[David Dack is a running coach and fitness author. When he’s not training, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible via his blog. Check out his work at Runners Blueprint for more info.]
Running works well for improving overall fitness and health. It helps you burn calories, improve endurance, build stronger bones—I can go on and on.
But the sport isn’t without its downsides. Running’s high-impact nature can take a toll on your body, which increases your injury risk. This is especially the case when you’re new to the sport as your body hasn’t adapted yet to high-impact exercise.
So can you take up running without injuring yourself? That’s where today’s post comes in handy.
In this article, I’ll share with you my best tips on how to start a running program without running into injury or burnout.
Let’s get started.
Consult your Doctor
Before you hit the ground running, make sure to consult your doctor for a thorough exam. This is especially the case if you’re really out of shape, have an existing condition, or are over the age of 50.
An early consultation can detect any health issues or conditions that could put you at risk for a problem during training.
During your visit, share your running plans and goals with your doctor and ask for any injury-preventing suggestions, as well as address any possible limitations you might have.
Already dealing with current or previous conditions or injuries? Then discuss them with your doctor and ask for any suggestions on preventing a flare-up. Cover all bases.
Start With The Walk/Run Method
Unless you’re already in good shape, chances are you won’t be able to run for a few minutes without losing your breath.
That’s where the walk/run method can help. This method consists of running for a specific amount of time, walking for a specific amount of time, and then repeating the process for a specific amount of time.
You push your body during the jogging portions, then recover when you walk.
Over time, aim to extend your running intervals while taking fewer walking breaks until you can run straight for 30 minutes at a relaxed and easy pace.
A common mistake beginners make is trying to run every day. Although the consistent practice is important, running too much too soon can do more harm than good.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but running does stress your body. That’s a good thing as that’s how your body adapts by growing stronger and more efficient.
This adaptation process only happens during your downtime. Skimp on recovery, and you’ll be running your body into the ground.
In other words, training breaks your body down by causing micro trauma to your muscles. Recovery days allows your body to bounce back, and those muscle re-build and grow back stronger.
Ensure maximal recovery by doing the following:
- Avoid running every day. Instead, space out your sessions with at least 24-hour rest or active recovery. Take a day of complete rest every week.
- Active recovery. During your non-running days, engage in active recovery practices—or low impact cross-training—to speed up recovery and build strength. Great options include spinning, swimming, strength training, and yoga.
- Eat well. Nutrition also matters when it comes to recovery. Eat plenty of nutritious and whole-food. Remember to refuel as soon as possible after your runs. Research shows that a 3-1 ratio of carbs to protein works best.
Listen to Your Body
Whether you’re picking up running for the first time or trying to improve your 5K time, the most important piece of running advice is to listen to your body. Make it a rule to never through pain.
Your body knows what’s best for you. You just need to pay attention and be willing to adjust accordingly.
Most running injuries over overuse injuries. They build over time and come with their warning signs, including aches, soreness, and chronic pain.
If you’re in pain, it’s better to scale back on the distance/intensity or skip training that day.
Overall, muscle soreness and discomfort that feel better as you run are nothing to fret about. Just be careful and proceed with caution.
As a rule of thumb, do not run any kind of pain that’s:
- It feels stabbing and sharp
- It gets worse the more you run, and
- It forces you to change your gait or limp.
Seek medical attention if your pain is chronic and/or symptoms worsen, regardless of taking plenty of rest.
There you have it! If your goal is to start running with the minimum risk for injury, then today’s post will get you started on the right foot. The rest is really up to you.
Thank you for dropping by.
Keep training strong.