Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Run Injury Free: A Beginning Runner's Point of View Part 1

I am by no means a professional runner. I am not even a decent runner at this point. I am what you would call a beginner.

That being said, I have learned quite a few things already about running, and would like to pass this information on to the masses of people (I've had over 12,000 pageviews, so that I consider to be the masses) who read this blog.

FIRST: Walk. Walking is one of the first things we learn to do with our bodies. First comes walking, THEN comes running. If you don't walk well, you will not run well. If you walk well, you WILL run well.
The first track where I walked the mile, rather than ran it, as a kid.

Every distance race I have done so far (5k, 10k, 10 Miler, Half Marathon), I first walked. With one exception. The 10 Miler. And my legs paid for that DEARLY.

So make sure you can walk the distance first. And not just a casual walking pace. Make it an active walk. No, not the speed walking craziness! Although, if that is your cup of tea, by all means. Just a good paced walk for you that elevates your heart rate. If you are a beginner walker (as in, not able to walk long distances yet), work up to a weekly or daily tally of miles or steps. Pedometers are excellent trackers and encourage-ers. They are regularly available on smartphones, and you can even find some pretty cheap deals at your local discount store for good pedometers if you don't carry your phone everywhere like I do.

(Tip: check out or your local TJMAXX/Ross/ can find some GREAT deals at all of these places).

SECOND: Strengthen. Walking is all great and good, but running requires landing with all of your weight on your legs. If you have weak knees, ankles, hips, even your gluteus maximus and back, running is going to be SUPER rough.

Strengthen your core!! (AKA, back and abdomens) Something has to hold them up. Believe me, after 10 miles, you just want to fall right on over if you haven't worked on these muscles. Get those crunches going!

Strengthen your butt!! It connects the bottom half of your body to the top half...all of which are involved in running. So in many ways, it's the most important thing to strengthen. According to one of my physical therapists, strengthening your butt will reduce your chance for legs injuries significantly. She actually gave me a percentage, but I don't remember the actual number she told me, AND I believe most percentages are made up anyways. But logically, it totally makes sense. So work on that booty!

Strengthen your thighs! Quads, hamstrings, and all the muscles in between. And make sure you stretch them as well. ESPECIALLY your IT Band! After my half marathon, the only things that truly were in pain were my IT Bands. I would definitely consult a physical therapist for good stretches and exercises in this area. IT Bands can be tricky to truly stretch. And those youtube videos...yeah, they don't work for me.

Find a great walking path in your area to train. 
Strengthen your calf muscles!! They attach to your knees, right along with your quads and hamstrings, so they are just as important. And by doing this, you will help keep from having shin splints! I have only experienced shin splints once, so this really and truly helps. Do not over do the calf muscle exercises though, if you are a beginner. Start slow and light weights.

Strengthen your feet and toes!! Yes, this sounds kind of weird. We were not taught foot exercises in PE. But think about it. What is physically hitting the ground and propelling yourself forward? Where is all your leg strength focused? YOUR FEET!!

First of all, before we go any further, let me remind you that I am NOT a medical professional. So don't take my advice and blame me for anything wrong that happens. Because I am not even going to pretend to be the leading expert on this advice.

But your local family general practioner is! DEFINITELY check in with her/him and FOLLOW THEIR ADVICE...or get a second opinion if you don't like their advice. :D

Lucky for me, after having multiple knee and ankle injuries, I know a number of exercises taught to me by my wonderful physical therapists. If you don't have a physical therapist, you should. They are wonderful people who are all about REMOVING pain from your body. Yes, by inflicting it, but the long term benefits are GREAT! In the future I may share some exercises that have helped me. But again, I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL!! The beginner flag could not be waved any more, could it?

THIRD: Walk. I know, I said that already. But this one is different.

When I first was forced...yes, forced!... to run, I would get side stitches, cramps in my feet, cramps all over my legs, and could barely breath.

The mile 13 marker...before the race
I was never taught how to actually run. There is an actual form to running. Now, everyone has their own style, and there are many ways that work well as far as 'form' running is concerned. So you have to find what works best for you. Once you find what form works best for you, this is what I recommend:

Practice walking using that form.

Novel, right?

Pump your arms the same way you would running. Raise your knees about to where they would raise to if you were running. BREATH the way you would if you were running (if you do paced breathing for example, in for three steps, out for 2 steps). Land on your feet the way you would if you were running (flat, front of the foot, midstrike, whatever). If you can do that for 3.1 miles, then you can run it.

I am a musician by trade, so this seriously resonates with me. If you can play it correctly slowly, you can do the same thing quickly. If you haven't learned how to do it slowly, with correct form, correct positioning, in the world can you do it quickly?

I know, I sound like slow and steady wins the race. Well, it's a very true statement.

That's my advice for now. Feel free to comment/share/judge. Well, you could choose to not harshly judge...but giving your own recommendations for things you disagree with, I'm totally OK with!

Like I said, I'm a BEGINNER! I love being a beginner, and I will love being an intermediate soon!

1 comment:

Jane said...

That all totally makes sense but I never thought of it that way before. Walk, walk the way you would run. Genius!