well.
Recovery is 50% of the equation (maybe more!). My personal recommendations for optimising recovery are: get enough sleep; meditation/deep breathing/relaxation; ice baths (eek!) and gentle aerobic exercise (eg cycling, hiking or swimming) on the days you aren’t running.
5. Get expert help from a knowledgeable coach.
While a generic “run 5km” plan from the internet may be free, it’s not necessarily written with your current level of running, history and goals in mind. By getting help from an experienced coach, you will able to tailor your training to your goals, and build your running in a safe and manageable way. A good coach will also be able to help you set some realistic goals or choose suitable races.
Neil Drouet is a Physiotherapist and Running & Triathlon Coach. He can usually be found taking a slow relaxing jog along Lake Wakatipu the twin rivers trail, or finding a good coffee shop for a post-jog brew. He is available Monday to Friday at The Studio to help with a niggling injury or some guidance with your running.