For many years I believed that running was the only thing I needed to do to keep myself in shape. It was simple and apart from buying a pair of running shoes, cheap. So off I would go and pound the streets for an hour or more every day. The term "Runner's high" is very true as I couldn't let a day go by without getting my fix. Indeed the feeling of elation and well being after a long run fired my appetite for more which inevitably led to a great big injury. I have been plagued with these injuries over the years...knee pain, calf strain , shin splints, stress factures... wow something is definitely wrong with this. Sound familiar? I have recently been asking myself a lot of questions as to why it is that around 80% of runners are injured at any given time. That is a lot of people and also a very frustrating fact because it doesn't have to be this way.
You may be running in order to get fit, but my question for you is "Are you fit to run?". Yes, running is probably the number one favourite weight loss exercise. It strengthens our heart, our joints, our bone mass and burns many calories. However, before we can throw ourselves into the world of running we have to condition and strengthen our bodies in preparation for the high impact stress that running puts on us. So, what should we do in order to stay injury free? This is a big question with a very long answer but there are a few simple things we can do to start with.
The first thing you can do is to make a postural assesment of your body. Stand in front of a mirror and really analyse how you are standing. Are you leaning to one side more than the other? Are you knock kneed or bow legged? Are your shoulders rounded and is your lower back arched...these are just a few things that need to be checked because if you are un-able to stand up straight and hold your head up high, you are probably going to be suffering from bad running form too. Many people find that taking a Pilates class really helps them correct postural mis-alignment and it also strengthens the core which is one area that runners are particularly weak in. It is hard to see yourself running unless you plan to run along a street with shop windows where you can catch your reflection. However, you could ask a friend to take a video clip of you in action and then watch it later or show it to a professional trainer who can help you correct any problems.
The second thing a lot of runners forget about is strength training. And I am the biggest sinner where this one is concerned! Shifting weights and holding the plank for a minute was never my cup of tea as I wanted to use my precious time for the run and nothing else. But...it was a mistake to ignore this very important area of my fitness regime. By improving your core strength and overall balance you will be building a strong foundation for whatever else you want to do and help you avoid the annoying injuries that set you back . A strengthening session need not take more than 20 minutes and the benefits will last throughout the day.
Lastly, consider your running load. How often do you run and for how long? I used to believe that if you wanted to be a good runner you simply had to run... and run a lot! And I wondered why I was getting injured? Yes, there are some super human beings who seem to run endless miles every day without much issue...but they generally belong to some obscure mountain tribe in a far away land! My advice would be to have a rest day in between each run so as to allow your muscles time to recover and repair and strengthen. On the days that you don't run you can strength train and throw in 20 minutes of basic pilates moves, both of which will help you get stronger, leaner and correct any postural mishaps that you may have.
I realise that I am just scratching the top of an iceberg with this article and there will be more detailed articles to come regarding this subject. Until then I hope that this gives you some food for thought and encourages you to be mindful about your body and your training.
Yours in health,