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The incredible surge of endorphins that surge through your body post-run is undeniable. Lacing up your shoes, connecting with your breath and seeing the world—these are some of the best parts of running.
One of the most accessible ways to work out, running is easy to start, not requiring much more than a pair of shoes. While everyone’s reasons for starting are different—weight loss, ticking off races or just a new challenge—it is important to know how to proactively avoid injuries so that you can enjoy the sport for a long time.
Get out the door
Fill your doctor in on your plans—checking in with a health practitioner is a great idea, especially if you are on medication, have a chronic condition or haven’t been active recently. They can help you chart out a course to start running and keep running.
While a few toe touches may seem like a good idea, a dynamic warm up is more important. These functional movements help to warm the muscles and mimic the range of motion found in running. While holding on to the back of a chair, try swinging one leg at a time or a few strides of high knees and butt kicks.
It is easy to assume that running injuries are only musculoskeletal, but it is important to take your entire body system into consideration. This means proper fuel and hydration before, during and after the run. Everyone’s body is different, but hydrating properly with water and fuelling with easy to digest, simple foods are good principles to start with.
Fashion isn’t a component of running, but the right gear can keep you comfortable and pain free, allowing you to increase your mileage over time. Invest time into finding the right pair of shoes—a specialty running store will be able to assess your gait and recommend the best shoe for your unique feet. In terms of clothing, select items that are made from a wicking material. This will help to reduce chafing, a painful skin irritation. If you still find your skin is being rubbed raw, smooth some petroleum jelly or specialty anti-chafe balm on the trouble area before you head out.
On the run
Exploring can be one of the best things about running, whether you are in an urban or rural environment. However, failure to notice a root, cracked pavement or low hanging branch can bring your run to an abrupt and painful end. Constantly scan the route in front of you for any possible obstructions. If you prefer running under the cover of darkness, head out with a headlamp and reflective gear. This will ensure that you can see what is coming, and that others will see you as well.
Paying attention to your body’s cues is extremely important. Whether it is a twinge up your shin, knee pain or laboured breathing, honour your body. Listen to any aches—don’t try to muscle through. Walking is perfectly acceptable, as is cutting the run short. Check in with a health practitioner for persistent pain and always stop if you feel dizzy or nauseous, experience numbness or chest pain that is beyond normal exertion. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Hydration and fuel are still important during your run. If you are running over 10k, it is advised to take along nutrition (in the form of simple carbohydrates) and hydration (water, or an electrolyte solution) in regular intervals. However, make sure you are prepared for the elements— even if it is just a few kilometres, water in the summer is always a good idea.
Even though it may be tempting to finish your run and flop down on the closest couch, make sure you give yourself time to cool down with a short walk. This is a controlled way to bring your heart rate down. Also, continue to monitor to your body after your run—if something feels tight, try some isolated stretches or pop into a local yoga class.
The new endorphin high may have you craving running all the time, but it is important to pace yourself, especially if you are new to running. Frequency and duration of runs should increase gradually over time, with your longest run distance increasing by approximately 10 per cent every week. It can be helpful to track your progress on a calendar, scheduling in rest days and cross training sessions. Cross training can consist of activities such as swimming, cycling or weight training. The key to a well-balanced body is a variety of physical activity.
Seek preventative care. Even if you don’t have an injury, receiving physiotherapy, massage or chiropractic care can help counteract issues before they become a full-blown injury. Look into sports massages or ask for recommendations from your new running friends. Treating your hardworking body right will ensure you are ready for the next run, race or trail!