The worst thing that can happen when you are involved in some type of sport is to get injured. It doesn’t matter if you are just a beginner or if you are an experienced athlete that has been training for years. Many people refuse to run only because they think that it’s a high-risk sport and that they can get injured easily. I would like to lessen this fear by explaining a few proper techniques on how to make your running experience better as well as avoid injury.
- Proper landing. Normally people do not pay attention to how they run: they choose the technique that seems most natural to them and stick with it. I honestly was not paying any attention to the way I ran as well for a long time until one day I decided to do so. I found out that there are three main running techniques depending on how you land on your feet. You can be a forefoot runner, a midfoot runner or a heel runner. When I started looking online to find out which technique was the best I was disappointed to find out that there is no generally accepted idea about it. You can find articles and research to support each type of running technique so it’s rather difficult to make a decision on what is right. That is why I am going to tell you my own opinion regarding this issue. My husband and I are passionate runners (actually it was my husband that got me addicted to this sport). So I asked myself a question: how do we run? What is the best technique for each of us? I was surprised to find out that I was a midfoot runner. My husband lands on his midfoot while running too (at first when he started running he was landing on his heel but he started having pains in his legs that is why he switched to midfoot running). I personally support the opinion that midfoot running is a safer and better technique. If someone asks me how he/she should run I will definitely say: land on your midfoot and stay injury-free. As I looked through all that information about running technique online I decided to make a small table that emphasizes pros and cons of each running technique. You can find pros in any method but I think that for regular amateur runners midfoot running will be the best.
- Running posture: Lean forward a little bit as if you are going to fall. In this position your foot will land right beneath your center of gravity (your foot should be aligned with your hips as they are near your center of gravity) and you will be able to land on your midfoot. Keep your shoulders loose, your back straight and your knees slightly bent all the time.
- Breathing: Your breathing should be deep and rhythmic. You need a lot of air that is why mouth breathing will be best for you. Let your jaw drop a little bit so that your lips are parted and let the air flow into your lungs through your mouth. Find your rhythm of breathing: some people might be comfortable breathing in for two steps and breathing out for two steps, some might be more comfortable with three steps. Whatever your pattern is keep it regular and use your steps to monitor it. One last thing about breathing is to breathe from your belly (diaphragm). Most experts say that it’s the best breathing technique for cardio exercises.
- Running shoes: This is the most difficult part. When I started looking online trying to find some sort of advice on this issue I was overwhelmed by all the available information. The whole running shoes debate is a topic for a separate article that is why here I will give only a few basic ideas. If you can afford it and if you are planning to run a lot then you should go to a special running shoes store and let professionals who know their business find the best pair of shoes for you. If you are looking for something easier and less expensive then choose shoes that feel comfortable to you. You need enough cushioning and padding to absorb shock while running but you do not want your feet to feel like they were bronzed. My husband and I prefer such brands like Asics, New Balance and Saucony. Our experience with Nike and Adidas was pretty disappointing that is why I would not recommend these brands to anybody who cares about his/her feet. Your shoes should be replaced every 350-500 miles. If you run 3-4 miles 3 times a week (like most amateur runners do) then you will have to think about a new pair every 6-9 months. It’s better to get a new pair of shoes before your old shoes are completely worn out so that you could compare how both pairs feel and know when it’s time for your old shoes to retire. If you need a good guide regarding what type of running shoe you should buy then look through the Running Shoe Fit Guide
- Stretching: Stretching before and after your run can go a long way towards injury prevention. It will warm up your muscles, make them more elastic and flexible and that will help prevent muscle aches and pains. Check out Stretching for Runners to find more benefits of stretching. I really like one Yoga sequence that was created specifically for runners – Yoga for Runners Feel free to watch this video when you have some time. I think it’s pretty cool.
- Include Weight Training or other Strengthening Exercises: Most beginning runners do not have strong leg muscles and when they start running their ligaments and muscles are not strong enough to support their knees. Runners also use muscles in the back of their legs (hamstrings, glutes and calves) more than front muscles (quadriceps) and that causes their bodies to not be properly balanced. In order to build a stronger knee and to prevent injuries and pains check out the Stronger Knee Workout. Do not forget about exercising your abs and your back in order to prevent back pain after your running sessions. An easy yet very effective leg strengthening routine can be found here.
- Hydration: Drink plenty of water to avoid heat injury and to have plenty of energy during your run.
- Be patient and do not overtrain: Most running injuries result from overtraining and increasing mileage or intensity too fast and too soon. No matter how long you’ve been running never forget the 10% rule: do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week. Be patient and increase your intensity gradually allowing your body to adjust to it slowly. Also never forget about rest: running 7 days a week probably won’t be a good idea for you, have at least 2 rest days during the week and alternate high-intensity and low-intensity workouts.
- Find the right surface: Try to avoid running on concrete as it is the worst surface for your heels. If it’s possible try trail-running, run on grass or dirt trails. If you have problems with your knees you should consider running on a treadmill instead of running on asphalt or concrete.
- Take your time to return after injury: If you had any type of injury no matter if it resulted from running or from any other activity make sure that your body has recouped completely. If you did not train for a while or if you are returning to running after an injury start with slow short runs or even try alternative running techniques like water running, cycling, or using an elliptical machine. No progress is worth your health.
- Listen to your body: It is important to be consistent with your trainings but you should not be a slave to your training schedule. If you feel tired, sore or fatigued take an extra day of rest as you are more likely to get injured on the days when your muscles are weak and you are not alert enough.
If you took a few minutes to read this whole article then you are already on the right way to injury-free running. Take a few more minutes to look through all these points again and to memorize them so that the next time you go running you will start implementing them into your routine. Take one step at a time and soon injury-free running will be as easy as 1-2-3 for you. Enjoy yourself and
Keep it balanced!